Dragon Ball FighterZ Review- Going Further Beyond
The Dragon Ball Franchise is the most iconic of anime and manga franchise since its initial debut in 1984 with the first publication of Dragon Ball. As time progressed, Akira Toriyama’s vision has captivated audiences internationally for over thirty years since the first tale of Son Goku hit store shelves. Dragon Ball has received many adaptations, from anime, to toys, whatever Evolution was (a mistake), and of course, videogames. Dragon Ball FighterZ does something rarely seen across the twenty plus years of DB games however: fuse traditional 2D 3 vs 3 tag combat in its rawest from with aspects from the beloved series. I’m happy to report that Arc System Works has not only made a good Dragon Ball game, but an excellent competitive fighter as well.
FighterZ is a 3 v 3 2D fighter, unlike the 3D fighters of the past few years. Mechanics closely resemble that of Team Red’s flagship fighter, Guilty Gear, though with tweaks. For starters, dust launchers can be performed from heavy attacks or throws. The tag aspects allow for on the fly switching, using assists, and multiple team super moves (lovingly recreated from the pages of the manga, and cells of the anime). Combos are more forgiving for newer players of the 2D fighter genre, with two variations of auto combos, and a simple enough control scheme that won’t make players remember three variations of a punch or kick.
However, this doesn’t make the game dumbed down by any means. Players will have to learn quickly about proper spacing and when to take chances with mechanics like chase (a homing dash) and dragon rush (a throw that acts as a launcher). Unfortunately, the game doesn’t always give players many tools to understand this, as tutorials teach very basic concepts, and character specific missions don’t show all the tools a character has, nor what they can do with them. This is rather strange, considering ASW’s last front into the fighting genre was Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator 2. A game, highly regarded as having one of the most comprehensive guides on how to play a fighting game.
The roster is comprised of mainstays from the DragonBall Z franchise, with a few slots for Super characters as well. Fans can expect to see the likes of Freeza, Tien, Yamcha, 16, Krillin, Beerus, Hit, and the majority of familiar faces one would see on their TV screens Saturday mornings. Each member of the cast plays differently, yet not so much they’re completely off putting. Beerus uses multiple orbs, for example, but he’s still able to be played up close. Gohan is a more close-ranged fighter, but his masenko is great for beam spacing. Combine this with the way characters can play off one another in the 3 v3 format, and possibilities began expanding rapidly.
The UI of FighterZ is lobby based, meaning you load into an online lobby populated by other players to access the various modes of the game. Currently, FighterZ offers Arcade, Story, Ranked, Casual, Training/Practice, and Arena modes. Arena mode allows you to battle other players in a lobby, however during my time with the game, there were difficulties getting matches using this feature. On the other hand, most of my online Ranked and Casual matches ran fairly well. You can see the connection of your opponent when viewing whether you want to fight them, and the frame delay is displayed during the match, so you can track how well or how poorly your connection is sustaining.
FighterZ’s story mode follows various characters and their quest to defeat Android 21, an original villain bent on devouring everyone in her path. The mode is comprised of three arcs, with each focusing on different characters. The cutscenes and animations for this mode (as well as the game in general) are gorgeous to look at. Colors pop with vibrancy and sound design is impeccable, faithful voice acting and sound effects overload and delight the senses with the same awe you remember from the show. During story mode you traverse through different maps, plotting which stops to take within the allotted turns so you can power up before beating the boss. This was novel the first few times around, however, it soon felt repetitive, as the fights are far too consecutive and easy. The story mode AI offers little to no challenge, and the repetition of battle after battle that was over as soon as it begun began to bore me. I soon found myself booking it to the boss of each map just to advance the plot. It’s unfortunate too, considering the amount of love that is on display here in the cutscenes. Characters have special dialogue moments, and you can even trigger link events where you talk to the different characters (though there’s little to no information on how to trigger these events). If the story’s fat was trimmed, then it would have been a much stronger facet of the game.
Alternate titles, avatars, and character colors can be unlocked by visiting the game’s store, where you can purchase random loot capsules for in game currency (no microtransactions as of this writing). It’s refreshing to be able to earn rewards via play (as you can also unlock three characters by completing in game actions). I do wish, however that I could just purchase individual assets (such as character colors) from a gallery, instead of at random.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is an ode to all the things an anime fighter is. It’s flashy, but still with depth. It’s crazy, but not without reason. Most importantly: it’s fun. Arc System Works has crafted a fine platform for casual and competitive players alike to enact their Dragon Ball fantasies in an entirely new way. Despite some shortcomings and filler regarding its training and story modes, the core foundation of a strong fighting game is present. Team Red may have just made a Dragon Ball game that goes further beyond what it means to be an anime fighter.
If you’d like to see some gameplay of FighterZ, click here to watch our quick look of the beta.