Dragon Ball FighterZ is the newest fighting game from Arc System Works. For years they’ve developed some of the best fighting games but this the first time they’ve take a world renowned IP and have had this large of a spotlight on them. Under this pressure, let’s see how they did, shall we?
Release date: January 26, 2018 (WW), February 1, 2018 (Japan)
Approximate size: 5.02 GB
Genre- 2.5D fighting game
Developed by- Arc System Works
Published by- Bandai Namco Entertainment
Reviewed on Xbox One X; also available on PlayStation 4 and PC
Very rarely have games in the Dragon Ball franchise strayed away from playing it safe by retelling the Manga’s story. This entry has gone that very rarely travelled road and has decided to make an all original story, with an all original character. It was a gutsy move and one that has played off. It is, however, a double-edged sword. Not that the story is bad, it’s actually very good, it’s just with the graphical capabilities of this game it would have been great to see these iconic scenes and moments recreated at such a high-quality level.
So, what is the story? Let’s set the stage. You have a new character, a powerful shockwave that knocks everyone’s power level down to seemingly zero and returning clones of the series antagonists. If you think about it, this could actually be a legitimate arc. Then, out of left field, it turns out you are a lost soul, a vagabond, who ends up inhabiting Goku’s body. Literal body snatcher and totally awesome. With Bulma’s aid, we discover that body hopping into iconic characters (both protagonists and antagonists) from the series is the only way to combat this new unknown evil force. Without getting into spoilers, the story is divided into three arcs and at the end of them all you will have a complete understanding of the journey. It’s an enjoyable experience and more was put into this section of the game than other, more renowned, fighters.
I know a lot of fighting game enthusiasts like to skip the story and jump into the multiplayer fray. For a long time, nothing was really expected in the story modes of fighting games, at least nothing substantial, but that has since changed from impressive efforts in other games, namely the ones from NetherRealm. If you skip this game’s story, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. You do not need any prior knowledge of the series to enjoy it, but I know of some people who have since gotten into the series out of the love they felt for this game.
The most you will be doing in this game is fighting in a three versus three environment on a 2D plane. You and your opponent make a team of three, out of an available twenty-four-character roster, and battle until all members of one team has had its health depleted. As you fight, string combos, delver devastating destructive finisher movements, and zip across the screen, you can call your other characters to offer an assist. With the touch of a button, you can switch characters.
The gameplay is very similar to the older Marvel Vs. Capcom games but with more of a reliance on cinematic displays. For example, once a character has been downed and its time to have another enter the battle, the game switches to a beautifully constructed cut scene in which the characters charge towards each other. It’s a nice addition that doesn’t simply restart the round or break the immersion but instead continues the pace of the fight while giving both players something visually appealing to look at, as well as, to prepare themselves for the next round with a few seconds to catch their bearings.
The gameplay is not complicated, and anyone can pick up and play as it offers both simple combinations for unexperienced fighters and more complex inputs for fighting game enthusiasts. You will run into players who abuse these simple mechanics and it can lead to your frustration but for those who truly learn the game, they will find depth and become a top-level player. Fans of Arc System Works other fighting franchises, like Guilty Gear, will feel right at home.
When you first start up the game and enter the hub world, you will notice that there are several game modes for you to try out. It is nicely done and taking a step away from an influx of menus is a nice breath of fresh air, it makes the game feel large and more open. It can also be a little intimidating for new players. Let me break it all down for you.
All new comers may come here at first because, as the name implies, this is where you go to learn the mechanics of the game and to help yourself become a better player. In here you will learn everything about the game mechanics, from the most basic actions to the more complex combinations that require several attempts at mastering. The game does a good job at helping you understand what it is you are doing and how it all ties together nicely.
Training mode allows you to move freely and try things out for yourself. You see a combo you want to recreate or accidently stumbled upon? This is the perfect place for you to try it out. The nice thing about this mode is that you are shown how much damage your combination does to an opponent’s health, the status he is placed in, and you can customize how the PC AI will act. The freedom you get here is welcomed and has become a staple in fighting game franchises across the board.
In Battle Tutorial, you are given several actions and gameplay mechanics to try out. This where you learn simple things like charging your Ki and teleporting to more complex actions like tagging your partner in to do a super or how to knock your opponent’s character out and forcing a tag. These action can change the tide in a fight if executed correctly. Combo Challenge is a nice little section where the game gives you a series of combos, that get more difficult as you progress, and challenges you to execute and master them. This will teach you how to pull off the more insane combinations but its up to you to figure out when, and where, the best time to utilize them will be.
We discussed the plot earlier but let us now talk about what you’ll actually be doing in this mode. The game uses this board game style design across many of its modes and here is no exception. The fighting is the same in all modes but in story mode there is something called a Link Level that characters share between them, their bond, and as you progress and strengthen this bond, you’ll unlock special scenes. This is a cool concept and adds more to the discovery of this game, it allows us as players to see some nice little Easter egg like unlockables. These Link Events are a nice touch and when you complete the story mode, you’ll unlock the new all original character Android 21.
