Dragon Ball FighterZ is a brand-new fighting game developed by Arc System Works, behind titles such as BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. The game looks to capture the fast-paced heart and over-the-top soul of the franchise and deliver gamers an exciting experience. However, with all the flashes of color and energy will this game be the top competitor or be easy to defeat? Let’s find out!
Dragon Ball FighterZ takes what fans loved from games like Tekken Tag Team and supersizes it into three on three bouts. This game features classic Tag Team gameplay, with the ability to tag in and out to be different characters. As players would expect from similar games, characters have two health bars per character. A yellow bar represents the amount of health the character has, while a secondary blue bar then represents the health a fighter can recover if they tag out. Managing the health pools of all three characters can significantly help you survive and get that KO you’re after.
For the basic attacks and movement, the control scheme is very similar to the universally used buttons and triggers of the genre. This all changes when it comes to the combo system. Coming from a background of playing Tekken with analogue swiping, the button based combo system that Dragon Ball FighterZ uses took some getting used to. Instead of wiggling the analog sticks in specific shapes and arcs, combos are triggered by pressing multiple buttons together.
This doesn’t stop those ready to master the game from being better, but those at the entry level at least get to pull off a few cool moves. After a bit of finger failing, the controls boil down to a feeling of timing. Time it right and combos not only look cinematically awesome but take a chunk of health of one of your three opponents.
Arc System Works has managed to make each character feel unique. Even the likes of Gohan and Goku, which many would be fine with being similar, have nuances that change how to play them most effectively. Similar characters aside, comparing the likes of Vegeta and Android 16 is like chalk and cheese, or at least Saiyan and mechanical android. With the roster featuring fan favorites such as Piccolo and Majin Buu, and those we all have loved to hate at times like Vegeta, there is plenty of variety. As expected there are multiple Goku forms, from “regular” Goku right through to Super Saiyan Blue or SSGSS, Goku. There are a few extras that could have made the cut, though I’m sure additional FighterZ will join the roster via DLC.
The key for any video game adaptation is capturing the feeling of the show, which for anime starts with the iconic art style of the show. Dragon Ball FighterZ nails the bright, vivid colors utilized to create the over-the-top iconic visual presentation. The background locations set the scenes perfectly. Then, the fighting commences and the fast-paced action is matched by seamless animations. Darts of color flash across the screen as player perform moves, the 3D modeled characters sing out in 2D glory and it looks like those epic fights fans adore from the series: occasionally reaching the crescendo in one of the epic but rare Dramatic Finishes.
Each move, every burst of energy, adds layer upon layer to create fights that visually look like they are directly from the show. The issue is, unlike watching the fights on the TV, when the screen gets filled players still have to react. The screen gets extremely busy at times making it hard to follows characters around the screen and this can put those new to the game off. This hampers the accessibility of the game whilst the control scheme feels like it has been purposely designed to welcome in players. The busy feel is reminiscent of the show but players will have to get used to it all being on the screen at once before they can start to truly compete.
A practice mode is included to help those new to fighting games pick up the basics. These tutorials will let players try out what is different about Dragon Ball FighterZ from other games in the genre, but is more aimed towards brand new players. Past the basics, players are to some extent left up to themselves to learn and master the nuances. This boils down to the game being easy to pick up and play but hard to master.
Making the game hard to master is the way the gameplay revolves around timing. Pushing the attack, chaining combos together can prove to decimate an opponent’s health bar. As a result, mastering the timings to move and get in a counter, as with any good fighting game, is critical for advancing above amateur level. It’ll be interesting to see given the aggressiveness of the gameplay how the meta is tweaked and changed as players become better at timing.
Outside the different modes available, there’s that story mode that players can enjoy. There are a total of three arcs available where players can see some sort of a unique storyline taking place in the world of Dragon Ball. Storywise, it’s not that groundbreaking but fans of the series will be able to enjoy seeing their favorite characters in an awesome cutscenes. Without spoiling much of the story, clones have been spreading havoc around the world and it’s up to Goku and others to stop them. Progression of the story is done through a grid like structure where there will always be a boss waiting in the end. Strategic planning is required as there are many paths that you can take before you can reach the boss at the end.
The online hub is an interesting way of doing a matchmaking lobby system. Once you’ve joined a server your avatar, anyone from Cell to Goku, is dropped into a small level. This Chibi styled avatar can walk around, interact with other players or initiate features. This can make waiting for a match a little more entertaining but the novelty will most probably wear off after the first few weeks, and additional unlockable avatars are tied into a randomized loot crate system. This hub is where players can access the great replay area. This is where a player can go to see the best fights replayed with the button presses and combinations being utilized by the competitors. Not only does it look awesome to watch, but you can learn a trick or two.
Unfortunately, with fighting games making a massive push towards teaching newcomers how to play, Dragon Ball FighterZ does little to assist. Some features, such as replay, make it easier to understand the timing, with more enjoyment coming from watching than anything learned. That being said, the graphics are stunning and captures the show’s iconic shonen style perfectly. Sadly, this can be, at times, distracting, due to the effects or combos. If these are not a concern for you, Dragon Ball FighterZ is an excellent choice, but I think I’m going back to just watching the show.
[Editor’s Note: Dragon Ball FighterZ was played on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game was provided to us by Bandai Namco for review purposes.]