Just two months into the year and we are already being treated to what could be contenders to game of the year recognitions, and Dragon Ball FighterZ really deserves the praise as one of the best fighting games to ever grace this generation of gaming. It’s pure Dragon Ball action, that’s faithful to the source material in terms of art style and story telling, but what truly sets it apart is its accessibility to beginners, while keeping it open and technical for creativity for pro and high level play. After quite a few weeks of action with the game, here’s our in-depth review of Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Pronounced as fighterz, DBF captures well the over the top story-telling unique to the series. The story mode takes place between the end of Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball Super, and plunges you to a brand new arc which introduces a new character and antagonist Android 21, where she revives all the villains of the series up to the Buu Saga, while cloning most of the heroes and villains of the series to wreak havoc in the world. Without spoiling too much, there’s more to Android 21 than meets the eye – behind the kind natured persona, is a monster waiting to be unleashed. The story is told in three different arcs, albeit with slight differences, which reveals the truth behind the new character, and it’s up to you – the player- who plays as a linked soul, to strengthen the characters and prepare them for the big fight. While the story is rich in dialogue, there’s quite a lot of padding involved in the campaign, and you’ll end up playing quite a number of hours just to complete the entire story. It honestly feels quite tedious to do go through the campaign since you’ll have to go through certain fights just to progress. And this is the only gripe I have with DBF, because all other things that make it as a fighter are actually great and well crafted. If you’re not digging the story mode, the arcade mode pits you againts characters depending on how well you fought. The better you are, the harder the opponents will be, which I think is a great design choice as it lets you ease in to the game smoothly as you hurdle up the learning curve.
In terms of fighting mechanics, the game is fast, fluid, and surprisingly easy to learn, which makes it so engaging to play. Taking a cue from Marvel vs Capcom, the game is played in 3 vs 3 format, wherein you can switch characters around, and have them assist as needed. The player wins once members of the opposing team are all defeated. This format allows players to mix and change up their style on the fly, which opens up possiblities and can turn the tide of battle at any time. Have a character in a pinch? Simply switch him out and have him recover.
In terms of button inputs, it remains simple but open for creativity. Simple combos are easy to pull off, simply mash either the light or heavy strike buttons, and you’re good to go. Yet this simplicity doesn’t limit players to just simple combo inputs, as the game is open enough for advanced players to mix it up with cancels and combo extenders for longer combos and heavier damage. Auto combos are there to ease in new players, but as you grow more attuned to the game, the more you’ll need to learn advanced techniques.
Aside from strikes and ki blasts, there tons of other techniques in your arsenal that you can use like rush, dragon rush, vanish, ki charge, sparking blast, and of course , this wouldn’t be a Dragon Ball game without of course the Dragon Balls. Integral to each session, Dragon Balls are there to grant a players wish, execute combos to earn each Dragon Ball. Gather all seven of them and you’ll get a wish that enables you to revive a character from your team, refill your health, make you regenerate your health, or grant you another sparking blast. This clever mix of simplicity and complexity should keep players on their toes as this could either victory or defeat either way, while keeping it open for new comers to learn and enjoy. There’s also a tutorial and combo practice mode for you to learn new moves and combos.
There’s a quite a number of characters to choose from, and despite its simplistic control scheme, the fighting styles of each character is still unique. Goku plays as a balanced character type, while Vegeta plays a rush down type, and given that you’re fighting with 3 characters at a time, learning different playstyles is quite a challenge in itself.
What Dragon Ball FighterZ nails well is the anime’s art style. Using Unreal Engine, the game renders the characters and environments in true Dragon Ball fashion. It’s as if you’re watching a special episode of the anime, and it faithfully captures the signature look of the series. Couple that with the over the top action that the anime has been well known for and you have a recipe for a grandiose anime action. Fights are all exciting, with environments reacting dynamically as the fight progresses. Deflect some ki-blasts and you’ll seem them burn or destroy some elements in the background. Pull off some level 3 supers and watch your character dish out a jaw dropping powerful signature move, that transforms the entire landscape of the fight arena. And the game depicts the strength and intensity of these fights well – with these planet destroying supers often being depicted as seen from space or from a great distance.
Another thing that it nails so well is its voice acting – they actually used the original voice talents from the Japanese and English dub of the anime which gives it an authentic feel.
But how does it fare as a multiplayer game? Local multiplayer is fun and flawless as expected from any fighting game, so it’s a perfect couch game for when you have friends over. What makes this game shine in terms of multiplayer is its online multiplayer mode. As with typical multiplayer games to date, a lobby system is introduced in this game which enables you to interact with other players as you switch between the different modes of the game. Go towards the world arena area and you’ll be given the option to fight in ranked mode and casual modes from all over the world. Just find a match according to your preference and you’re good to go. You can even matchmake while doing tutorial and practice runs which is pretty neat, so you don’t have to sit idly by while you wait for a match. Unfortunately during the time of this review, matchmaking takes quite a long time before you get a decent match, and when I say decent, a match with 3 bars or more in terms of network quality. However, I found that even matches with 0-1 bar are still quite playable and leads me to matches with 9 or less frames of delay. The lag in these games is barely noticeable, so matches are still fun and enjoyable.
While the game does jump into the lootbox bandwagon, it’s not something that’ll take a long time to grind, or even require you to shell out for premium currency. Just play the game at your own pace and you’ll get most of the rewards anyway, so it’s a friendly iteration of the lootbox system.
Dragon Ball FighterZ also throws in quite a number of easter eggs that throwbacks to the Dragon Ball Z series, and even recreates scenes from the new Super series. Fights between Nappa and Yamcha triggers a dramatic finish which cause either Yamcha to lose and stumble to his iconic pose. Pit teen Gohan and Cell and have Gohan win and he’ll trigger a dramatic father-son Kamehameha that vaporizes Cell.
Overall, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a great addition to your fighting game collection. It’s a well crafted and well designed fighting game that it beginner friendly, yet challenging enough for advanced 2D fighting game players to master. Its unique mix of mechanics lets players from all levels, whether you’re a noob or a pro, to fight on equal footing and enjoy the fantastic display of power of the characters. Its faithful adaptation of the anime is a wonderful treat to fans. It’s a dream come true to fans of the anime, and to fighting game players alike. This deserves a Hungry Geeks 100% Satisfying Seal of approval!