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The Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi series, originally published as Dragon Ball Z: Sparking! series (ドラゴンボールZ Sparking!スパーキング! Doragon Bōru Zetto Supākingu!) in Japan, is a series of fighting games based on the anime and manga Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. Each installment was developed by Spike, while they were published by Namco Bandai in Japan and Atari in all other countries. After three games released on PS2, the series mechanics continued with Dragon Ball: Raging Blast and Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 on the next generation consoles, Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team for the PSP, as well as several other fighting games.

Origin of name[]

The "Sparking!" in the Japanese title references the last lyric found in the chorus of the first opening theme to the Dragon Ball Z anime series, "Cha-La Head-Cha-La," performed by Hironobu Kageyama. However, the opening theme to the game is the TV series' second opening, "We Gotta Power" (featured in the Japanese version; the English version includes a different, non-vocal song), which is also performed by Kageyama.

The "Budokai Tenkaichi" title of the North American version is a rearranged version of Tenkaichi Budokai (天下一武道会, Tenka'ichi Budōkai; roughly "Strongest Under the Heavens Martial Arts Tournament"). In the series, the Tenka-ichi Budōkai is a gathering of fighters in a competition for glory, fame, and prize money.

The game is not considered a part of the Budokai series, despite its misleading title. In addition to a completely different game engine, the game was developed by an entirely different company. The game is also titled differently from the rest of the Budokai series in Japan. If it was a true Budokai game in spirit, it would have been Dragon Ball Z 4 in Japan. A theory about the English re-title is that Atari chose to market the game as part of the Budokai series in order to capitalize on a pre-existing market of fans already familiar with said game series. The American version also uses a great deal of sound effects and background music from the Budokai series.

Localization differences[]

Further confusing fans in North America, Atari's domestic release of the game does not feature the same music found in the original Japanese version. While Sparking! features actual music from Dragon Ball Z (and two other pieces from the Dragon Ball franchise and Dragon Ball GT where appropriate) as composed by Shunsuke Kikuchi, the American release of the game features recycled music from the Budokai series (composed in Japan by Kenji Yamamoto).

While no official explanation was ever given for the musical differences, as Funimation did not use the original Japanese score in Dragon Ball Z/GT for the English dub, it can be assumed that contractual issues came into play.



Super Saiyan Goku using the Kamehameha against Hirudegarn in Budokai Tenkaichi 3

The games are quite different from the often-compared Budokai series; they use a "behind-the-back" camera perspective. Also different from the Budokai series, each form is treated as its own character, with varying stats, movesets and fighting styles, similar to Dragon Ball Z: Legendary Super Warriors while the free roam element is similar to Dragon Ball Z: Sagas. In battle, players can build up their Ki gauge to execute various techniques such as the Power Guard, which reduces the damage characters take by 1/4. The Ki gauge can also be used to use moves referred to as Blast 2 skills. Every character has a unique set of Blast 2 skills that allow the character to use special moves such as Ki blasts and physical attacks. Characters also have a self-recharging numeric gauge called Blast Stock that allows players to use techniques called Blast 1 skills. Blast 1 skills usually have a supportive effect such as allowing characters to increase their stats temporally or immobilize the enemy. Players can also power up into a mode called Max Power Mode normally by building up their Ki beyond full at the cost of 1 Blast Stock bar. Max Power Mode makes the character that initiated it faster, stronger, and able to use moves that are exclusive to the mode. One of these moves is the Ultimate Blast which is usually the most powerful move a character has, though use of any Blast 2 skill or the Ultimate Blast immediately ends Max Power Mode.

Game modes[]

The story mode of the series progresses similarly to the story modes in previous games. Players can select battles from different sagas and proceed through the story of Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball GT, and even several Dragon Ball Z films. The Dragon Balls can be acquired through story mode by destroying the environment in battle; however, the player can only keep the Dragon Ball they find if the battle is won. Each installment features several "what-if" battles and scenarios; for example, the Budokai Tenkaichi story mode features modes where the player takes control of a villain and uses the character to defeat the hero, while the Budokai Tenkaichi 2 story mode has modes where Raditz and Zarbon essentially team up with the Z Fighters (separately) for one reason or another. Several levels of the Budokai Tenkaichi 2 story mode also feature cutscenes shown either before or after the fight of the level takes place. The Budokai Tenkaichi 3 story mode has cutscenes integrated into the battles themselves that are activated by hitting a certain button. These can be transformations, character changes, automatic attack use, or something as simple as a conversation.

