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Review: Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4)

Fighting
9

Amazing

During my primary school days, Dragon Ball Z was a pretty big part of my daily schedule. At 5 pm on weekdays, I would almost religiously sit down in front of SABC2 to see if maybe today Goku and friends would be able to defeat the current greatest threat the universe has faced. Granted as I’ve grown older I’ve come to see how simplistic it can be but I’ll always have a soft spot for the series. While there have been a number of Dragon Ball games over the years, very few of them are able to capture the essence of the series. Now that Arc System Works is at the helm, will Dragon Ball FighterZ provide an authentic Dragon Ball experience?

Arc System Works have taken Dragon Ball back to 2D fighting for the first time in a while and it’s quite difficult to not say it’s excellent right off the bat. From the get-go, you’re sucked into an authentic experience that’s tough not to appreciate. Dragon Ball FighterZ throws you into a game whose presentation makes it feel like you’re playing the anime. Arc System Works has knocked visuals out of the park with another one of their titles, Guilty Gear Xrd, and the style transfers exceptionally well to Dragon Ball FighterZ with the anime aesthetic being incredibly well captured.

The presentation in Dragon Ball FighterZ is exceptional and does everything it needs to help fulfil¬†the anime experience. Super moves and events are well crafted and fit the Dragon Ball motif well. While people may dismiss the ‘shouty’ nature of the series, the audio helps to push the experience even further. You’re playing a Dragon Ball game so one should expect loud proclamations of Kamehameha and Die Die Missile Barrage, and this is something FighterZ handles quite well. By having the English and Japanese voice-overs, you’re able to experience the game however you may have remembered it, shouts and all. It’s difficult to find much fault with the game’s overall presentation as it doesn’t leave much to be desired. Moves look and sound as powerful as they should, giving the game a perfect Dragon Ball feel. FighterZ is the iconic presentation ripped straight from the anime onto your platform of choice and it is glorious.

You and I must do battle!

This is, however, a fighting game and while presentation can get the game quite far, it needs to play well for it to be deemed good. This isn’t a Visual Novel; gameplay is king and Arc System Works shows why they are masters of the fighting game craft. If you have any experience with their previous titles you’ll know that, while they’re fantastic, they are complicated affairs. You really have to knuckle down to first learn the game before you start to appreciate them. This isn’t the case with Dragon Ball FighterZ and the game is actually quite accessible to newcomers. There are a number of mechanics available to players, which may overwhelm those who may not be well-versed in the genre, but the game does provide some training wheels in the form of the auto-combos. Now while some may be turned off by the thought of auto-combos, they feel to be done more sensibly than in a game such as Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.

There is a lot to Dragon Ball FighterZ and the gameplay’s execution but it manages to walk the line between simple and difficult exceptionally well.

Before going into much more detail, here’s a brief overview of the gameplay. Dragon Ball FighterZ is a 3-on-3 fighting game that makes use of four attack buttons and two assist buttons. If you’re familiar with Marvel vs. Capcom 3 you should have a decent idea of how the game handles, but where FighterZ manages to differentiate itself is with its more nuanced mechanics. You have your Super Dash, which allows you to close the gap between you and your opponent through basic projectile attacks. There are also Vanish Attacks that let you instantly teleport behind your opponent for a heavy attack. These moves allow for some interesting gameplay without feeling necessarily overpowered. There is room to punish these moves and while they may seem frustrating at first, it’s quite easy to pick up on these nuances. Now for the auto-combos; they manage to make the game accessible while note completely hindering players who may be looking for optimal combos. While you are able to dish out some pretty decent damage with them, they don’t offer much else than that. By spending some more time in training mode and learning how to effectively use assists you’ll be able to produce some far more deadly combos. This allows for a relatively low skill floor, that still manages to be enjoyable, and a skill ceiling that rewards thoughtful play. There is a lot to Dragon Ball FighterZ and the gameplay’s execution but it manages to walk the line between simple and difficult exceptionally well. Arc System Works is known for complex fighters, but they’ve hit a fantastic balance with Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Story time

With the solid presentation and gameplay, the only thing that could be lacklustre is the content. There are of course the expected local and online battle modes but Dragon Ball FighterZ has some interesting twists on Story and Arcade modes to make them feel fresh. As you play through the Arcade mode you’ll see how your performance is changing as you climb and descend different tiers along your way to the end. It’s quite straightforward, but it does give the player an idea of how they’re doing and whether or not they need to shape up. There are also multiple options for the arcade mode that allows for differing difficulties and lengths. One of the quaintest features of Arcade Mode is the game naming the enemy teams, so it’s rather humorous to see something like “Bargain Sale Saiyans” show up before the next fight. It makes the experience quite engaging even if it may not have any sort of story elements.

The original story for the game is a bit of a mixed bag, however. It’s a little more engaging than most fighting game stories as it has players levelling up their favourite fighters over the game, allowing you to include some powerups for your teams but the story is just nothing more than what you would expect from a Dragon Ball story. There’s a new scary evil, Goku and pals train to defeat said evil and that’s about it, but its execution is what makes it noteworthy. You play through maps that let you select routes to a boss character which you have to defeat to progress. Along the way, there are minor fights that you can play to level up characters that also give some minor story content depending on your team configuration. These are mostly gag reels but they’re still fun nonetheless. Overall the story mode isn’t life-changing, but it does do enough to at least remain enjoyable.

Something that I appreciate about the game is how lively the menu is. The game throws you into an online lobby to run around and access features which is also inhabited by other players of the game. It’s minor, but it creates a nice lively environment where you can run into other players and join up in various fights along the way. It gives the game a lot of flavour and life which ultimately gets players more excited to play than just a normal menu setup.

Ultimately Dragon Ball FighterZ is a masterful execution of the beloved series that provides a well thought out experience for die-hard fighting game fans and newcomers who came for their favourite anime. It creates flavourful combat which puts the Dragon Ball lore on full blast, recreating iconic scenes and throwing players into a game that captures the feel of Dragon Ball. Dragon Ball FighterZ is a well-crafted game that makes players feel like they’re in the world of Dragon Ball and provides a quality experience for anyone who wants to go toe to toe with the legendary Super Saiyans.

Good

  • Beautiful presentation
  • Engaging fighting
  • True to source material

Bad

  • Story could be a little better
  • Where's Bio-Broly

Summary

Dragon Ball FighterZ provides a solid 3-on-3 fighting game that captures the essence of the anime to create an authentic Dragon Ball experience. The game also manages to be incredibly accessible and engaging for everyone from the mightiest of warriors to the martial artists in training.
9

Amazing

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