Dragon Ball FighterZ is a Slugfest of Super Saiyan Proportions
Talk about a match made in heaven. For well over a decade, developer Arc System Works has made quite the name for themselves with a slew of fighting games featuring wild-haired anime characters, fast-paced combat, and some of the flashiest 2D visuals ever crafted. That said, it seems only natural that the Yokohama-based studio behind such beloved franchises as Guilty Gear and Blazblue would eventually tackle the most over-the-top anime license with the fiercest follicles around. And it’s a good thing they did, too. Because Dragon Ball FighterZ not only does its license justice, it’s a rock-solid fighting game that’s sure to please both fans of Akira Toriyama’s beloved anime and manga series and fighting game fans alike.
Easy To Pick Up, Tough To Master
Unlike Arc System Works’ previously-released brawlers, Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t a one-on-one affair. Instead, the game takes cues from Marvel VS Capcom 3 and King of Fighters XIV. Players to assemble teams of their favorite Dragon Ball characters and slug it out in explosive, 3-on-3 melees that will put the fear of God into any players unfortunate enough to suffer from epilepsy.
If you’ve played Guilty Gear or Blazblue, you’ll feel right at home with the game’s four-button system, which allows you to execute light, medium, hard, and special attacks with the tap of a button. However, it’s worth noting that special techniques have been streamlined significantly. No moves require more than a simple quarter-circle flick of the stick and button press to execute. This makes for a game that’s simple to pick up and play, but there’s still plenty of room to grow your strategy thanks to a fluid combo system and team-based “Z” abilities that can lead to spectacular showcases of destruction when chained together efficiently.
Dragon Ball FighterZ’s more simplified mechanics may disappoint fans looking for a more technical brawler. However, the game’s more accessible nature ensures players will be able to choose almost any hero or villain in the game’s 24 character roster and fight like a Super Saiyan without having to memorize a dozen different button combinations. The easy to master controls also ensure every battle is an explosive event. Bouts unfold at a blistering pace. And special and super moves fill the screen with an unbelievable amount of flashy effects. The chaos that unfolds is nearly trance-inducing, making the game nearly as fun to watch as it is to play.
Sure, casual players may be able to spam easy-to-execute auto combos and Dragon Rushes. But more skilled players will almost certainly come out on top with the smart use of the game’s more advanced techniques. The end result is a game that’s extremely fun to pick up and play despite not being quite as hard on your thumbs as Arc System Works’ usual offerings. This is owed in no small part to its unrivaled presentation which makes every fight a feast for the eyes. Seriously, just look at these screenshots. I mean it when I say Dragon Ball FighterZ is the most impressive looking fighter I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Busting Your Ballz
Dragon Ball FighterZ features an in-depth story mode. Set over the course of three unique story arcs, it can easily take ten hours to see everything this mode has to offer. Each chapter takes place on a board game style map littered with encounters. When you move onto a space occupied by an enemy, a fight begins. Winning one of these matches grants you experience points to level up your characters, as well as special trinkets which can give you bonus items which can augment your team’s abilities and restore your health stocks.
Unfortunately, this mode gets repetitive pretty quickly. You’ll often battle the same characters numerous times over the course of each chapter. It didn’t take long before these encounters began to grow stale – thanks in no small part to the game’s toothless enemy AI, which rarely put up a fight. Still, the story arcs themselves are entertaining and feature the same spirit of the anime series. Another nice bonus is the standout voice acting performed by the show’s actual voice talent which really helps bring the cast to life.
In addition to the game’s three story arcs, there’s also your standard Arcade Mode. Here, each victory awards you with a score which determines whether you’ll take the high, low, or middle paths. These paths determine which opponents you’ll battle as you progress, how many fights you’ll participate in, and the challenge the game will offer. The rather tame CPU difficulty from the story mode is remedied here, with some teams offering a considerable challenge. Overall, it’s a fun mode that offers players a great way to cut their teeth on their favorite characters’ play styles.
Of course, a fighting game is only as good as its net code. At the time of this writing, the performance across Xbox Live is a bit all over the place. My online bouts ranged from absolutely seamless slugfests to virtual slideshows, with not much in between. Thankfully, more often than not I was able to find myself in perfectly playable matches, but it’s a shame the game isn’t quite as fluid as other fighting games out there yet. Here’s hoping Arc System Works is able to iron out the kinks to deliver a more consistent online experience in the future.
As for the online itself, getting into a match is easy enough. Once you get into a lobby, you simply walk your big-headed avatar over to an opponent and choose between whether to start up a ranked or player match. The selection of modes is pretty barebones, but it’s perfectly serviceable. And when you get a good lobby going it’s easily one of the most entertaining fighters on the market at the moment and a great addition to Arc’s lineup.
Having a Ball
Dragon Ball FighterZ may not be the deepest addition to Arc System Works’ portfolio of fighting games, but it’s certainly one of the most satisfying. The game’s lightning-fast pace, streamlined mechanics, and unrivaled presentation make for an addicting and accessible experience that no fan of the genre should be without. Sure, the story mode may drag on a bit at times. And the online component is experiencing some growing pains. But none of these issues are reason enough to miss what’s shaping up to be one of the biggest fighters of 2018. If you’re a fighting game fan, Dragon Ball FighterZ definitely deserves a spot on your shelf.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC ; Publisher: Bandai Namco ; Developer: Arc System Works ; Players: 1-2 ; Released: January 26, 2018 ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Dragon Ball FighterZ given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.