If you're a fan of the Dragonball franchise and are willing to put up with Tenkaichi 2's learning curve and awkward controls, you just may find an enjoyable game.
To start with the game's undeniable strength would be to comment on the graphics. Tenkaichi 2 boasts over 100 characters from the Dragonball universe, spanning the original anime as well as Z and GT, all portrayed in near perfect cel-shaded graphics. Previous incarnations of the Budokai and Tenkaichi games have all sported good graphics, and Tenkaichi 2 continues the trend - it really does feel like you're playing the television show. Signature character moves are all present and are portrayed just as nicely, and playing your favorite character from the series, or some of the more obscure ones, is the best part of the game.
While the graphics of Tenkaichi 2 may be spectacular, the gameplay is where things turn sour. The game makes good use of all the buttons on the PS2 controller, but fighting as your favorite Dragonball character can be both awkward and boring. As with past games, the mainstay of your fighting is simply mashing the square button and ending the combo with other buttons to either knock your opponent into the air, or back to the ground. Other fairly simple to execute button combinations will use special attacks with gauge power that is either gained over time, or through powering up, a la traditional Dragonball. With dozens upon dozens of characters to choose from, the same basic control scheme for each character somewhat simplifies things, but the poorly designed in-game menus that display each character's other abilities only hinder the desire to play the oodles of available characters.
The story mode in Tenkaichi 2 is truly massive. As with the other entries in the series, however, it is presented in a fairly convoluted way, and if you're not already familiar with Dragonball lore, it's a sure bet that you'll either be confused or disinterested. The game does come with an encyclopedia type mode that lets you read up on all of Goku's adventures, but to be perfectly honest, unless you're already a Dragonball/Z/GT fan, it's unlikely you would be playing this game anyway.
Additional game modes include the martial arts tournament (as done in the other Budokai games) and a survival-esque game where you play against pre-defined sets of enemies. With the exception of touching the ground counting as a disqualification in the tournament, the two modes offer little else in the way of mixing things up from the story battles.
The sound for Tenkaichi 2 can be a mixed bag. If you're a fan of the English dubbed anime, you will be pleased with the voice acting, although for some characters it doesn't sound like the actors behind them gave the game their best stuff (and enthusiasts like myself will notice that some of the older characters, such as Nappa, do not have their original and better voices, but I digress). The game also lets you choose to play with the Japanese voices.
Music in the game can be categorized as wholly mediocreÃ¢â‚¬â€good enough to get the job done, but nothing impressive. Sound effects such as characters flying and firing energy blasts, as well as the obligatory power-up grunting, are all well done and convincing, if not suspiciously similar to the previous games.
With the ability to customize the game's characters to your own liking by equipping items that boost certain stats (such as increased health, higher damage for certain types of attacks, etc), there are a lot of ways you can create your own ultimate version of any Dragonball character. Whether or not you find the actual game itself to be enjoyable is what will determine the value of Tenkaichi 2's multiplayer mode. Games are always more interesting with a human opponent instead of a computer controlled counterpart, but if you find the single player mode lacking, facing off against a buddy is not the game's saving grace.
Having many fond memories of watching Dragonball Z in my younger years, I, like a fan of any other licensed game, always hope that a developer will create an engaging game that both stays true to the original source material and contains all the right ingredients for a game. Unfortunately for Tenkaichi 2, not all the ingredients are there, and the ones that are missing are the most important. The bottom line comes down to two statements. If you played the previous game in the series and liked it, then the expanded story mode as well as the number of new characters may be enough to pick up the next installment. If you have not played the original Tenkaichi or did not care for it, the sequel is most certainly not for you.