Wow, 2017 was an amazing year for fighting games and the fighting game community (FGC). We saw Injustice 2, Tekken 7, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite launch. We were given updates to Killer Instinct and Street Fighter V. 2018 has just started and already Dragon Ball FighterZ (DBFZ) has landed onto consoles and PC with a power level that is over 9000!
For those that might not know, Dragon Ball started out as a manga that was published in 1984 and had over 500 chapters. The manga has spawned popular anime TV shows, video games, and even trading card games. If you have a friend that is into any sort of anime, chances are high that they have seen or read some Dragon Ball.
The Dragon Ball series is no stranger to fighting games, but with this latest installment, Bandai Namco teamed-up with Arc System Works (Guilty Gear and BlazBlue) to create a new 2.5D fighting game that looks to take its place amongst the giants of the fighting game industry.
DBFZ instantly jumps out as one of the most beautifully animated games I’ve seen in a LONG time. Matches look as if they are right out of the anime series and the opening cinematic is so crisp that it is difficult to tell what is gameplay and what was animated for the intro. While the fights look great, some of the movement that happens in the story mode feels a little slow and robotic. It makes for some awkward looking cutscenes.
Speaking of Story Mode, you won’t have to know a ton about Dragon Ball to understand what is happening. The basis of the story is that Android 16 has been revived and has an army of clones to fight by his side. The story is split into three parts that follow the perspective of Goku, Frieza, and Android 18. Players progress through and level up their fighters through battles.
One of the most interesting things about the story mode is that each chapter is represented by an overworld map. Players can navigate the map and move from space to space. Some spaces have enemies that will trigger a battle. Some battles offer “tutorials” and feature a much more passive enemy. Once the tutorial challenges in that battle are done the enemy will become aggressive and the battle can resume. Other battles in the overworld maps include boss battles and Rescue Battles. Boss battles see your team of fighters taking a character who is a much higher level, while Rescue Battles add more fighters to your story mode roster.
Players who are only interested in the story can bypass a large number of battles and take the quickest route to the boss battles of every chapter. Those looking to level up their story mode roster can fight as many battles as there are on screen before taking on the boss.
In addition to story mode, DBFZ offers a huge amount of extra modes for players to hone their skills, watch replays, or do some shopping. All of this is presented in a virtual lobby where players can walk around to each of the different areas. Players are visualized in the lobby as chibi versions of Dragon Ball characters. When the game launches* players will be able to interact with other players in these lobbies. This includes being able to watch matches in progress and even holding a spot in line for a match.
Practice lets players hone their skills against AI dummies as well as learn from a more straightforward tutorial. There are also “combo challenges” where players can pick their character of choice and attempt to master 10 different combos.
Arcade mode pits fighters in a series of battles against the computer in one of three different tiers. Players are given a score and ranking after every match as they move up the ladder to the last fight. Clearing a tier unlocks a “Hard” mode of that tier. Clearing the “Hard” mode will unlock two more playable characters.
Local Battle is where players and a bunch of their friends will be spending most of their time. Players can take each other on in single battles or, if there are enough people, DBFZ comes equipped with a Tournament Mode. This is one of the best features in the game, as it takes the work out of trying to set-up brackets. For someone like me, who regularly hosts “Fight Nights”, this is a huge feature. I can invite all my fighting buddies over and DBFZ will randomly seed the brackets and BAM! we’re off into a full-on tournament.
Replay is exactly what it sounds like. Here you can watch your replays and study your moves, or watch other replays and study your opponent’s moves.
Shop is where players can go to purchase Z Capsules. Z Capsules contain cosmetic items such as more lobby characters, lobby character colors, and fighter cards. DBFZ uses Zeni as their in-game currency, which can be acquired by playing through the story mode, arcade mode, or even completing the tutorials. The shop is also where players will go to purchase future DLC.
How does the game play? Fantastic. A simplified control scheme allows for easy combos and rush-down. “Vanish” is a move where players will appear behind their opponent to open them up for an attack. “Dragon Rush” breaks through an opponents defense and creates a quick combo. Returning from previous Dragon Ball fighting games is the ability for players to charge their KI. KI is what is used for special and super moves.
The FGC has already shown great love and care for this game as seen by the large amount of positive tweets and streams during the beta periods. Multiple winner and EVO Finalist Paul B. has said
“The game on the surface is very basic. A lot of the characters have unifying universal game mechanics that make them easy to immediately understand not only on offense but defense as well. That cohesive simplicity lends itself really well to a lot of individual expression from the player.”
Casual gamers and first time fighting game fans will find the game incredibly easy to pick up. Fighting game veterans will relish finding the combos and tech that no one else seems to find.
Controls are fluid and spot on. Button presses register instantly and I experienced no lag playing both with a wireless controller and wired fightstick.
Fans of the series will constantly find little nods to the series throughout the game. Certain characters will trigger different cutscenes and “Dramatic Finishes” if they defeat certain enemies. During a battle players can also collect the 7 Dragon Balls. Once all the Dragon Balls have been assembled Shenron will appear and give the player who summoned it one of four wishes: increasing their fighter’s strength, revive a fallen ally, recover a fighter’s health, or increase resistance to damage.
Ending the match on a special move or level 3 super oftentimes yields a “destructive finish” where the opponent is blasted into buildings, or into space.
Accompanying the game’s slick animation is a fully voiced cast. The cast does a wonderful job throughout the game and in the battle cutscenes. Heavy metal tunes blast into your earholes both in the intro cinematic and in the battle loading screens.
A New Challenger Approaches and it’s name is Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco and Arc System Works have delivered something astounding and I know that myself, and the FGC are excited to bear witness of what’s to come in this game’s life cycle.
For more information, check out the official website. A digital copy of Dragon Ball FighterZ was provided for review purposes. Muliplayer servers were not live at the time of this review.