Dragon Ball Z Extreme Butoden is the first Dragon Ball game to be released on the Nintendo 3DS in the western world, despite two earlier 3DS games being made available in Japan in recent years. The game was developed by Arc System Works, known for the BlazBlue series of fighting games. It’s a sprite-based fighting game that feels like the perfect throwback to the 16-bit era of videogames. This game, when pre-ordered, does also include a download code for a virtual console version of the SNES game Dragon Ball Z Super Butouden 2, a suitable pre-order bonus. Fighting is easy; attacks are based around combinations of pressing Y and X. More powerful attacks can be launched by increasing your Ki and expending it by holding the L button while attacking with Y, X, or A. Character assists are initialised by simply tapping on an assist character on the lower screen, provided enough DP remains to call upon them. The cast of characters is large enough for some interesting combinations, but it would have been nice to see some of the assist-only characters available as combatants, rather than multiple versions of some other characters – Gohan is available as a kid, Super Saiyan kid, unleashed, Super Saiyan teen.
Z Story is the first section of story-based gameplay available to you upon starting the game, with the other two being unlocked upon its completion. First up is an incredibly abridged retelling of the events of Dragon Ball Z, summed up in 10 battles and titled as the “Dragon Team” story; this translates to around two minutes of fighting and far too much plot progression through on-screen text between fights. Though, at least you won’t be tired of repeating the fights yet. After completing this story, five “What if?” scenarios are made available to play; these amount to, essentially, repeating the fights from “Dragon Team”, but with focus on you being one particular character. Completing these five scenarios opens up the “Bad Guys” story, which is a pleasant change after 5 rather boring sagas; here, you get to play as villains from the series, fighting against Goku and his friends. Battles remain easy throughout the Z Story mode, and it’s rare you’ll spend more than 15 seconds on any one fight; at least you’ll get to grips with the controls for the other game modes, though.
Adventure Mode is unlocked after completing all seven of the Z Story sagas, and provides more entertainment than Z Story, while somehow managing to have a much less satisfying story. The story, involving Omega Shenron and collecting the Ultimate Dragon Balls, is overly complicated, especially so for those that are quite new to Dragon Ball as a whole. The gameplay makes up for it though, with battles that will frequently have you engaged for more than 15 seconds; you might even get knocked out a couple of times playing this mode. Aventure mode consists of eight areas, of increasing difficulty, that you must complete; fights, or sometimes just text-based plot progression, are engaged through a simple linear overworld map. Throughout this “Alternate Story”, you’ll earn items and unlock characters through battles; alas, character unlocks usually require S ranks – a feat rendered difficult at times as it is not clear exactly how to hit this rank.
Extreme World Tournament is unlocked after completing adventure mode and is just an excuse for you to choose your team and jump into some random battles. This mode has been the most enjoyable thus far, although I have yet to actually make it all the way through the Extreme World Tournament without being knocked out. I’ll be certain to return to this mode repeatedly until able to make my way through the tournament in its entirety.
The remaining modes serve purely to allow you to setup custom battles for our own enjoyment. Battle Mode lets you pick both your own team and your opponents. Versus mode is for local fights with a friend that also has the game, so you can duke it out playing as your favourite characters. Quest Mode will likely see little use outside of Japan; it is the home of StreetPass functionality, a feature that is quite useless in the UK outside of conventions. That aside, it’s nice to see it included for those that are able to make use of it.
The extras section contains the gallery, for viewing character profiles, the options menu, the add-on content link, for redeeming characters, such as those available when pre-ordering, and the ability to register three teams.
Dragon Ball Z Extreme Butoden is an enjoyable game that is easy to drop into for a few hours as and when you please; this holds true also for those that are relatively unfamiliar with the Dragon Ball franchise. The gameplay is, being a 2-D sprite-based fighting game, rather simple, feeling like an old fighting game from the 16-bit era of video games. This is to the game's merit; alas, the stories available to play through fall flat, and you'll soon find yourself tiring of the plot advancement and just ignoring why you're fighting and just enjoying the fights themselves.