Though Atari seemed to have established a pretty comfortable rhythm with the first three Dragon Ball Z: Budokai fighting games, it chose to shake things up with last year's spin-off, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi. It strayed from the conventional fighting game format in favor of a third-person perspective and more-free-roaming action, and the fighting felt a bit more technical, though not necessarily any deeper. Its newly released sequel does little to address the clunky, somewhat limited combat of the original, though a wealth of playable characters all but ensures that this game will get its hooks into fans eager to fight as their favorite Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT characters.
You'll punch so many dudes through mountains and buildings that it loses its novelty pretty quickly.
Like its predecessor, Tenkaichi 2 is a fighter that's played from a behind-the-back perspective. You're given the illusion of an open world, and most of the environments make good use of the 3D space with plenty of hills, valleys, bodies of water, and destructible environmental items, such as buildings and massive rock formations, to knock your opponent around. Attempts at exploration, though, are stopped short by massive webbed force fields that surround the battleground, making it apparent just how confined the environment really is. It can take a while for first-timers to adjust to the somewhat unconventional control scheme, but the action is pretty simple. You're given a button for up-close melee attacks, a button for ranged "ki" energy attacks, a charge button for restoring the energy needed for ki attacks, two dash moves for either closing or widening the distance between you and your opponent, and a block button, which, when used in the right context, can also instantly teleport you a small distance. Fighters will regularly get knocked high into the air during combat, and you can move up and down through the air with the press of a button.
To engage your opponents, you'll need to lock onto them, which is either done by a press of a button when they are within sight or will happen automatically when you're close enough. The whole lock-on system is still a source of frustration, since your camera and control perspectives are relative to your enemy's position, which can make for some unintuitive directional controls. Also, the camera still has problems dealing with the full 3D space, and if characters are right below or above you, it's impossible to see them. Fans will recognize some of the signatures of Dragon Ball Z combat in Tenkaichi 2, including quick fits of up-close melee attacks, massive energy wave attacks, and fighters being knocked great distances and through buildings and mountains. There are also plenty of character transformations and tag team battles, but needlessly convoluted controls hinder their usefulness. Though the number of unique special attacks for each character is limited, they're usually the ones you'd want to see. The problem is that you have access to many characters' most powerful abilities right out of the gate, and they're generally not that hard to pull off. Additionally, the controls to pull off these often-protracted, screen-filling assaults are basically the same for every character, and the combined result is some seriously repetitive gameplay.
Since the behind-the-back perspective means multiplayer has to be done via a less-than-ideal split-screen mode, you'll probably spend most of your time in Tenkaichi 2 playing against the computer, which is predictable and has a weakness to midranged combat. It doesn't take long to realize that all you need to do is knock your opponent a short distance, launch an energy attack, recharge while your opponent is immobile, and repeat. It's monotonous, especially since you end up watching the same canned special attack sequences several times over the course of a single fight. One thing that Tenkaichi 2 does address is the stifling difficulty of the original, though the challenge from fight to fight within each difficulty level can be wildly inconsistent. Though the action moves quickly, the controls can feel unwieldy on the PlayStation 2, something that's even more pronounced when the Wii's motion controls add a layer of abstraction. Rather than simply pressing buttons, you'll be shaking the Nunchuk and waving the Wii Remote around to pull off moves. It's not intuitive, and a lot of the controls are context sensitive not only to your opponent's position, but to where you have the Wii Remote pointed. The Wii version handles much more easily with the Classic Controller or with a standard GameCube controller, though the Dual Shock 2 still proves to be the best-suited controller for the action.