Dragon Ball is an anime that’s now so big it became a pop culture icon all over the world. Even after 30 years, the title is still holding strong with the ongoing Dragon Ball Super. As many Dragon Ball video-game adaptations just come and go, there’s no installment that brought the same significance that the anime show did. However, it seems that Dragon Ball FighterZ finally broke that curse. It’s the Dragon Ball fighting game that truly deserves the same level of recognition that the anime show had.
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platforms Available: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Arc System Studios
Release Date: January 26, 2018
This review is based on a review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment.
At its core, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a 3 versus 3 fighting game where you pit against one another from memorable characters of the show. What sets it apart from the other fighting games is the “super-dash” essentially considered to be a homing dash. Since Dragon Ball showcases a lot of flying in its anime show, the game portrays that aspect realistically. This also goes the same with the in-game throw, where you end up throwing your opponent and chasing them with a flying dash. Arc System Works definitely did a great balance for how the game feels as it tends to be friendly for casual players where you can just enjoy a whole game pressing one button or you get to learn the intricate timings of new combos. The learning curve of the game is best described as friendly as it somehow captured that perfect sweet spot. It’s not as punishing if you miss combos or try to link one button to another as most fighting games tend to have that difficult wall that casual players have to grind and learn. However, this does not mean there is no space for complexity and experiments as Dragon Ball FighterZ still has a lot of game mechanics that new and hardcore players can learn. I can definitely imagine that Dragon Ball FighterZ will have a lot of pro-players in the future at events like EVO.
Since the game’s reveal at E3, Dragon Ball FighterZ already captured me and was curious about how Arc System Works is going to develop the game. After playing tons of hours on Dragon Ball FighterZ, I have officially concluded that this iteration of a Dragon Ball fighting game has successfully met the fans’ expectations – both hardcore fans of the game and anime.
As you go deeper into the game, you will notice tiny details where they show each of the characters’ personality from the voice-acting to its writing. How Gohan reacts with Piccolo to specific interactions like when Goku blasts Frieza with his signature Kamehame-Ha, all of them seems well portrayed in the game. All of the big moments from destructive finishes to iconic moves of each character, even how the environment changes after getting destroyed, everything feels perfectly synced as if you’re watching another Dragon Ball Z episode on your early Sunday morning. It captures every element of how a Dragon Ball fighting game should have been.
There are a bunch of modes that you can definitely enjoy. Dragon Ball FighterZ also features a very cute lobby where you can customize your walking avatar and interact with other players. This approach changes the atmosphere in a good way. The modes you can interact in the lobby are Arcade Mode, Online Battles, Tournament Mode, and the single-player experience Story Mode. The bread and butter of the game is the Online Battles mode. It’s the place where you can fight a friend or go up against another player for a casual match, or better, fight for the top spot on the leaderboard! When we talk about the Tournament Mode, it’s done in an elimination format with 16 players battling their way. You can even add AIs for you to watch them fight – it’s quite entertaining like the anime, I must say. As for the Arcade Mode, it’s one sweet addition as this mode showcases a different approach compared to other fighting games. After each map, the path to the final boss depends on the path you’ve chosen.
Where Dragon Ball FighterZ falls flat though is in its narrative. The continuing trend of fighting games with dull and uninteresting plots has unfortunately made its way to this game. The story mode felt more of like a huge tutorial mode that includes dialogue options for you to choose that does not even give any significant shifts in its story or the branching replies from NPCs. It’s seemed forced that made the story mode completely unnecessary for the game to even have. The only bright part of the story is the introduction of Android 21, especially the unique interactions you get from swapping out different characters. Like for example, Yamcha seems to be the butt of every joke, and the voice-overs of the interactions are really spot on! Whether you switch the language from Japanese to English, it will still truly feel and sound like the characters we have been watching since we were kids. I just wished that Arc System Works tried to even polish the story mode as this is the only sore spot of the game.
In the end, Dragon Ball FighterZ has been a Blast or a Ki-Blast! It’s the Dragon Ball game we have all been waiting for as it truly grabs the essence of the anime. It’s casual friendly to those who want to get the game, and it also shows a lot of potential for an e-Sports game for pro-players as it’s amazing to watch at tournaments like EVO. So rejoice as this has been one of the best fighting game ever released in a very long time.
All screenshots provided by the reviewer.