Last year's Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai for the PlayStation Portable was a decent fighting game that succeeded on its ability to deliver manic action with a good amount of over-the-top, Dragon Ball Z flair. A year later, Atari returns with Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai - Another Road. It was a wise decision not to call it Shin Budokai 2, as Another Road brazenly recycles nearly everything of consequence from the first Shin Budokai. What's there is still good, but the package feels kind of pointless.
Another Road offers much the same experience as the original Shin Budokai--perhaps too much.
The action is identical, offering straightforward, one-on-one fighting. The cast offers little in the way of surprises, featuring most of the major heroes and villains from the Frieza Saga on through to Dragon Ball GT, many of whom come in multiple forms. There are a good number of fighters to choose from, but there's not much of an attempt to balance them, with some fighters simply being rated as more powerful than others. There are plenty of signature DBZ touches to the gameplay, with a heavy focus on ridiculously potent energy attacks, most of which are unique to each fighter. Aside from their different power levels and special attacks, though, every fighter in Another Road handles identically, so once you've mastered one fighter, there's not a lot left to learn.
The gameplay modes are also stock for the genre, with a local, wireless two-player versus mode, an arcade mode, as well as survival, time trial, and challenge modes. As was the original Shin Budokai, Another Road is a pretty good-looking game. The environments are pretty bland and there are lots of blurry textures, but the characters look sharp and are well animated, and most of the time the game is soaked with crazy, explosive effects. Sometimes all of the glowing characters and massive energy attacks get to be too much, though, and there's occasionally some pronounced slowdown. Most of the voice work and sound effects have been pulled directly from the show, giving it a sense of authenticity, though during battle the fighters have a tendency to repeat the same few exclamations in rapid succession.
So what sets Another Road apart from the original Shin Budokai? Mostly it's the new single-player story mode, aptly named "Another Road." Rather than plodding through the same tired sagas that have been done to death in just about every prior Dragon Ball Z game, Another Road conjures up a sort of "What If?" story about Babidi appearing in the alternate future where Future Trunks lives...in the future. It quickly snowballs into a much greater conflict that involves loads of time travel and trips to the afterlife, as well as just about every Dragon Ball Z character you'd care to mention. While storytelling has never been a real strength of Dragon Ball Z, the arc in Another Road is so singularly focused on cramming in as much fan service as possible that the nonsensical story borders on insulting.