Dragon Ball FighterZ manages to not only wonderfully recreate the anime to near perfection but also strikes an intelligently designed balance for a fighting game. Dragon Ball is a franchise that has followed me throughout my life as well as fighting games. Blending the digital chess match of reflex and skill with a franchise you love is the perfect blend for a fighting game fan. Arc System Works has crafted a wonder of presentation, fun, and fighting game pleasures for fans of both sides of the coin.
This Time on Dragon Ball Z
It can’t be stated enough how many character moments and how much attention to detail this game has. Being a fan of the Dragon Ball series is not necessary to enjoy these aspects, but it is really done better here than ever before. The overall graphical perfection lends to this effect, giving each major story point that is recreated an added bonus. These moments are triggered by the gameplay itself. Playing the right characters on the right stages or finishing a match under the right circumstance will trigger brief recreations of classic moments from the show. This the perfect way to pay homage to the series without retreading the same ground as other Dragon Ball games have by taking players through the main arcs from the anime. There’s even an alternate win for Yamcha that grants a small revenge that fans will love.
The story mode for Dragon Ball FighterZ is a definite attempt to create something new and not retread old experiences while still maintaining staples of the series. The story itself involves clones of Dragon Ball characters running around causing mayhem, with Android 21 at the center of it all. Android 21 is a new creation for Dragon Ball Fighterz that serves the purpose of the main villain with the abilities of all the previous ones. The story mode has three different arcs to complete, although they are all the same story from different perspectives with a few novel twists and changes. The AI is also particularly easy until later fights making most of the story mode a bit of a slog. There is replay value for fans though. Each chapter is marked with a board with branching paths that can lead to a cut-scene exclusive to that path. Overall a worthy effort even if it’s not the best Dragon Ball storyline ever, as well as some hilariously bad lip syncing for the English cast at times.
Substance, Flash, and Super Dash.
Arc System Works is no stranger to creating well-crafted and competitive fighting games with the Guilty Gear and Blaz Blue series. With Dragon Ball FighterZ, they’ve managed to create a system that is quick to pick up and can look and feel amazing even at a beginner level of play. The more technical combos are not exceedingly difficult and the depth is not quite on the level of Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2. This does not detract from the game, however. The tools that are given to the player establishes a back and forth of timing and skill that relies on reading your opponent and reacting with the correct move more so than landing a hundred button combo. The vanish ability for example, which allows you to instantly teleport behind your opponent, is quick and easy to use while also being easily countered and granting the possibility for big damage if landed and followed up with a combo leading to a super.
This is a 3v3 system with assists having a huge part to play. Switching in characters is easy enough and can be done mid-air during a combo which is a lot of fun to do. Super moves are also simple compared to what you might find in Street Fighter V. This once again points to the developers seeking to make a fighting game that is fun for anyone to pick up, but can have a lot of depth in the way it is approached and played. Auto-combos exist in this game in an interesting way. You can simply hit light or medium attack several times in a row which takes you through a full air combo into super. This is balanced by having less damage dealt and giving the player fewer options for continuing the combo.
Everything is used in a way to not overwhelm new players while giving veterans a chance to link things together in amazing ways. Good fundamentals and timing will play a larger role in this game than execution prowess, but that’s not a bad thing with how fluid and tight the controls and abilities feel. Early matches feel dominated with the super dash ability that allows you to fly straight to your opponent for a combo. Th, later on, becomes second nature as you’re able to punish easily with a down heavy or vanish. Again this leads to great scenarios and intense matches.
This extends to the roster of characters as well. Every character has similar combos with small changes that lend to their own unique styles. Arc System Works has expertly managed to capture and recreate the abilities and functions of each character from the anime itself. Every special move and super alike are a treat for Dragon Ball fans who will recognize every one of them. I do however hope that within the 8 unnamed DLC characters there might be some room for more off the wall characters with different control types and more super moves available to them. Arc System Works is very capable of this as demonstrated with Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 and I would love to see that ingenuity applied to new characters. Master Roshi is on the top of that list for me.
3D Models in a 2D Wonderland
The excellence in recreating the look and feel of the Dragon Ball anime cannot be stated enough about Dragon Ball FighterZ. The game is a stunner. The graphical styles are immaculate in their presentations while looking even better in 4K and HDR. The color, the backgrounds of stages and the character models are all magnificent. The dynamic nature of the game only enhances the overall presentation. The camera panning in for big supers, and back out for big finishes. The way characters fly off screen and burst into buildings and rock faces that can also trigger stage transitions. Everything just comes together beautifully. As much as screenshots can showcase this, the game really needs to be seen in motion to really appreciate it.
Modes and the Hub World.
Dragon Ball FighterZ includes the typical modes for fighting games, arcade, vs, online and surprisingly helpful training. The main hub world is always online unless chosen otherwise where players run around as cute little avatars of characters that can be customized. You can then jump into any mode or use certain online modes like arena matches with random players in your lobby. So far the one frustrating aspect is not being able to easily connect with friends. To play online with friends you have to be on the same server in the same chosen lobby. From there you’ll have to create a ring match that friends can join. Considering how many other games do this in an easier way, why can I not simply invite someone? I can’t even open a basic friends list and choose to hop to their server, I have to back out and search for the one they’re in. This is really just unnecessary and could easily be fixed with some patching.
Loot Capsules and Wrap Up
So there are loot boxes in this game. You earn fight money called Zeni by completing the story, doing modes or simply playing against a friend. Upon purchase, Z Capsules open to reveal things like character colors, avatar characters and costumes, fighter cards and titles. There is a lot to collect, but this doesn’t seem too daunting considering how much Zeni the game throws at you. Currently, they are not available to purchase with real money, but if they changed that it would be hard to convince someone not to just play the game with how much you get just for doing what you were already going to.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is nothing short of a benchmark fighting game. The fluidity, fun, and flair of the system itself are enough to keep any fighting game fan engaged. The icing on that sweet digital cake is the expert level of detail and care that has gone into the recreation of the Dragon Ball universe in every way you could hope for. This is a game that deserves to be played whether you’re a Dragon Ball fanatic, or just looking to spend some time playing one of the best fighting games the landscape has to offer.