It seemed like a good idea at the time: Take the popular Dragon Ball Z fighting games and put them in first person perspective with Kinect controls, allowing players to punch, kick, and Kamehameha their way through the series' popular battles, allowing players to be immersed in the Dragon Ball world like never before.
Wait... Kinect? No, I was wrong. That doesn't seem like a good idea at all.
Dragon Ball Z for Kinect (Xbox 360)
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release: October 9, 2012
By now, I'm sure we realize that some games can work for Kinect and some just simply do not. Sadly, that second category is the more prevalent one, and yes, Dragon Ball Z for Kinect falls squarely into it.
From the outset, it looks like a solid attempt was given to ensure that the Kinect motions would be simple to execute to give the game some simple play control. And while that does hold true initially, once you venture into the realm of the more complex motions (i.e. your special attacks), you'll find frustration once again rearing its ugly head.
First off, if you're going to play this game (or any game on Kinect), you should prepare yourself to look like an idiot. Jumping in place has your character leap into the air for ranged attacks. When charging your Ki, you have to squat a bit, sort of like you're taking a hunching dump in your living room. Charging a Ki blast has you holding your hand almost to your shoulder while you build up a charge before thrusting your hand forward to throw it. Even simple moves have their faults, as punches look normal but kicking at your TV feels silly.
Besides looking goofy while playing, you'll also get tired very quickly. This is due to the fact that, while the game may be built to be a Kinect title, some of the gameplay remains decidedly QTE-inspired. As you land a series of successive hits, a small meter builds. Fill it and you'll be treated to a cutscene series of attacks in which you occasionally punch rapidly to fill more meters. If an enemy attacks with a power move, you'll have a series of options that appear on screen, one of which you must choose quickly to avoid being struck. This is where the real problem is, as some of these motions are more than the Kinect can see and thus don't register well.
In fact, the Kinect works about 60% of the time. When throwing simple punches or occasionally holding both arms in front of you to block, it responds surprisingly well. Even the occasional special attack is executed with surprising ease -- I've thrown a fair number of Kamehamehas in the comfort of my living room, with no environmental damage to my walls or apartment complex (just to the landscape in the game, of course). However, not all attacks are performed the same way, and various times you'll struggle to have the Kinect register your movements as you flap your arms around like some wounded man-bird.
That's not to say that the game is difficult. Far from it, actually, as the enemy characters move so slowly and telegraph their actions so much you can avoid contact from practically every attack -- if the Kinect registers your lean out of the way, that is. Even so, you'll end up doing the same thing just about every match: land a flurry of punches to initiate the cutscene combo, punch more to sustain it, cutscene of your enemy's attack, QTE to avoid, lather, rinse, repeat. For what are supposedly the mightiest fighters in the universe, these guys are all pushovers.
You'll find yourself fighting through the majority of the series' biggest battles, but don't look for a cohesive story here. Before each fight you're given a very small cutscene that pertains to what is about to occur but may not have any connection to the previous battle. I won that last fight, so why is Goku's shirt suddenly torn and why is he incapacitated? If you know the show, no issues here (and goodness knows we've seen the story in enough games as it is), but it does feel a little disjointed. Thankfully, the graphics do little to offend, as the crisp cel-shading does the title justice, if not seeming only slightly flat due to the first-person perspective.
Since the story itself is so truncated, you'll find you're actually able to beat the game in about three to five hours. There is no multiplayer this time around, merely a Score Attack mode in which you attempt to best your story mode score for more achievements. There's also an exclusive animated episode included on the disc, but as far as meat, there's not much left on the bone.
DBZ for Kinect is just what you'd expect: a half-realized game for a half-realized piece of hardware. While some of the motion work as intended, too often they do not, but at least there's no real repercussion or headache for that, as even if an enemy lands a hit, it does little to slow you. Unless you're the hardest of hardcore or a kid who wants to wear the included cardboard "Goku Hair" BK crown while you scream and squat in your living room, this game's not worth your time.
But at least it's not on rails.