Bandai Namco’s anime fighter is here
I still remember the audible gasp inside the Galen Center at Microsoft’s E3 conference when Dragon Ball FighterZ was unveiled. My colleagues and I (and others in the arena) glanced at each other with this expression of “Wow, that was incredible.” The anime graphics were absolutely hypnotizing, and the special effects were equal parts explosive and dazzling. Suffice it to say, our expectations immediately shot sky high.
Then, of course, the impressive beta last month made me even more excited to play the game’s retail release. So that begged the question: would the final game meet my lofty (and growing) expectations? It turns out the answer is a resounding “yes”. Let’s take a look at why this fighting game is so darn amazing!
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One
Dragon Ball FighterZ: like an anime episode you control
With each passing year it seems like Bandai Namco gets one step closer to their ultimate goal: a playable anime. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 was a sizable leap forward, however, by comparison FighterZ feels like the next big evolution. In fact, a cursory glance at the game and you may think it actually is an episode of the anime. The graphics really are that phenomenal.
Even more impressive is the attention to detail that went into creating all 24 playable characters at launch. Goku, Trunks, Frieza, and other fan-favourites are animated with such pixel-perfect authenticity you’d swear they leapt straight from the show. There are moments, as well, where the sheer fluidity of the animations look even better than the anime itself. Clearly, Bandai Namco made a wise choice choosing Arc System Works—creator of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear—for the job.
An action-packed Story Mode
One of Dragon Ball FighterZ‘s largest attractions is its meaty campaign featuring most characters on the roster. Clocking in at 12-15 hours, the single-player story serves as an excellent launching pad for those new to the series. Long-time Dragon Ball enthusiasts also get treated to surprise returns and plenty of fan service along this lengthy rollercoaster ride.
Without giving away too many details, the story is split into three arcs that tell events from different characters’ perspectives. Each arc is divided into nine chapters for a total of 27 chapters in all. Another important detail is everything occurs after the events of the anime, so expect characters to acknowledge their shared history.
On top of frequent cutscenes during the story, you can also trigger extra clips if you meet specific criteria. This could be by including specific characters in your three-person party, or after leveling them up. I should also mention the cutscenes are exceptionally well-animated and often sprinkle in an abundance of comedy. Furthermore, the voice work is mostly excellent although on a rare few occasions it can sound a bit off.
Board game anyone?
One of the neater aspects of the campaign is that every chapter is setup like a tabletop board game. It’s essentially a connected grid and you’re allotted a certain amount one-space moves used to get around. Your goal is make your way over to the chapter’s boss and defeat them before your turns are used up. There’s little reason to worry though as you’re given ample turns to complete each stage.
Story mode injects some RPG elements to further spice things up. For starters, your characters gain XP after winning a battle and periodically level up. This increases their stats, most importantly their total HP so you can take more punishment before going down. You’ll also receive “Player Skill” items post-battle that when equipped can raise your characters’ stat. This includes dealing extra damage, healing during matches, beginning with your Ki gauge partially charged, and much more. When you combine all these interesting RPG components with the breathtaking anime cutscenes, you have what could be considered the best campaign for a fighting game yet.
Hyper fast combat
It’s super easy to get into the combat in Dragon Ball FighterZ. A series of detailed tutorials teach you everything from dashing, to blocking, to performing super moves. The campaign also has tutorial missions that further drive home the various techniques introduced. As easy as it is to get into the game, however, there are plenty of advanced tricks to master.
One such skilled move is the universal “Vanish” that all characters possess. This lets you teleport before your opponent for a sneak attack or to continue a combo. As well, all characters have a “Super Dash” move, which is basically a homing attack. Super Dashes work omnidirectional, meaning you’ll zone in on your opponent no matter where you’re positioned. Since all characters can teleport and use homing attacks, it’s really simple to close gaps and keep the pressure on.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is all about racking up huge combos, too. It’s not uncommon to chain together light, medium, strong, and super moves to achieve 30- and 40-hit combos. Ki blasts are another weapon in your repertoire, such as Goku’s signature half-screen Kamehameha energy attack. These moves fill up your Ki gauge used to perform the aforementioned Vanish attack, or to unleash super special moves. Overall, it’s a very competent fighter backed by some of the best visuals ever seen in an anime game.
Arcade and Online modes
Rounding out Dragon Ball FighterZ are the Arcade and Online modes. With Arcade you’ll battle your way through several fights in hopes of unlocking a few additional characters. For online matches, head on over to the World Match Reception used to battle players on your server. You can set various matching conditions, such as your opponent’s connection strength and battle level. Matchmaking, at least currently, is slower than it should be but once connected I had no lag issues whatsoever.
For added fun the game also offers a Replay Reception where you can view replays from top players around the world. You can also view your own saved replays as well as watch clips uploaded by the developers themselves. Finally, there’s also an online leaderboard Rankings area, showing overall player rankings and monthly win rankings.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is an incredible fighting game that more than lives up to the hype. The stellar anime graphics may initially draw you to the game, but the fluid and finessed gameplay will keep you playing. Add in a lengthy campaign sure to please diehard fans (or attract new ones) and you have one polished package. The bar for anime video games has officially been raised.
+ Beautiful anime graphics
+ Large roster full of fan-favourites
+ Excellent single-player campaign
+ Fast and fluid gameplay
+ Easy on newcomers, but deep enough to please veterans
– Online matches can take time to connect
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5