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The Butōden series was created by Toshihiro Suzuki, a game designer who also worked on the Street Fighter series and was interviewed in Daizenshuu 4. The graphics of the series' first games are similar to that of the 1992 NES fighting game Dragon Ball Z: Gekitō Tenkaichi Budōkai (also developed by TOSE).
Nine games have been created for the series, though only five of them hold the Butōden name.
Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden
Main article: Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden
Released to the Super Famicom (SNES) on March 20th, 1993, the first game in the series. It played host to a number of features not seen in fighting games before.
- Main Features
- 8 (13 with a code) playable characters.
- Storyline covers Piccolo Jr. Saga to Perfect Cell Saga.
- Massive stages divided by a color-coded split-screen border which tells how close are the fighters to each other.*
- Combat on the ground or in the air.*
- Radar below the health and power bars telling where the fighters are in the stage.*
- Unique special moves and "super moves" for each character. (Goku's Kamehameha, Vegeta's Final Flash, etc.)*
- Players can counter super moves by dodging, blocking, or engaging in a beam struggle.*
- * = All games, unless otherwise stated, have these features in common.
- Charging Ki manually works much different than later games which often leads to people mistaking that it's not possible. Holding down while in flight causes the characters' Ki meter to recharge a little bit faster.
- Knock-down recovery takes a fairly long time and leaves characters open to further attacks.
- Action seems altogether sluggish.
- Goku and Vegeta have their base forms playable in addition to their Super Saiyan forms.
- Though the first fighting game to have Mr. Satan, he himself is not playable under any circumstance.
- Energy Beams are indicated by a lightning sound effect while Energy Spheres are indicated by the sound of a shot being fired. The loudness of an Energy Beam usually indicates its strength aside from how much Ki it uses.
Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden 2
Main article: Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden 2
December 17, 1993 marked the date the second game in the Super Butōden series was released. As with the previous game, it was released on the Super Famicom. This game vastly improved on the original game in many ways.
- Main Features
- Improvements over Super Butōden
- Manually building Ki goes faster.
- Action seems less sluggish.
- Positional radar now uses little men mimicking the fighters' actions instead of colored dots.
- Story Mode allows the player to take control of different characters at different times as well as having multiple branches and endings.
- Special blasts do not require a certain amount of Ki in order to be fired. However, if one fires a blast with too little Ki, the user will become exhausted.
- Special blasts can now be fired at close-range, but a weaker version of the blasts will be fired instead. Also, there will be no cinematic scene used to stop opponents from movement while the special blast is being charged, leaving the user vulnerable and allowing the opponent to either dodge or counterattack the user.
- Removed the color-coded split-screen border (See Super Butōden Main Features).
- First (and so far, only) game where Goku is not readily available for play.
- First fighting game to include movie characters as well as Cell Jr.
- The game houses a debug mode, though as with Mr. Satan, this seems impossible to access normally.
- Dashing no longer knocks opponents down.
- Energy Spheres and Energy Beams have the same sound effect in the cinematic scene. The strength of either blast is also determined by its loudness, like in its predecessor.
Dragon Ball Z: Buyū Retsuden
Main article: Dragon Ball Z: Buyū Retsuden
Released on April 1st, 1994, Dragon Ball Z: Buyū Retsuden brought all the action and power of the Super Butoden series to the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) without losing anything in the process.
- Main Features
- 11 playable characters.
- Storyline combines original and "what if?" aspects with key elements of various sagas ranging from the Saiyan Saga all the way to the end of the World Tournament Saga.
Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden 3
Main article: Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden 3 The third game in the Super Famicom branch of the series. Released on September 29th, 1994, it introduced a number of characters from the last arc of Dragon Ball as well as keeping a few classic characters in.
- Main Features
- 9 (10 with a code) playable characters.
- Improvements over Super Butōden 2
- Charging Ki takes only a few seconds (in comparison with Super Butōden 2's several seconds of charge time).
- Only game in the 16-bit generation without a conventional story mode. Oddly the Tournament Mode seems to double as the story mode for the game as when a human player is crowned the champion, the credits start rolling.
- Piccolo is not featured in the game, despite his involvement in the Buu Saga. Presumably because Dabura turned him into stone in the manga and anime.
- Future Trunks makes his return from Super Butōden 2 as this game's secret character. In the Japanese release, he is the only character whose name is written in English characters ("TRUNKS"), possibly to differentiate him from Kid Trunks.
Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22
Main article: Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22
The first Dragon Ball fighting game of the 32-bit generation, Ultimate Battle 22 was released in Japan on July 28, 1995, for Sony PlayStation. It is a 2D/3D combination, with the characters in 2D and the battle stages in 3D.
- Main Features
- Significant increase in the number of characters with 22 playable characters (27 with the 5 secret characters).
- Special attacks based on actual moves used by characters in the anime/manga.
- Three special super attacks for each characters.
- Second game in the series to include a movie character, in this case, Gogeta from Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn.
- Specific match-ups have special cutscenes before fighting, such as Goku vs. Frieza, Gohan vs. Cell and Gotenks vs. Super Buu.
