This year’s E3 was a bit light on surprises, but there were a few stunners that managed to impress and get people excited. Arc System Work’s Dragon Ball FighterZ was quite possibly the most notable of those, with nearly every person I spoke to who played it having tremendously good things to say about it. We managed to get some quality time with the game at Bandai Namco’s E3 booth and get some initial impressions from some pros in the fighting game scene.
Right off the bat in the announcement video, the first thing that jumps out is how gorgeous the game is. Typically in the 3D Dragon Ball fighting games, character models always left something to be desired in my opinion. Not that those games didn’t look great, but more so that the art style did not quite capture the look and feel of the anime. Dragon Ball FighterZ absolutely nails this aspect. The backgrounds and characters all look like they were ripped straight out of the anime. I can’t stress enough how much more impressive this is in motion, which is hard to convey through footage of the game. I can’t wait to see this game on a big screen, which judging by the level of polish already present it’s going to be something special. According to the developer, only 20% of the game is done so far, so we have a lot left to see in terms of character roster, stages, and any other surprises that might be waiting.
Fluid Fight Mechanics
Once we got our hands on the game, immediately the controls felt natural to anyone who has played fighting games before. The control scheme consists of a light, medium, heavy and special button that acts as a sort of launcher similar to Marvel Vs Capcom 3’s. You also have assist buttons as this is a 3v3 fighter, and finally, you have a chase down button. This button allows you to chase down a player either after a knockback or at any point.
The playable build had six characters available being Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Frieza, Cell and Majin Buu. The actual move sets for characters were not available to view, but most inputs seemed to be mostly fireball forward and back with a few down motions thrown in as well. The developers have mentioned that they are designing characters to play and feel differently than the six we had available, so I would suspect the E3 build was designed to be accessible and easy for any player familiar with general fighting game controls.
This was definitely a plus for a crowd of first-timers trying their game. Everyone I saw playing this game was having a blast, myself included. Spending a bar of your meter to teleport behind your opponent, only to have them do the same and destroy you with some amazing screen-filling super. Watching characters fly into a building or mountainside when you knock them down to no health. Having the camera change to dynamic angles right behind the character when you knock them back and go for a chase down, or land a level 3 super. Everything you do in the game oozes style. Basic button presses look awesome, the overall art and color of the game popped with every movement. It was nearly impossible to contain my excitement at how amazing the game looked and felt, especially being a lifetime Dragon Ball fan who has been waiting a long time for another proper 2D fighter.
Arc System Work’s other two franchises, Guilty Gear and Blazblue, both exhibit many of the same qualities mentioned here, but Dragon Ball is exactly the right kind of universe to benefit from the art style and overall craziness the developer has brought to their past titles. With all the amazing titles being presented at E3 this year, it was surprising just how many people I overheard talking about how much fun they had playing Dragon Ball FighterZ. It was on the tip of everyone’s tongues. You would run into people and they would ask, “Did you play Dragon Ball yet? It’s amazing.” This may have been due in part to this being one of the more tame E3’s in recent years. A lot of games we might have expected to make an appearance were strangely absent. On top of that, there weren’t many huge reveals or exciting surprises. There were definitely a couple, but maybe not as many as we’ve become accustomed to.
Whatever the case may be, Dragon Ball FighterZ is deserving of every bit of praise it gets. The second I set it down and walked away, off to find some other spectacle waiting for me, nothing lived up to how excited I got while playing Dragon Ball FighterZ. Something special is hiding in that game, for fighting game fans as well as fans of the anime. The release date is currently just early 2018, but hopefully, that means sooner rather than later because I can’t wait to see what else the game has in store.
Dragon Ball FighterZ will be available for PS4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam. The game will also reportedly run better on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, but does not have plans for 4K capabilities currently. A closed Beta is also planned before the end of summer.