Couch co-op players will feel at home in this area. This is where you will fight against another human player offline or where you can fight against the CPU to better gauge your skills as a fighter. I’ve had countless battles in this mode and endless fun with friends and family. This mode has also been great to showcase the game and has helped unconvinced potential buyers find that push to make the purchase. There is also a sixteen-man tournament mode here which is great for parties to determine who the best player is and it boasts a healthy set of rules to customize the experience.
Arcade Mode is a classic mode that has been in fighting games since the very beginning and has become a staple in the genre. Dragon Ball FighterZ adds its own version that’s pretty robust and fulfilling. It uses that board game style progression tracker again and three courses: Snake Way, Extreme Gravity Spaceship, and Hyperbolic Time Chamber. Each offers its own set of fights and depending on how you do, your direction of travel will be different. For example, the better players will get the hardest fights and those who are still grasping the mechanics will have the easier challenges. Rank determines your path. Whether its intentional or not, it motivates you to try and beat your score and prove you are the best. Getting an A rank or higher in Extreme Gravity Spaceship and Hyperbolic Time Chamber sections will get you SSGSS Vegeta and SSGSS Goku as unlockable playable characters (For those who haven’t preordered). This mode is fantastic but it’s regrettable that there is no cut scene or special ending upon completion, like found in the Street Fighter series.
When you’re not fighting, the game offers other things for you to do. There is an Information Monk who will give you the latest details on what’s going on in the game and what’s to be expected. For those who like to constantly be in the know, there is no better person to talk to.
There is a Replay Channel where players can watch replays from either themselves that they’ve saved or from the top players around the world that Bandai Namco has decided to feature. You can also see replays that have been considered to be popular from other fans. It’s a nice addition but it was a missed opportunity to not call it GodTube (Dragon Ball Super fans know why).
Rankings Reception allows you to view the top players in the world and where they sit, as well as see where you are and how far from being number one you are. Online players will use this to motivate and push themselves to the top. Also, there is the Shop where you can spend Zeni or rare premium Z coins to buy capsules that unlock items. Unlocks range from pictures that represent a saying to colors and avatars. There doesn’t seem to be anything really worth going out of your way to unlocking other than avatars but I’m hopeful we’ll get more character skins. This also seems to be the foundation for microtransactions but as of the writing of this review there are none whatsoever, also receiving Zeni isn’t an issue as it is freely given for everything you do.
The game is very free in player expression. Like most modern fighters, you can customize your online player card. You can set a player ID if you don’t want it to be your PSN ID or Gamertag, you can edit your stamps and the preset messages, and keep track of your player and daily quests. There is always something to do in the game and your free to tackle everything however you want, whenever you want. The only issue I found for the offline content is that, ironically, it is sort of connected to the online aspect. The server… If you lose connection, you are kicked out of the lobby and, thus, sent out of whatever you were doing. This wouldn’t be a problem if the servers were stable, but they are not and this is extremely off putting and annoying.
This is where fighting games are utilized the most, where players around the globe get the most out of their purchase. This area determines the lifespan of a fighting game. I am happy to report that Dragon Ball FighterZ has a healthy future but only if it can address one major issue that is hindering its success. As mentioned earlier, this game suffers from severe sever issues. The game seems incapable of maintain any connection with the servers and I found myself constantly kicked out of lobbies. It’s very aggravating, especially in sessions where taking the fight online against other players was further than my goal. If you manage to get a somewhat stable connection, or just want to fight online, here is what you can do.
Players all around the world battle to be number one. Here you will fight against people of similar skill and where you should feel as if you’re on a level playing field. This works well and its where I nearly play exclusively online. This mode does offer an option to fight against higher ranked opponents and, from what I’ve seen and read, a lot of players select it to force themselves to get better. Trial by fire. As a person who loved fighting games but has never been particularly good at them, I tend to try and battle against people of my similar level. What I end up with is fighting against people who are also learning the game, but you wouldn’t know that by watching due to the games great way of making everything look and feel epic. I feel like those EVO players when I’m in battle and that feeling is truly appreciated.
As the name implies, you will be fighting random players of all skill levels. Got a few minutes to spare? Jump into a few casual matches and have a great time. Want to try out a character or a new combo you’ve been working on against other players without affecting your ranking? Go ahead and jump right in. This is where you’ll find a lot of players experimenting with characters and techniques. I’ve seen some of the craziest things here and I’ve managed to pull of some impressive finisher moves that I didn’t even know those were possible.
Tons of fun and no risk to your rank, this mode is for those looking to have fun.
