The big new feature in this outing is the introduction of team battles. In addition to one-on-one matches, characters can team up for two-on-one or two-on-two fights. Having two opponents to deal with flying around at once makes the action a bit more exciting, and when playing with up to three friends using the ad hoc multiplayer option, the ability to coordinate with a teammate to defeat your opponents more effectively gives the battles a bit of a tactical feel. For instance, super attacks are made more powerful if both team members hit the same opponent with super attacks simultaneously. It's just too bad that this new feature isn't given a real chance to shine with a fresh new fighting system; instead, it is tacked on to the same well-worn combat model that Tenkaichi fans know all too well.
The primary single-player mode is called Dragon Walker. In this story mode, you view a map from an overhead perspective and fly a cute little representation of your current character from place to place to complete missions, which typically involve clicking through some text and then winning a fight or two. The storytelling is tepid and treads the same familiar territory that Dragon Ball games have covered time and time again. It's hard to imagine even the most fanatical of Dragon Ball fans getting excited at the prospect of once again fighting their way through the Saiyan Saga, the Frieza Saga, the Majin Buu Saga, and the rest, particularly given the lackluster way in which they're presented here. In addition to the Dragon Walker mode, whether playing solo or multiplayer, you can jump into free battles using any characters you've unlocked. And either alone or with a friend, you can try a survival mode, which sends one enemy team after another at you, or fight predetermined teams in a mode called Battle 100. Points earned across these modes can be spent in a shop on items you can equip to increase a character's attack or defense, reduce the ki cost of certain actions, and impart other bonuses.
The cel-shaded characters are colorful, detailed, and animate very smoothly, and super attacks frequently fill the screen with massive beams of energy, keeping the visuals exciting even after the gameplay has grown tired. But the environments are distinctly less detailed than the fighters who inhabit them, creating a strange disconnect between the characters and their surroundings. And the camera often can't keep up with the action, leaving you momentarily with no sense of where your enemies are or what impending danger might be heading your way. The voice acting has the goofy, exaggerated quality you'd expect to hear from spiky-haired characters having heated exchanges about power levels and dominating the universe. But the sounds of battle quickly become grating, thanks particularly to a high-pitched whistling noise you hear whenever a character gets sent hurtling backward through the air, which happens all the time.
Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team is just another DBZ fighting game, and makes little effort to distinguish itself from its predecessors. Team-based multiplayer combat is a good addition, but it's tacked on to the same old combat model the series has dished out time and time again, and there are many far better multiplayer fighting games on the PSP. Tenkaichi Tag Team hints at depth and variety but actually fails to offer much of either, and although it's fun to wield the tremendous power of these characters for a short while, the repetitive and familiar nature of the combat makes this a game for only the most devoted Dragon Ball fans.