From a franchise that is well-known and loved by a huge variety of people, Dragon Ball FighterZ (pronounced Fighters – Fighter-Zee – Fighterzzz? Who knows?) is a game with a lot of hype around it, in a genre renowned for its high standards. These factors mean that it had plenty of balls to keep up in the air at the same time, and the question therefore becomes, has it pulled it off?
Dragon Ball FighterZ markets itself as a more professional, traditional 2D fighting game. It has a variety of traditional mechanics, such as combos, breakers, cancels, vanishes and special attacks. It uses the Marvel vs Capcom system of having 3 vs 3 fights, with assists and tag-in teammates being available. The special attack system is a blend between inaccessible hard-core moves and more casual auto-combos. All characters have their special attacks mapped to the same quarter circle movements, with the only difference being the specific special attacks in question for each character. So, in practice, you can jump in and out with different characters quite easily until you find the ones you enjoy the most. There is also a DBZ style energy bar, used for your special attacks, which can be charged with a button combo.
The first thing any player would notice is how gorgeous the stylized cell-shaded graphics are. They look stunning in motion, wonderfully chaotic with the energy attacks and combos flying around you, and very authentic to the series. It has to be seen to be believed. There is a wonderful love for the series present here – from a whole bunch of secret Easter eggs that fans of the series to enjoy, with little quips as certain characters face off against each other. The people who made this really seem to understand Dragon Ball and the respect for the series is obvious.
Dragon Ball FighterZ automatically loads you up into an online lobby if you are connectedIt’snd you have a little chibi avatar of your favourite character that can be customized. It’s very cute, and fun to see everyone else’s characters running around. It does have the slightly negative downside of making the lag a little worse, which is unfortunate. In fact, the lag and packet loss during the first week of play was a bit bad at times, but I remain hopeful that this was just an example of first week jitters. We shall wait and see.
At launch, there are 21 characters unlocked and 3 unlockable within the game. These include many of the most notable Z Fighters, villains and even a couple of Dragon Ball Super characters. There’s even an OC character designed by Toriyama. You may experience some Goku-fatigue, as he is represented 3 times in various forms, as the game does not use skins, rather favouring separate slots. There are also no transformations in matches, rather each character stays in the form you choose. Each character does feel mostly distinct though, and all feel quite competitive, although I’m sure the tier list is being constructed as I speak. The three on three battle system also allows for a nice level of figuring out which characters combo well with others. Eight more characters are already planned for DLC, with the discussions around them being heated but unconfirmed – characters such as Bardock, Broly and Cooler are all being floated around.
As for game modes, there is a fairly good training mode and a sizeable classic arcade mode. The story mode is interesting, as it is quite distinctive and detailed. It sets up three campaigns of an original story, featuring the original character Android 21. It’s not the strongest piece of work narratively speaking, but it has a lot of charm and treats the characters well – you almost can’t always take them seriously, and it has a bit of the DBZ Abridged style of humour about it, which is a pleasing way to interact with a franchise that so many of us have run through over and over again. The main form of it takes place as a board game, where you move around collecting allies, building up abilities and power, and fighting villains, before engaging in another cutscene.
Overall? I liked Dragon Ball FighterZ, but I feel it will struggle. It’s a damn fine Dragon Ball game, but it’s trying to be a professional fighting game too. It may end up caught in a weird kind of limbo – trying to please both casual Dragon Ball fans and hardcore fighting game community elites. As a casual fan, I loved it, but I did find it quite difficult and technical. For others, it may not be technical enough to compete with the Street Fighters of the world. This is no comment on the game itself, which is a labour of love and lots of fun, I just hope it has the staying power to keep going, even if its through DLC characters for the next few years.