Similar to the same mode in the Budokai series, the player can enter a World Tournament and try to win their way to the top. There are three levels of the basic tournament and a Cell Games mode. Since characters can fly, characters can leave the perimeter of the arena, but will be called for ring out if they touch the ground. There are no restrictions to the Cell Games mode, but the last match of the Cell Games mode is always against Perfect Cell. In Budokai Tenkaichi winning the tournaments gave players a Z-Item prize while in Budokai Tenkaichi 2, players would receive money which in turn would be used on Z-Items. The World Tournament mode could be played with several entrants, but if there is more than one human player, no prize would be awarded. Other features in the game includes more combo attacks or character specific combos, the Blast Combos, and the Z Burst Dash. The additional combo attacks will be able to help chain in more attacks for more damage and longer combos. The Blast Combo is the normal combos however by inputting another button into the attack will allow to use a blast attack for extra damage. Depending on the moves of the character (such as Videl or Mr. Satan), the player might not be able to use this feat. The Z Burst Dash is much faster and more evasive version of the Dragon Dash. It allows the user to get behind the opponent at high speeds for either a strike or to avoid a blast 2 attack. The drawback to this technique is that it will rapidly drain energy.


Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi[]

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi, originally published as Dragon Ball Z: Sparking! (ドラゴンボールZ Sparking! Doragon Bōru Zetto Supākingu!) in Japan, is the first installment in the Budokai Tenkaichi series. The game is available only on the PlayStation 2. It was released in Japan on October 6, 2005, in North America on October 18, 2005, and for Europe on October 21, 2005. It is currently a Greatest Hits & Platinum title.

The game features 60 playable characters in 90 forms and 11 stages for battle.

Despite not featuring the original Japanese music, the American release of the game allows for selectable English FUNimation Productions cast and Japanese voices, while retaining the English-language written dialogue (as adapted from Steven J. Simmons' translation from the original Japanese version's script). However, there are known bugs in the American version of Budokai Tenkaichi that cause pieces of English and Japanese spoken dialogue to cross over into whichever selection the player is using at times.

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2[]

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, originally published as Dragon Ball Z: Sparking! Neo (ドラゴンボールZ Sparking! NEO Doragon Bōru Zetto Supākingu! Neo) in Japan, is the second installment in the Budokai Tenkaichi series. The game is available on both PlayStation 2 and Wii. The PlayStation 2 and Wii versions have different dates of release. It was released on the PlayStation 2 in Japan on October 5, 2006, Europe on November 3, 2006, North America on November 7, 2006, and Australia on November 9, 2006. The Wii version had slightly later releases; it was released in North America on November 19, 2006, Japan on January 11, 2007, Europe on March 30, 2007, and Australia on April 5. 2007. It is now a Greatest Hits & Platinum title, like its predecessor. Though originally confirmed as being a launch title in North America for the Wii,[1] some stores started selling the Wii version on November 15, 2006. An issue of V-Jump listed January 2007 as the release date for the Japanese version of the Wii release. The game originally featured 129 characters and 16 stages, though the Japanese and PAL Wii versions came with five additional characters and an extra stage as compensation of their late releases.

Some additionally great bonus material within the game was the special story modes specifically given to Zarbon and Raditz, who were attentively treated particularly well with their own game modes, unlike any other characters. One element of Budokai Tenkaichi 2 that is absent from Budokai Tenkaichi and Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is that the story mode allows the player to fly around the Earth, which was also featured in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3.

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3[]

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3, originally published as Dragon Ball Z: Sparking! Meteor (ドラゴンボールZ Sparking! METEOR Doragon Bōru Zetto Supākingu! Meteo) in Japan, is the third installment in the Budokai Tenkaichi series. The game is available on both PlayStation 2 and Wii.[2] Release date is December 3, 2007 in North America, October 4, 2007 in Japan, and February 15, 2008 in Europe.[3] in North America on November 13, 2007[4] and in Europe on November 9, 2007.

Budokai Tenkaichi 3 features over 162 characters, the largest character roster in any Dragon Ball Z game, as well as one of the largest in any fighting game. Ryo Mito once stated that the game would feature never-before-seen characters made exclusively for the game, although the only exclusive characters were the Saiyans turning into Great Apes.[5] Gamestop offered an exclusive version with a bonus DVD containing the top 10 television series battles as voted by fans on the release date.

Several new notable features include Battle Replay, night and day stages, the Wii's online capability, and Disc Fusion. Battle Replay allows players to capture their favorite fights and save them to an SD card to view later on. Night and day stages allow for more accurate battles in Dragon Ball History, as well as the ability to transform into a Great Ape by using the moon. There are also several other time differences, such as dawn and afternoon. Not all stages provide different times. The aura of a character can also be changed. The Wii version features online multiplayer capability,[2] the first game in the series to have such a feature. Players can fight against anyone from around the globe with a ranking system showing the player's current standing compared to anyone else who has played online. As compensation for the lack of online, Spike has added a new "Disc Fusion System" to the PlayStation 2 version. Inserting a Budokai Tenkaichi or Budokai Tenkaichi 2 disc during play unlocks Ultimate Battle or Ultimate Battle Z,[2] modes featured in the respective games needed to unlock them. The game also supports 480p for both the Wii and the PlayStation 2 versions.