Here you fight against other players in the lobby or watch these lobby players fight against one another. Up to four people can watch a fight at a time and this is perfect to spectate higher ranked players and to learn more techniques and strategies. It’s the closest thing to watching EVO you can get to without actually being at the event. Its also a great place to participate to proclaim yourself king of the lobby.
Dragon Ball FighterZ boast a lot of modes for players and has something for everyone. You can create a lobby, battle against friends, and you can fight with six players at the same time. Each online player takes control of one character and you fight. This could by far be the coolest mode available and with a bunch of friends casually having a good time while hanging out in a party, well, its been a pretty rad experience.
Dragon Ball FighterZ might be the most beautiful fighting game ever constructed. The game is a wonder to behold, the attention to detail is astounding, and every single drawing and line of code has been crafted in love and respect for the series, the obvious and the miniscule, often unnoticed, details. Arc System Works should be applauded for this release and for everything they have brought to the gaming community over the years. Finally, their talents can be appreciated as they have constructed the best fighting game within the Dragon Ball franchise.
The best way to describe the fighting stages is for you to picture iconic scenes from the anime and run them through an ultra 4K enhancer but that hardly does it justice. It’s remarkable the graphical abilities consoles can reach at times, emulating the art from the anime and making them look better than ever. A lot of time went into designing these stages, a ton of care, because they will put newcomers to the series in awe and tug at nostalgia strings in the hearts of lifelong fans.
Each stage is colorful and full of life and they all are unique enough to stand out as they are diverse. You have the iconic rocky mountains where Vegeta and Goku first faced off, the Cell games arena where Gohan surpassed all the Saiyans, Planet Namek where Frieza pushed Goku over the edge, and everywhere in between.
A nice touch of the fighting stages is how they seemingly connect. Depending on how a character is dispatched, the fighting arena can transition to another. This isn’t even taking into account the effects going on in the background, giving the players the feeling that they are fighting at a real place. Bring a lifelong fan of the series, I couldn’t help but enjoy all the nice little touches the developers have done. It truly is beautiful.
Speaking of effects, every Ki blast and movement is perfectly reenacted from the source material. There are videos where fans have taken frames from the game and they have perfectly reflected the moves done in the anime. This game must have been made by fans. Each character has the appropriate Ki charge, Ki blast color, and all the beams are identical on how they should be portrayed. The color charges fly through the air and explode on impact, giving the sense of destruction to the player. Special moves look beautiful and have also been taken from the series. Punches and kicks all feel devastating as they connect, and you know that these characters are super human beings of mass destruction. It’s wonderful.
The entire ascetic of the interface and menus reflect the look and feel of the series, everything flows and streamlines without a hiccup. The roster of twenty-four fighters are all perfectly recreated, looking even better than any other game before it.
It’s breathtaking how gorgeous this game looks and how faithful it is to its origins. I could honestly write pages on how great this game looks but words won’t do it justice. Hands down, it’ll be a lot harder to find a better looking fighting game. It also manages to do all of this while maintaining its silky smooth 60FPS.
Let’s start with the voice acting. The cast from the anime reprise their roles and it brings the package together as a whole. Lifelong fans will be hit with a wave of nostalgia and new comers will feel that the voices accurately reflect the characters. Hiromi Tsuru makes her final appearance as the Japanese voice actress for Bulma, due to her untimely passing. As a whole, voice acting is top notch and pretty much what everyone expected.
The sound in general compliments the amazing visuals perfectly. As your eyes feast on the visual spectacle, the sound effects enhance the impact on screen and fuel the player in desiring to cause, and see, more destruction. It’s beautifully implemented, and nothing is off sync or sounds out of place. The music in the game is composed of rock beats aimed at building up the anticipation for battle and it works really, really, well. There are some games that demand your attention in certain areas, you can’t help it as they’re crafted in a way that you cannot help but pay attention in awe. In respect. Arc System Works commands this in nearly every aspect of this game. The sound department is no exception.
If you love fighting games, you will absolutely adore this game.
Graphically, this is the best-looking Dragon Ball game and might even be the best-looking game released to date. The audio is tremendous, the gameplay fantastic, and it is an absolute joy to play.
The conservative roster only helps the game as each character feels different and unique with different play styles. The included story mode is different, original, and an overall positive experience. Arc System Works have solidified themselves, if they haven’t already, as a top tier developer with this nearly perfect, amazing, package.
The only issues this game suffers from is within the multiplayer section. Despite the disconnects, connection errors, and lag, all of this can be addressed in a patch and Bandai Namco have stated they are working on the servers but even still, this game is worth it. Casual, hardcore, competitive, and esports, all players will have a blast with this title and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
That’s the thing with games, graphics do not matter when the gameplay is truly magnificent but, sometimes, a title is released where it has everything nearly perfect and Dragon Ball FighterZ is that game. You will not be disappointed.