Even if you aren’t a fan of anime I’m sure most have heard of Dragon Ball. It is one of the biggest anime franchises in the world and it has been milked for all its worth. Clothing, Toys, you name it they’ve probably done something Dragon Ball for it. Bandai Namco has the licence for Dragon Ball video games and they too have done more milking than the average dairy farmer when it comes to the franchise. Some previous Dragon Ball games have felt like little more than a lazy cash grab but in Dragon Ball FighterZ they have created a game not only worthy of the Dragon Ball moniker but one that is also a very strong fighting game in its own right.
Having worked on the excellent Guilty Gear fighting games, Arc System works knows ho to put together a fighting game with solid mechanics and popping visuals. That has carried over into Dragon Ball FighterZ where the visual quality of the game immediately catches the eye. Dragon Ball characters have been faithfully recreated and compliment the gorgeous fight stages. It is obvious right from the get go that Arc System Works wanted to create a Dragon Ball game that is more than just a standard fighting game, this is a visual spectacle.
Any fan of the fighting genre will know that often one of the trickiest aspects of picking up a new game is learning character specific moves. You tend to find the character that best suits your play style and then go about learning that characters special move combos. Switch to another character and you have to learn the combos all over again. Dragon Ball FighterZ attempts to overcome this by having a shared move list which means pretty much every character has the same set of combos. Learn the combos for one character and you’ve basically learnt the button presses required to complete massive combos with another. It is something that makes Dragon Ball Fighter Z very accessible and a much easier proposition for a noob picking up the game for the first time.
This shared move list also has another huge advantage. Dragon Ball FighterZ is a 3v3 fighting game so players need ot be able to handle the moves for each individual character who obviously has their own moves. By combining the combos into a common set of presses it makes it very easy when transitioning from one character to another during a fight. Fighting purists will probably argue that it’s unique combos that separate the dreamers from the achievers but in a fast paced fighting game where characters can be switched at the press of a button, the shared move set is a smart move that will allow anyone to access the game and feel like they can compete.
Obviously practice makes perfect so you still need to spend time training, particularly if you want to compete online. Outside of just grinding through training Dragon Ball FighterZ has a story mode that is a good way to get to grips with the controls and combo sets. As far as the actual story goes, it’s about as coherent as I am after knocking back a swappa crate on crate day. Goku and his mates have managed to get themselves knocked out at the same time. You are linked to Goku (yeah I know, confusing) and you have to travel around this world to revive your mates and fight against evil versions of the characters. As you play through the story you will be in charge of the battles, choosing routes that lead to fights which then move the story forward, you get the idea. Each fight offers XP and potential for power-ups but it’s hard to actually figure out if these power-ups are actually adding anything tangible to the characters.
Arcade mode offers up a bit more of a challenge than the story mode with difficulty of opponents increasing with your own skill level and how well you do in fights. Word of warning though it can get bloody hard but it is another great way to practice your skills against computer AI before jumping into the online stuff.
Online is where things get interesting. Instead of normal menu system you are dropped into the lobby where you control a mini-me version of your chosen Dragon ball character. The lobby is actually quite useful because it can get you into the various modes of the game not just the online stuff. Of course there is casual and ranked play available and you can set your searches to find what sort of online play you are after. While matchmaking is occurring you can keep wandering around the lobby until a game is found. Unfortunately as fun as the online play can be, the connection to the servers can be very poor which leads to frustrating experiences. It is getting better than when it first launched but more work is needed.
Despite the issues that Dragon Ball FighterZ has had with the online play this is a solid entry to the fighting genre and perhaps the best Dragon Ball game to date. The game presents as a visual spectacle and the simple control structure means that anyone can get in and play the game, even if that may annoy the hardcore fight fans. Dragon Ball FighterZ offers plenty to the Dragon Ball fans and enough to bring in fans of the fighting genre in general.
Dragon Ball FighterZ was reviewed on PC from code provided by Bandai Namco