Other features in the game include more combo attacks or character specific combos, the Blast Combos, and the Z Burst Dash. The additional combo attacks will be able to help chain in more attacks for more damage and longer combos. The Blast Combos are normal combos used in the game, however by inputting another button into the attack will allow to use a blast attack for extra damage. Depending on the moves of the character (such as Videl or Mr. Satan), the player might not be able to use this feat. The Z Burst Dash is much faster and more evasive version of the Dragon Dash. It allows the user to get behind the opponent at high speeds for either a strike or to avoid a blast 2 attack. The drawback to this technique is that it will rapidly drain ki.

Dragon Ball: Sparking! Zero[]

Dragon Ball: Sparking! Zero is a new entry in the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi series. The game was announced in March 2023 following the end of the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour finals. It will be released on October 11, 2024 for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Steam.[6]

The game takes the legendary gameplay of the Budokai Tenkaichi series and raises it to whole new levels. DRAGON BALL: Sparking! ZERO has an incredible number of playable characters, each with signature abilities, transformations and techniques. Unleash the fighting spirit within you and take the fight to arenas that crumble and react to your power as the battle rages on.

Related games[]

Raging Blast games[]

Two games were developed by Spike for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and that continued the Budokai Tenkaichi series' mechanics: Dragon Ball: Raging Blast was released in 2009, and its sequel, Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2, was released in 2010. The shift to Raging Blast on the next generation of consoles also shifted the control scheme significantly enough, changing up the implementation of super moves from button combinations including the triggers, a directional button, and an action button to simply knocking the right analog stick in one of four directions.

A third Blast game, Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi - known as Dragon Ball: Ultimate Blast (ドラゴンボール アルティメットブラスト) in Japan - was released in 2011. The gameplay has been revised and altered to consist of gameplay elements from both the Budokai series (like Quick-Time Events) and the Budokai Tenkaichi/Raging Blast games.

Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team[]

Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team, known in Japan as Dragon Ball Tag VS (ドラゴンボールZ TAG VS) is a game for the PlayStation Portable, which was released September 30 for Japan, October 19, 2010, for North America, October 22 for Europe and sometime in October for Australia. The game features high-impact two vs. two combat.

The gameplay is very similar to that of the previous games in the Budokai Tenkaichi series. Players are able to play solo or team up via "Ad-Hoc" mode to tackle memorable battles in a variety of single player and multiplayer modes, including Dragon Walker, Battle 100, and Survival Mode. Dragon Walker Mode takes fans through the entire Dragon Ball Z story arc from the Saiyan Saga to the Majin Buu Saga. This mode features classic stages similar to what is happening in the storyline at that very point and the stage changes as the saga does. It enables to move into the virtually liberal environment and hover over to the different places and do side missions or play minigames or directly jump into battle with the enemy by joining with them. Battle 100 Mode tasks players to relive the most epic encounters and newly created situations from the Dragon Ball Z world in ever increasingly difficult situations. The game does team attacks. It features 70 playable and deeply customizable characters, multiple modes, and Ad-Hoc Party gameplay. The game has only English voice overs and excludes the Japanese voice overs. The English voice actors are those of Dragon Ball Z Kai instead of the FUNimation voice actors which have been there in all the previous Dragon Ball Z games.

Dragon Ball: Zenkai Battle[]

Dragon Ball: Zenkai Battle is a 2011 Arcade game.

Dragon Ball Z For Kinect[]

Dragon Ball Z For Kinect is a first-person fighting game for the Xbox 360's Kinect. The game has over 50 characters, and over 100 moves to perform. There are over 20 special cards with QR codes that can be scanned via the Kinect for additional content. Also, the special movie Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock is included in game.

Playable characters[]

Reception and sales[]

Critical reaction for the Budokai Tenkaichi series has been mixed. Numerous reviews praised the game's high fighter count and detailed cel-shaded graphics, as well as the high amount of fan service to Dragon Ball Z fans. Some people, however, have taken issue with the game's complex controls. Mark Bozon at IGN said, "The sheer speed and complexity of the controls may turn some people off, but the general combat will eventually come down to two buttons, making the game amazingly easy to learn, but nearly impossible to fully master."

The PS2 version of Budokai Tenkaichi 2 received the 'Best Fighting Game of the Year' award from X-Play and the Wii version of the game also received a four out of five from X-Play. The game magazine Famitsu gave the PS2 version of Budokai Tenkaichi 3 a 32 out of 40, while the Wii version received a 33 out of 40. IGN awarded both versions of Budokai Tenkaichi 3 an 8 out of 10, with their only complaints being the comparatively underwhelming story mode (in comparison to Budokai Tenkaichi 2), gimmicky Disc Fusion and the lagging Wi-Fi.[8]

Official sales reports have the series selling a reported 6.6 million units worldwide though it's worth noting that more recent and up to date figures would be considerably higher.


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