Dragon Ball FighterZ: like controlling the anime
Right from the top let me just state that Dragon Ball FighterZ is the best-looking anime fighting game I’ve ever played. Much has been said about the game’s gorgeous anime graphics, and all of it is true. Characters animate just as well—and sometimes better than—what you typically see in the Dragon Ball Z/Super anime series. It’s an amazing accomplishment that takes us the closest yet to feeling like we’re directly controlling a hand-drawn anime.
Beautiful graphics are all well and good, but Dragon Ball FighterZ is a fighting game first. Without solid gameplay mechanics and balanced fighting all these pretty images would just be that—nice eye candy. Fortunately, after participating in the FighterZ beta last week it seems Bandai Namco has a competent fighter here. At least as far as first impressions go, I walked away thoroughly pleased with what I played.
A hyper aggressive fighting game
Dragon Ball FighterZ is developed by Arc System Works, the folks behind the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue arcade fighting games. While elements of those games are present in FighterZ, there’s also plenty of Marvel vs. Capcom thrown-in for good measure. In particular, it borrows the MvC control scheme and the 3vs3 tag mechanics.
What Dragon Ball FighterZ adds to the entire mix is a level of aggression virtually unseen in fighting games before. Matches are all about exploiting small holes in your opponent’s defenses and then pummeling them with extended combos. It’s not uncommon for particularly potent combos to reduce life bars in half in just a matter of seconds. Thankfully your support characters regain health while not active in the battle, which help balance things out.
Ki Blasts, Special Moves, and more
As you can see in the gameplay images, Dragon Ball FighterZ battles feature a mind-boggling amount of special effects. It’s not uncommon for your character’s attacks to fill the entire screen with flashy lights and super-powered auras. For the uninitiated it might seem overwhelming, however, as time goes by you’ll soon discover the gameplay is pretty straightforward. There are, of course, advanced combos and technique to elevate your game, but overall the gameplay is surprisingly accessible.
Basic attacks in your arsenal include light, medium, and heavy strikes all mapped to the controller’s face buttons. Every character also has a unique action button that does a super-charged Ki Attack or a Ki-based special move. These attacks reduce your Super Meter reserve but don’t worry, the game hands out Ki energy very liberally. In fact, it’s not out of the ordinary to see players max out the full seven Super Meter bars.
Another type of attack are Special Moves and these are unique to each individual character. Arc System Works clearly did their research since most Special Moves were drawn directly from Dragon Ball Z/Super animes. It’s neat to see Goku’s signature Kamehameha energy beam, for example, or have Lord Beerus summon his attack orbs. Some heavy attacks and Special Moves even initiate mini animated scene transitions, such as smashing players straight through a mountain. These action-packed sequences also call back to the anime, which often has battles culminate with dramatic finishes.
Included in the Dragon Ball FighterZ beta was a robust training area with a full dozen tutorials to undertake. They started with the game’s basic controls, and gradually progressed through each gameplay mechanic one-by-one. As someone with moderate familiarity with Arc System Works’ fighting games I found these tutorials to be invaluable. Plus, as I mentioned, FighterZ has exceptionally fast gameplay making these lesson all the more important.
Going through the tutorials I got familiar with some of the advanced techniques found in Dragon Ball FighterZ. This includes the Super Dash, which allows you to close gaps fast much like the Homing system of Arcana Heart. I also got a handle on the game’s Vanish Attack mechanic that teleports you behind opponents for a knockback attack.
What’s interesting is these maneuvers allow any character on the roster to close gaps quickly for rush attacks. So whether you pick Beerus, who specializes in long-range attacks, or Piccoli, who’s an up-close melee fighter, you can dash and teleport with ease. In effect, these moves serve to quicken the game’s already fast-paced combat. For that reason it’s important to learn these techniques, as you can bet your opponents online will be using them!
Tour the hub world
Another element of the Dragon Ball FighterZ beta was the hub world you can explore. Immediately upon booting up the beta you’re sent to a colourful mini-city space filled with different attractions. At the front is an information station that tells you about upcoming community events. The bottom-left contains the Practice area when you can hone your techniques in practice matches against A.I. competitors.
Venturing north-west you’ll find Replay Reception where you can view replays from top players around the world. This is also where you’ll watch any replays you’ve saved during your career. The north-east corner contains the online leaderboard Rankings, showing overall rankings and monthly win rankings. And finally, directly at the top of the hub world is the World Match Reception used to battle others online.
As has been widely reported, the initial day of the beta was plagued with matchmaking issues. It was near impossible to get matched up, which was frustrating considering online fights are the lifeblood as this game. Fortunately the issue was quickly addressed, although getting paired up still took a minute or two. Once actually in a match the action, at least from my experience, was buttery smooth. Overall the netcode seemed pretty solid, which bodes well for the online competitive fighting scene.
Pre-order Dragon Ball FighterZ now!
Dragon Ball FighterZ is scheduled for release on PS4 and Xbox One on January 26th, 2018. There’s still time to pre-order the Day One Edition to nab some pretty cool exclusives. This edition includes the game on disc, plus:
- 2 Early Unlock Characters
- 2 Exclusive Lobby Avatars
These bonuses will need to be downloaded using a code packaged inside the game box.
Overall, I’m pretty excited about what Dragon Ball FighterZ brings to the table. Dragon Ball fans will surely love it, but also anyone who enjoys deep, competitive fighting games. Stay tuned for a full review on the Best Buy blog soon!