Ever since I got my first taste at E3 2017, I have been anxiously awaiting the finished version of Dragon Ball FighterZ. Brought to you by Arc System Works, the creators of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a mechanically and visually stunning 2.5D fighting game. It features a cast of 24 characters, with more on the way, and has both an online and offline mode. All of the content can be accessed without Internet or PlayStation Plus (Xbox Live gold) access with the exception of online PvP, which requires both.
Now, I’m personally not a massive fan of the Dragon Ball universe, but I have finished DBZ and can’t help but get pumped up during the anime’s intense fight scenes (when they do finally happen). I’ve also played quite a few of the previous attempts to bring the franchise to the video game market, from Budokai to Xenoverse, and Dragon Ball FighterZ feels like the most authentic experience created to date.
Authentic DBZ Experience
What Dragon Ball FighterZ does is take those heart-pounding fights from the show and condense them into matches that last a couple of minutes at most. Power-level disparity aside, ASW did an amazing job in recreating the individuality for each of the 24 fighters in the game’s lineup. Every move that Goku does in the game looks and feels like it was taken directly from the show; there are no canned or reused animations, which does make playing each different character feel personal. Some characters even fill multiple roles. For example, playing Captain Ginyu will give you access to the entire Ginyu Force!
Another thing that Dragon Ball FighterZ does right is include an immense amount of content when compared with other recent fighter releases. Not only is there a rather lengthy story mode, complete with a brand-new character, but there are individual training modes for each character, an arcade mode, replay center, cosmetic shop, local PvP and multiple different online modes.
Additionally, instead of just queuing up for content via a generic menu system, players can choose their own avatar, interact with other players, and even visit the Kame House. The only downside is that individual lobbies are currently restricted to 64 players and this can make it difficult to play with your friends due to thousands of players being logged in at any given time.
I grew up with the fighting game genre and many of the recent releases have left me a little disappointed. However, Dragon Ball FighterZ was love at first sight. This is an incredibly fast-paced fighter that is easy to get into but has tons of complexity if you’re willing to learn the details and master the combos.
One of the game’s features is the auto-combo system, which allows players to perform a string of attacks by mashing the light or medium attack buttons. A lot of hardcore gamers don’t like auto-combo systems, but I personally think they’re a great way for newcomers to get into a game and not get absolutely destroyed. Mastering manual combos and air juggling in a new game can be difficult even for genre veterans and it can be frustrating to only land single attacks when your opponent is hitting you 10 or more times in a row. However, auto-combos will still do significantly less damage than certain manual combos, which means more dedicated players will have an understandable advantage.
While each character has a fairly unique playstyle, there are a few abilities available to everyone. The most important are the Dragon Rush, Super Dash, and Vanish. Dragon Rush is a medium-range grab that can chain into a short combo. Super Dash is a full screen dash that can also chain into a combo but it can be blocked. Finally, Vanish uses one meter bar to teleport your character behind the enemy and perform a strong attack that knocks them back.
The importance of every character having access to these abilities is that it prevents certain types of abuse normally seen in fighting games. If the enemy is constantly spamming projectile attacks, using Super Dash will almost always punish them. Is your opponent blocking all of your attacks? Try a Dragon Rush grab. On the other hand, if your opponent is really aggressive than Vanish can be a nice escape or counter.
Even though there is a universal set of skills, almost every character has a different playstyle and some are quite unique. Of course, you’ve got your typical fighters like Goku and Vegeta who have a special dash, anti-air, and projective that are similar to what you would expect from Ken or Ryu from Street Fighter. However, there are also those that specialize in zoning, such as Frieza, and others who rely almost entirely on cross-ups like Hit.
While some characters are considered better than others, there isn’t a single character that is really considered unplayable right now. In many other fighter games or brawlers, there is almost always one or two characters that are just bad at everything. In Dragon Ball FighterZ, however, each character is completely viable. For example, Teen Gohan and SSGSS Vegeta might lack the utility of higher tier fighters, but they can dish out a ton of damage in the right situation.
It’s not so much that Arc System Works did anything particularly new here, but they did managed to finally create an amazing Dragon Ball game. Where most other games have seemed fan service driven, Dragon Ball FighterZ delivers both amazing fan service and a top-notch game.
Additionally, the game brings a new story to the franchise, which fans should really enjoy. At first, I honestly couldn’t stand the new character (Android 21), but after playing through each of the three story arcs there’s actually a bit of depth to her. Moreover, it’s just refreshing to see a fighting game that puts equal effort into single-player and online play.
Learning Curve: 8/10
The biggest issue with Dragon Ball FighterZ is that the complexity in the game will create a massive skill gap between players. With Dragon Ball being such a popular and ubiquitous franchise, a lot of people are going to want to play this game. However, even simple fighters like Street Fighter or Pokken take a lot of practice to even get okay at them.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people go online to play a few matches, get completely destroyed, and then stick to single-player afterward. Thankfully, there is a good amount of single-player content, so there is still value to the casual crowd. The training center and the arcade hard mode are both good ways for players to practice and hone their skills as well, but I do think the game could have gone a little further to teach players some of the more complicated aspects as well.
There’s not a single thing about this category that I found lacking. It’s an almost perfect representation of the anime from Goku’s Kamehameha to the banter between rivals during the story and after matches. Not only does the gameplay look like it was perfectly pulled from the show but key voice actors like Sean Schemmel (Goku) and Christopher Sabat (Vegeta) were also brought in to make the game sound authentic. There’s nothing else to say here besides Dragon Ball FighterZ looks and sounds amazing.
As far as performance goes, the game never dipped below 60 frames per second while maintaining a resolution of 2880x1620 on the PlayStation 4 Pro. This means that Dragon Ball FighterZ doesn’t quite make use of 4k, but it still looks great and having no loss in performance is even more important.
Early I mentioned that there’s a cosmetic shop in the Dragon Ball FighterZ lobby. However, there are no microtransactions involved. As players progress through the story, or play online matches, they’ll earn Zeni. For 1,000 Zeni (about one match), players can open a capsule that unlocks things like skins, stamps and emotes. If a player receives a duplicate item, it will instead be converted to different currency that can be used to purchase a guaranteed new item.
My only complaint is that there is currently paid DLC to unlock two characters that normally require accumulating 300,000 (SSGSS Vegeta) and 500,000 (SSGSS Goku) Zeni, and there will be more paid DLC characters in the future. I’m not a huge fan of paid DLC for fighting games, but I also understand that this incentivizes new content creation and has generally been accepted in the genre lately.
If you enjoy fighting games or are a fan of Dragon Ball then I can’t recommend Dragon Ball FighterZ enough. The gameplay is addicting, the visuals are outstanding, and it finally feels like you’re fighting in the anime.
Authentic Dragon Ball sounds and visuals
Fast-paced, diverse and deep gameplay
Introduces new story and character
Small online lobbies make it difficult for friends to play together
Training mode could be a little more in depth.