The old adage of love, at first sight, is usually a corny sentiment, but when Dragon Ball FighterZ was first announced, and that Arc System Works of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear fame would be the development team behind the 2D fighter, my heart skipped a beat.
Imagine the highly technical combat and beautiful animation of the BlazBlue series in the shell of Dragon Ball? This is a match made in gaming heaven.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best fighting games ever to grace gaming, and its appeal is not just limited to the hardest of hardcore. It is an exhilarating, well-crafted experience that is easy to pick up but equally hard to master.
Just one glimpse and you would realise how absolutely stunning this fighter is. From the characters, the arenas, to the world-destroying Kamehamehas and colourful effects the series is known for are fully realised. Even the animation style is reminiscent of the anime, nay, it looks even better than its source material at certain times.
Ki Blasts, outrageous combos, and non-stop action is pretty much par for the course for any match in Dragon Ball FighterZ. Destructive finishes can obliterate planets, and certain characters can trigger memorable Dramatic Finishes, a callback to many of the plot points that fans would be familiar with.
Simply put, this brawler is one of most high octane experiences you can have, and one can’t help but be excited when a bout gets underway.
All the love and care extends to the roster of fighters as well. From the ever-present Saiyans like Goku and Vegeta to outlandish villains that are Frieza and Buu, fans from all generations would feel right at home.
With 24 fighters and plenty more coming via DLC, this is a robust set of combatants with enough variety for various playstyles. You have the all-rounder like Goku, the melee-focused Hit, the zoner that is Frieza, wildcards like the new character Android 21, and many more.
It makes for a wonderful competitive scene as everybody races to find the killer combination of a team that can counter the latest meta.
And that combination is crucial, as Dragon Ball FighterZ is a team game. Teams of three will go head-to-head as combos and supers start firing. The tag battle nature certainly helps the longevity of fights. Add to that the potential synthesis of the various assists and supers from your team members, and you are in for a great time.
This is Dragon Ball after all, and the fights feel equally satisfying and high-stakes, and nothing gets the adrenaline pumping than superpowered beings wailing on each other. Even when a character is downed, it is followed up by an anime-esque transition as the fighter flies into combat, a wonderful touch by Arc System Works that truly never gets tiresome.
The know-how of the developers is not to be underestimated, they are masters of their art after all. As far as I am concerned, the game is balanced with nuance, with enough counters for consistently fair fights.
The team aspect gives players plenty of opportunities to turn things around if you play your cards right. The small adjustment of having fighters start in neutral is a great mechanic to alleviate pressure and gives fighters a fresh start.
It is an accessible fighting game, no doubt. Special moves and their input commands are generally the same across the board, with variations for certain characters. You could unleash flashy auto combos with just a string of button combos and throws are just a tap away.
That said, anyone willing to put in the effort to learn the intricacies can easily counter any of these more “casual” combos. While your opponent can spam auto combos, their meter buildup and damage is minimal compared to actual combos stringed together.
Throws can be countered, and a heavy kick will bat away any attempts for a homing attack. And if they decide to stand off and hurl projectiles, just fly straight into their face and knock them out. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and unearthing them is part of the fun.
Dragon Ball FighterZ has plenty going for it in terms of a competitive shelf life. High-level play will certainly bring in combo-extending assists, high-damage mix-ups, zoning, timely vanishes and more. It can be as rewarding and deep as you want it to be.
One potential pitfall for the game is how similar characters are on the roster of 24. The Saiyans are pretty much similar, save for a few tweaks, but the variation does enough to warrant the many inclusions like Gohan Kid/Adult, Goku/Goku Black, and SSGSS Goku/Vegeta.
But when they are different, they really go all out. Take Nappa for example, who can grow Saibamen that attacks your opponent, or Captain Ginyu, who can harness the Ginyu Force members for different assists, as well as swap your opponent’s characters with him. That is definitely out of left field, and I love it.
These game-changing characters are some of the best fun you will have and makes for interesting additions to the roster without a doubt.
At its core as a fighting game, Dragon Ball FighterZ is leagues ahead of the competition. However, the shell surrounding it could do better. Aside from the online/offline multiplayer aspect, the Story Mode for Dragon Ball FighterZ is more of a hassle than a boon.
You’ll spend more time watching cutscenes and the loading screen than actually having a challenging fight, all in the name of stopping the new Android 21 from consuming both good guys and bad. You move around a grid, gets some exposition, and then fight. It gets really repetitive and boring after a while. Just like the anime.
Even the occasional unique interaction between certain characters did not do enough to hold my interest. With three long and tedious story arcs to wade through to unlock Android 21, it is a drag.
At least the Arcade Mode is fun. The paths you’ll take in each scenario is governed by your fight ranking, and while the initial skirmishes are simple, the endgame can be brutally challenging. It is a great way to test your skills and see how you stack up against the AI.
Dragon Ball FighterZ will also have microtransactions in the future, with Z Coins being the premium currency that can be exchanged for unique items, although we have to wait and see how this plays out. The game is generous is rewarding you with Zeni, though, and we still do not have any cause for concerns…yet.
Arc System Works has made a masterpiece of a fighting game. Dragon Ball FighterZ is brilliantly made, and should be a welcomed tonic to jaded enthusiasts and an irresistible carrot to those interested in trying out a fighting game, especially if you are a fan of the property.
From the off, Dragon Ball FighterZ exudes a confidence like a seasoned veteran, and embraces you with an infectious energy and an insatiable appetite for its gorgeous aesthetics and wonderful execution. Ignore the minor gripes, this is the fighting game to beat.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The best tag fighter since Marvel vs Capcom 2, enough said. Bravo, Arc System Works, bravo.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 10/10