Dragon Ball FighterZ Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Dragon Ball FighterZ draws you in straight away to a fantastic fighting game. Even before the game has finished installing you can fight against AI opponents to get a feel for things and that is the kind of game this is. The accessibility on show here is so far removed from what players of Dragon Ball fighting games, or even just fighting game, have come to expect. As such it will allow a whole new audience of fighting game fans to get to grips with the much beloved characters and settings.
This is a 2D fighting game from the Arc System Works, the creators of the Guilty Gear and Blazblue, which allows all the combos to look fantastic without being overly complex to pull off. By hitting a single button multiple times you can be treated to a light, medium or heavy combo straight away. There are no messy input combinations to remember for the basic combos so anyone can jump in and feel great without having to stress themselves out. There is a Tutorial mode which does a great job of introducing you to the controls and the nuances that you will get to grips with.
Most impressively is despite this the game still has a complexity to it for those who want to play at a higher level. But instead of learning complex inputs the high level play is dictated by knowing the right time to use things like the teleports and guard cancels. Knowing the best opportunities to change characters and the best sequence of combos to slaughter your opponents will be essential to mastering the systems, but is simple enough that it is not limited to those with inhuman reflexes, just those who are willing to practice.
This means that the game does what a lot of fighting games just can not achieve. It genuinely appeals to everyone from the fighting newbie to the combat veteran. Not to mention it gives people who might struggle to play a normal fighting game with overly complex controls a chance to feel like they have mastered a stunning looking system complete with flashy special moves and world ending finishers.
While each character looks different they all play similarly, meaning that you can take your knowledge of one character and play fairly well with any of them. This may put some people off because it seems too simplistic but it shouldn't. The characters have enough subtle differences between the movement patterns and special attacks that they generally stand out from each other and you will find ones that you prefer. Finding your ideal team of three will take some experimentation as each character has a different support move that you can access mid combat which gives you a greater breadth of options to choose from.
The Story is surprisingly good and does a great job of how explaining why certain characters can keep up with each other for Dragon Ball veterans as well as explaining why you keep fighting certain characters. As well as a plethora of knowing nods to fans in the cut scenes you are also introduced to Android 21, the game exclusive character designed by the series creator Akira Toriyama, as you go through and unravel what is actually going on. At points it is genuinely funny and is generally very charming and while some of the repetition of certain enemies can feel a bit annoying, the story setting helps to keep you going.
The way you progress through the Story mode is you are presented with a grid to traverse and a number of turns to do so. Each node can have a fight or a new character to rescue or just be there for traversal. As you make headway you will have higher level fights crop up, giving you the chance to grab some extra XP for your characters and make them a little stronger. There are also enemies who get stronger the longer you take to get to them so there is a nice balance to find by either taking your time or rushing to the objective straight away.
The Arcade mode allows you to choose a path, which in essence dictates how many fights there will be. Each path then branches out with your performance in each fight deciding which branch you will take and how hard the fights will be as a result. It is an interesting system that means the difficulty is balanced to you skill level as you go to keep you challenged throughout. It'll also be the best way to sharpen your skills for the mutliplayer.
Of course there are both Online and Local multiplayer. Hopefully the Online servers will be working better than in the initial Beta but given Arc System Works other games there is no reason to think they won't have sorted it by the time the game actually releases. Ultimately the game will be kept going by the online mode so hopefully it will be well supported.
Graphically this game looks more like the anime than is reasonable. It is easy to forget that you haven't some how just taken control of the TV show as the look of the game is so incredibly well polished. Both during cut scenes and during the fights themselves the game is consistently gorgeous throughout and is a pretty enough that just watching other players is enjoyable. The graphics and look of the fights compliment each other perfectly and the pace of the game ties in to make it a game that is hard to beat visually.
The sound is perfect too with the music and sound effects being spot on to capture the feel of the show and help add the right feel to the intense matches. Along with this is the stellar voice acting delivered by the proper voice cast from the show. This means the conversations feel more true to the show and adds wonderfully to the faithfulness to the source material. Hearing Bulma's voice is a little melancholy as this is the last game she will be voiced by Hiromi Tsuru who sadly passed away.
It will certainly be interesting to see how much more gets added as the game goes forward as well as whether or not the fighting game community latch onto it for things like EVO. Overall this game is a must have for anyone in the Venn diagram of fighting game fans and Dragon Ball fans as well as anyone who just likes fighting games. It is also a great game to start your fighting game deep dive with if you are new to the genre. The combination of visuals and controls make it a joy to play and watch and should definitely be picked up by anyone who is interested.