- Improvements over Super Butōden 3
- All the character sprites have been revamped and enhanced, taking advantage of 32-bit hardware.
- Pre-fight cutscenes with voice for all characters.
- 3D battle stages.
Dragon Ball Z: Shin Butōden
Main article: Dragon Ball Z: Shin Butōden
Shin Butōden was released in November 17th, 1995 for Sega Saturn. It returns the tried-and-true formula that made Super Butōden a favorite in the hearts of many, but reuses the sprites from Ultimate Battle 22, the playable characters in this game being same ones featured in Ultimate Battle 22. Also, the game's introduction is made with scenes recycled from the introduction of Ultimate Battle 22.
- Main Features
- 22 (27 with the 5 secret ones) playable characters.
- Arcade game mode pits the player against several random combatants for personal glory.
- Pre-fight voice clips.
- Improvements over Ultimate Battle 22
- In addition to air battles and long stages, certain stages now contain extended areas one fighter can knock the other into, as well as environmental obstacles.
- Once again, Future Trunks' name is written in English characters in the Japanese release. Strangely enough, so is Super Saiyan 3 Goku's ("SUPERSAIYAN3").
- This game reuses music from Ultimate Battle 22.
- The colored split-screen border returns from Super Butōden.
Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension
Main article: Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension
The fourth and final game in the Super Famicom branch of the series. Released on January 1, 1996, in Europe and on March 29, 1996 in Japan.
- Main Features
- 10 playable characters.
- Story Mode, Versus Mode, Tournament Mode, and Practice Mode.
- Story mode taking place from the late Frieza Saga through the Kid Buu Saga.
- The amount of life for characters is measured by a number system from 1 to 999.
- Ki and health are measured by one single bar that can be restored.
- Special blasts no longer prevent opponents from moving and drain users of their health.
- Fighters can send each other into different dimensions such as the sky or other terrains depending on which set of stages the battle is being played.
- Sky battles work differently as players are in constant flight rather than standing in the air as opposed to other games, meaning they are always in jumping position.
- The Story Mode is not included in the French version of the game.
- Split screen feature is gone and stages are very confined.
Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout
Main article: Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout
The last game to use the Super Butōden engine until Ultimate Butōden actually had little to do with Dragon Ball Z as a whole. Released in August 21st of 1997 for the Sony PlayStation, Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout (or Dragon Ball Final Bout, depending on the region) kept the gameplay similar to the rest of the series while adding features to the core engine.
- Main Features
- Improvements over Shin Butōden
- Players and environments are now in full 3D. Some attacks and dodge moves can move the fighters into the background/foreground of the level.
- Gone are the long arenas of the last five games, replaced by endless, open stages and a restrictive field of view. When the two players move far enough away from each other, the camera zooms out to adjust. Ultimately, this gives players less room to work with than the previous titles gave.
- Like the first Butōden game, this game moves pretty slowly at times and knock-down recovery can be a pain to work with.
- This game, like the previous game, reuses some tunes from older titles.
- Two hidden characters from different timelines, Super Saiyan Goku (in his Turtle Hermit dogi) and Future Trunks, have their names written in English in the Japanese release ("SON GOKOU" and "TRUNKS" respectively).
- The secret characters are just alternate versions of some of the default characters, particularly Goku and Trunks. The only one with a unique moveset is Vegito.
- Altogether, there are six forms of Goku in this game, and three forms of Trunks. This would later be matched (and surpassed) by the Budokai Tenkaichi series.
- Baby only appears as an unplayable, final boss character (though he is playable through cheat devices).
Dragon Ball Kai: Ultimate Butōden
Main article: Dragon Ball Kai: Ultimate Butōden
Dragon Ball Kai: Ultimate Butōden is a video game of the series for the Nintendo DS. It was released in Japan on February 3, 2011. It is the first game of the Butōden series since the 1997 game Final Bout, and the first game to have the "Butōden" word on its title since the 1995 game Shin Butōden.
- Main Features
- 56 playable characters, more than any other game in the series, and one of the largest playable rosters in any Dragon Ball video game.
- Story Mode that covers the whole Dragon Ball Z/Kai arc.
- Versus Mode to play 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2 and, 3 vs 3 matches.
- Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection mode that allows players to connect to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and play online choosing their favorite characters and stages.
- Customizable Characters with a lot of different outfits.
- Full real and quick 3D actions. The player can fight in the ground or fly around the stage and do super attacks from the ground or the air. Nintendo DS's touch screen is used for some super attacks.
- As with it's predecessor, the long arenas of the last five games, are replaced by endless, open full 3D stages.
- Very unlike Final Bout, the action in Ultimate Butōden is very fast.
- Completely new music specially made for this game.
- The first game of the series with online features.
- A lot of new What-If? stories based on all the Dragon Ball Z/Kai arc.
- Also, the first game in the series with customizable characters.
- King Kai's playable debut.
Main article: Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butōden Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butōden is a video game of the series for the Nintendo 3DS. It was released in Japan on June 11, 2015, October 16, 2015 in Europe and Australia and October 20, 2015 in North America.