DRAGON BALL Z YAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Dragon Ball FighterZ was certainly met with a ton of fan adoration and hope as it presented a fighting game Dragon Ball fans had never expected to see: a competent one. Each one they were excited about in the past also held a major flaw. The Budokai series had flashy supers and not much else, Tenkaichi had a large roster but they all felt the same, and the recent Xenoverse fan favorites are only meant to fulfill the fantasy of being Goku’s best friend.
But as footage was shown, characters were added, Dragon Ball FighterZ had looked better and better. The lingering question, however, was if or when the proverbial other shoe would drop. What was going to be FighterZ‘s fatal flaw? Luckily, nothing like that happens here and what faults do lie in its package are nowhere near as damning as they could be.
Dragon Ball FighterZ (PC, Xbox One, PS4 [reviewed])
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release: January 26, 2018
The central conceit of Dragon Ball FighterZ is to start on a simplified base and build complicated ideas and tricks on top of this framework. This begins with its gameplay. Not asking for more than a simple quarter circle rotation (a Street Fighter Hadouken) to pull off super moves and super combos, combos are more about positioning than chaining perfect button presses (along with a centralized auto-combo for each character), and moves make traversing the 2D space comfortable and speedy.
The 3-on-3 tag team setup (akin to the Marvel vs. Capcom series), along with these easy-to-pick-up controls, almost guarantees that players will use more than a few characters. There’s a fine attention to detail in both character animation and its adaptation. Meaning the smaller roster still feels complete even if they’re familiar faces, and each animation feels unique to each character. The simplified control scheme can lead to messy situations, especially given its gearing toward more aggressive tactics. But the character animation is so crisp, that even when multiple supers are activated at once, players can still parse out where they are on the screen at any given time.
Unfortunately, while the presentation is a spot-on recreation from the original anime and manga series and is a feast for the eyes, there are a few cracks in the overall package that do eventually weigh down the experience. There are smaller issues like typos in the subtitles, and there are times where the English dub seems to slip, but nothing too egregious to ruin the experience. But couple this with Dragon Ball FighterZ nearly needing an online connection to enter the main menu and the smaller stuff can seem like a canary in the coal mine for a whole host of new issues.
Forgoing a traditional menu, FighterZ puts you in a lobby (which will knock you around until you find one with an opening) where you then select various game modes including traditionally offline experiences like training and arcade modes. You can hit a trigger button to bring up a speedier menu, but this seems like an obtrusive extra step when there’s no choice to skip the automatic internet connection until it fails to find the network. From there, playing online matches can be a hassle. You stand in front of an avatar, select ranked or player match, and wait around in the lobby (or one of the other modes) until a notice pops up that a connection has been made.
Once you get into a match, then other problems can begin. The frame delay code seems to be holding well even during the opening weekend of the game’s release, as I didn’t experience much lag against my opponents in different regions. But when the lag does hit, the game can fall apart. And with FighterZ‘s sometime wonky hitboxes, coupled with the aggressive nature of the metagame (as players can use the charging dash with little punishment), lag can be a death knell for anyone who wants to dedicate themselves completely.
But these issues shouldn’t turn prospective players away as the core experience of the title is incredibly fluid and exciting to play. Story mode can be a bit lonesome and drags toward its end, but the lengthy nature of the narrative will be a great draw for curious fans of the manga and anime.
There’s also no potentially game-breaking comeback mechanic either. The “Sparkling” burst is a nice quick recovery boost, and players can summon Shenron after completing seven auto-combo chains, but neither of these occur often enough in matches to be that big of an issue.
Dragon Ball FighterZ has the depth more dedicated players will crave, but it doesn’t stop itself from being a fun experience for everyone. Much like the series it stems from, the core of the series is based on a simple premise with deeper themes for those who wish to explore it fully. But it’s got a lot of filler.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]