Recently I was asked to take part in a focus group at my university, for which all the participants received a £10 gift card to Eldon Square, the large shopping centre in the city where I’m studying. So naturally I spent that £10 on a game, as I’m sure they hoped I would, and the game that caught my eye was Dragonball: Burst Limit. I’m a huge Dragonball fan, it is by far and away my favourite fighting series, but I still haven’t played some of the lesser-known titles and so this was the perfect opportunity.
Released as the first Dragonball game on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Burst Limit is very similar to the Budokai series in terms of presentation, particularly my favourite entry in the series, Budokai 3. The nuances have been slightly tweaked however- dodging and combo mechanics are easier to pull off and there are new features in the form of a separate fatigue meter that fills up during battle and the addition of so-called Drama Pieces. These are essentially short cutscenes that interrupt a battle to provide some effect when a particular event happens, such as falling to 30% health or deflecting a specific attack. You can also choose a partner character to support you, which has a similar consequence to these Drama Pieces.
Unfortunately Burst Limit suffers from the same problem as most Dragonball Z games, and that is their rather repetitive nature in terms of the story mode. As is standard by now, you get a few of the main sagas, so Saiyan, Frieza and Android, with a couple more short ones to unlock on completion of the first three. Admittedly they are nicely executed with well-voiced and graphically polished cutscenes, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Along the way characters are added to your collection by defeating them, which also grants new skills and drama pieces for use elsewhere. To complete the entire story mode will take you about four hours (at least on normal difficulty), after which subsequent completions unlock harder difficulties and the opportunity to increase your rank for each stage, based on time taken to win, drama pieces activated and the like.
"the original cast returns and is stellar as per usual, and the soundtrack itself is up there with the best entries in the series"
Turning to a slightly sour note, Burst Limit does have a few issues, not least of which is the drama pieces themselves. Now while the idea is in principle a strong one, as Piccolo realistically would step in to help Gohan or whatever, it to me makes the whole fight experience seem less organic and breaks the immersion when they activate because of the cutscenes, which can be up to 15 seconds or so. It might not sound like a lot, but in the heat of a battle it really just felt intrusive. This could easily have been fixed by removing the cutscene element and simply having a splash screen or something saying ‘X effect activated’ and just carrying on.
Secondly, and it’s a very ‘first-world’ problem in terms of fighting games in general, but the character cast seems criminally small to me. There are 21 fighters available in total, the main ones from the series, as well as a couple of other additions, and for most games I feel like this would be more than adequate, say Street Fighter or something. However, Burst Limit was released in 2008, after we had already seen Budokai Tenkaichi 3 - that game has 161 characters. Obviously some of this discrepancy may be down to some transformations being seen maybe as separate characters but it just seems nuts. The roster basically stops at the end of the Cell saga, so you won’t see characters from beyond there, no Buu, no adult Gohan etc, which is completely fine in terms of the story, but even look at Budokai 2 from five years prior which has a ton by comparison. I’m not sure of their reasoning for a much smaller cast, but it doesn’t quite feel justified to me.
In terms of my personal recommendation, it’s a rough call. If you’re a stalwart fan of the pre-Tenkaichi Budokai, it probably is worth a play for the revamped mechanics on balance. You may well appreciate some of the fine-tuning and smaller cast if you’re more of a purist, but if you’re just a fan of the whole Dragonball atmosphere and storytelling, then I don’t think you’d be missing out if you skipped this one. Ultimately the short and shallow story mode and relatively small cast prevent Burst Limit from competing with its older siblings, and I’d as soon recommend the superior Budokai 3 or the Budokai Tenkaichi series over this one.
Author: Ollie Burton
Ollie is a student at Newcastle University in the UK studying Cellular & Molecular Biology. In his spare time he operates this website, is an avid gaming & film fan and plays in a blues-rock band, as well as editing for the University's student newspaper, The Courier.