The Dragon Ball franchise has existed since the 1980’s and has spawned countless fighting games of varying quality. There have been some really stand out titles and quite a few duds, but none of them ever reached the complexity or competitiveness of top-tier fighters such as Street Fighter, Tekken, or the Marvel vs Capcom series. Most of them are niche fighters with simple mechanics when compared to those other big name fighting games. I’ve always thought this is due to developers trying to appeal to all Dragon Ball fans by making the games easier to pick up and play when compared to more hardcore fighters. I’m not knocking these games as I enjoy quite a few of them myself, such as the Budokai and Tenkaichi series, but Dragon Ball FighterZ is on a whole other level than what has come before. It still remains extremely accessible, but its mechanics have depth and are rewarding to master. Ark Systems has crafted a fighting game that fans of the series and fighting games alike will enjoy. Whether you know exactly what Saiyans are or not you will have a blast playing this game. If you are one of those who know what a Kamehameha blast is then you will be very pleased to know that Dragon Ball FighterZ is extremely faithful to its source material in every way imaginable. It looks identical, sounds identical, and is a sight to behold on screen. My jaw dropped and still drops, every time I boot it up.
A Simple Yet Elegant System
The simple system that Ark has put together is the main thing that keeps me playing because it is so easy to pick up. It’s very similar to the older Marvel vs Capcom games as this is a three vs three team fighting game. The face buttons are used to attack. There are light, medium, and heavy attacks and one button reserved for a special move, usually a ki blast. The input commands never get complicated. If you can pull off a standard fireball move in Street Fighter you can most likely pull off every move in FighterZ. The shoulder buttons are used for a number of things ranging from powering up your super meter, performing over the top super moves, calling for assists, and switching out your characters. There’s a lot going on and things are downright chaotic at all times, but I promise you that it is all very manageable.
The Team Dynamic
The three characters that make up your team can have a profound effect on your ability to dish out heavy hitting, flashy combos during matches. The assist moves of each character tend to compliment others and choosing the right team really does help put the odds in your favour when taking the fight online. There are 24 fighters total on the roster. This allows for some very interesting team-ups. One fighter, the brand new creation Android 21, must be unlocked via the story mode. Super Saiyan Blue Goku and Vegeta must also be unlocked via gameplay unless you have the “Day One” edition of the game. The developers have promised eight more DLC fighters at a later date.
My mouth is already watering at the possible editions to the roster.
Modes of Play
There are several different modes to dabble in during your time with Dragon Ball FighterZ. There is a very beefy story mode that made me feel like I was taking part in a very cool Dragon Ball movie. I was surprised by both its quality and length. The 2nd act dragged a good bit, but the 1st and 3rd arcs were intense and the story actually drew me in. That’s something that usually doesn’t happen during fighting games so I was pleasantly surprised. It was also nice that the developers didn’t simply retread the same old ground and put us through the Saiyan and Cell sagas for the millionth time. It was something that I had really grown tired of doing in modern Dragon Ball games. Speaking of new, Android 21 is now one of my all-time favourite Dragon Ball characters. I hope that she makes it into the series proper. As far as the length, the story took me over 17 hours to complete, but you could easily cut the time in half by rushing through it. I wouldn’t recommend that as the story experience is very pleasing.
There is also the standard arcade mode that all fighting game fans have grown to expect in their games. It’s fairly basic and pretty much exactly what you’d expect if you are familiar with the genre. You pick a team and barrel through a set number of matches by choosing an arcade ladder. Each one has its own difficulty rating and I found this mode to be the perfect place to practice and earn “Zeni” (used to purchase this game’s version of loot boxes). There is a fantastic training mode included as well that will help you get used to various fighters in no time. I would highly recommend spending at least a little bit of time in this mode with all the fighters as some of them may surprise you (looks at Yamcha).
Fighting Online & Loot Boxes!?
The online component in FighterZ was a ton of fun as well. There is a “World Match” mode that contains the standard ranked and casual modes of play, but there is also a mode called “Circle Match” that is pretty much a party lobby for up to eight players. The really cool thing about this mode is that four matches can take place simultaneously. So, you aren’t left waiting around very long for your next match. My matches ran smoothly for the most part with the occasional disconnect here and there. This is not uncommon for fighting games. It’s the frequency of these that can detract from the experience. During my time with the title, this was never a concern. The only thing that concerned me was the time it could take sometimes to find a ranked or casual match. I was sometimes left staring at the screen for 10 minutes or longer — not a good thing.
Dragon Ball FighterZ also joins the loot box craze in the form of capsules that can be purchased with “Zeni” that you earn from various modes of play. These capsules contain avatar characters that can represent you in the game’s lobby as well as new character colours for your fighters. I love the fact that you can’t spend any real money on the capsules. All of them must be earned by putting time into the game. They aren’t hard to obtain. You collect tons of them with little effort at all if you explore all of the various modes of play.
It’s Over 9000!!!
It seemed to me that there was a lot more hype surrounding FighterZ than previous Dragon Ball video games. I think that it lived up to it in every way and then some. The game looks like poetry in motion and is extremely faithful to its source material. The game is dripping with fan service throughout every single part of it. The story is fantastic. The online mode is fierce and competitive and the local play offers fans of old-school couch battles oodles of good fun. The only complaints I have with the title is the auto-combo system, which can lead to cheap tactics and the size of the roster. The roster certainly isn’t small, but with multiple duplicate characters, it left me wanting more. The DLC will hopefully fix this problem. Although, since Dragon Ball has a very long list of characters, it is most likely that there will always be someone we wish was included.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is a game that can’t be missed by Dragon Ball and fighting game fans alike. If the creators go forward with a sequel, which I’m willing to bet they do, then Dragon Ball FighterZ is a wonderful start to a brand new franchise. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this “super” fighter.
- Visually stunning
- Easy to pick up and play
- Surprisingly good story mode
- Exciting gameplay
- Auto-combos can lead to cheap tactics