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Dragon Ball FighterZ Review

Dan Fosselman, Staff Reporter

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To begin this piece, I should disclose my relation to the Dragon Ball series as a whole. It is a franchise that I basically grew up with. I first saw it when I was younger and rediscovered it when I reached my teen years. I am even currently following the English dub of Dragon Ball Super anime. Something about it felt so special and amazing to me, and I still get a similar feeling when I go to watch the newest episode, or when I play this game, Dragon Ball FighterZ (pronounced the same way you say the word “fighters”).

Gameplay

The gameplay of Dragon Ball FighterZ is pretty standard for modern fighting games, aside from a few new mechanics. First of all, it is a 2D fighting game in a similar vein to Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. The game focuses on three versus three fights, where each player chooses three characters that they control and can tag in and out of battle. Defeating all three of your opponent’s fighters is how to win. Speaking for all characters, there are standard light, medium, and heavy attacks that can be varied depending on the direction inputted while hitting its respective button, as well as a special move that is usually a ranged attack. Everyone can block by simply moving backwards, which is simplified by having the fighters always face one another in battle. Everyone also has a grab attack that trumps your opponent’s guard if they are blocking. Beyond that, all characters also have a super dash that allows them to home in one their opponent quickly and block all projectiles as they rush forward. Another central mechanic is the energy bar that allows everyone to perform their own unique super attacks that consume energy, but you can regain energy fairly easily just by fighting regularly. Last, but certainly not least, is sparking blast, the comeback mechanic of the game. Activating this gives a temporary boost to almost everything about your team, even regeneration of health. Depending on when you use it, its duration will last longer based on how many fighters you have left, with it maximized at your last fighter standing. From there, each fighter (barring alternate forms) all have unique movesets that feel individual and befitting. There is, of course, the problem of balance. A well-defined metagame and tier list of every fighter has taken shape for the game, and some characters are noticeably better than others. Balance patches have happened for the game already, but no sweeping changes have been made as of yet. Some mechanics do feel unfair and imbalanced in general, such as the super dash. I would bear in mind that this is the very first iteration of Dragon Ball FighterZ ever. Fighting games usually have a progression of their design over the years. Just look at any first version of a fighting game and you will see my point. So if a mechanic may feel broken now, that means it will probably be reworked or removed in a future installment. Overall, the gameplay feels like a solid groundwork for a vanilla fighting game, and although there are improvements to be made, the game is still fun and playable.

Online

Personally, I have not experienced everything the online services have to offer in Dragon Ball FighterZ. However, I do know that it is an important aspect of any modern fighting game that should be covered. Most of what will be said here is just the general consensus from the community. Matchmaking is inconsistent, and you can be put up against players at a much lower or higher level than you for no apparent reason other than they were the only ones available to match you at the time. Finding a match in general can be frustrating. Sometimes it takes upwards of ten minutes to find a match with another player. Some have claimed that it is the game’s netcode to blame, and it is very possible that this is the case. Connection issues can be a problem, but this will probably always be an issue as long as people have poor connections to the internet in general, so it is not necessarily a problem with the game. The online platform is definitely Dragon Ball FighterZ’s biggest issue, and I sincerely hope they can improve it through future patches and future installments.

Presentation

Everything about Dragon Ball FighterZ is over the top. It knows exactly what it is, and makes it loud and clear. It has the identity of the show down to a T. Everyone feels in character and that is expressed through everything about them, from their attacks, voice lines, even their standing pose gives away so much personality. It makes every character memorable in their own way, which is something a lot of games can not achievable. The animations for all characters’ super attacks are especially flashy and impressive, and the game just looks downright gorgeous. Somehow, the game replicates the visual style of the anime very well even though it uses a 3D engine. When I first saw gameplay of this game, I could not even tell it was in 3D. Let’s not forget how the game sounds too. Practically every sound is reminiscent of the show, and every voice actor from the Funimation dub has reprised their role here. The music is usually some form of metal with heavy emphasis on guitar, but there are times where they will switch up the style for something else. All of this combined makes for a lovely listening and viewing experience. Just watching someone play this game can be highly entertaining.

Game Modes

There are plenty of different ways to play Dragon Ball FighterZ, too. There is a local mode, a story mode, arcade mode, training, and of course, online. Local mode lets you fight a CPU or your friends provided that they are there with you. This mode is standard and just works–there is nothing to critique. Story mode follows a mostly new story featuring the characters in the game, and introduces a wholly new character into the mix. The story mode uses a leveling system to determine how strong a fighter is. You get into fights based on where you go on the map, which I feel is one of the weaker traits of the mode. You recruit fighters you meet along the way, and depending on how much damage you take in battle, you may need to swap fighters out of your team so they recover their HP between battles. The story itself is nothing amazing, but not particularly terrible. It is standard Dragon Ball writing, if more contrived than usual. Arcade mode is a fun time, but it does not do much to change up the formula of fight and then move on to the next fight. It grades your performance in each fight, and you will move up higher on the path if you do well in each battle. Even if you lose, you can retry a fight as many times you like at the cost of your score. Training mode is useful for learning combos, figuring out how to use certain fighters, and experimentation in a neutral environment. No fighting game would be complete without a training mode. Online offers four primary modes: arena match, party match, ring match, and ranked match. Arena will pit you against other players also in the Arena, which is at the center of the in-game lobby. Party match is the most casual of the modes, as you are thrown into a match randomly as one fighter on a team of two other players against three other players, and has little to do with rank. Ring match essentially creates another smaller lobby for as many as six people to join and fight like in a party match. This mode works quite well and can make some great fun with friends online. Ranked matches are similar to arena, but now you are fighting for your own personal rank in a best three out of five matches. Due to the aforementioned online issues, ring match feels like the most consistent out of all the online modes, since it does not rely on matchmaking. There are two more modes planned to come to the game, and we have information on them as of the latest patch, being FighterZ Cup and Party Battle. FighterZ Cup is a competition every month where players fight for their Z-Union of choice that represents one fighter in the game. Party Battle is a unique co-op mode that pits three players against powerful boss characters. Even if you have already beaten story mode, the online (no matter how poor the service may be) offers unlimited amounts of play, and even more variety in the future.

In review

Dragon Ball FighterZ is something really special. Not every day do you find a game so caringly detailed and true to the source material. Dragon Ball fans and fighting games alike will love this game. It is very rare that you find a game where it feels like the whole fighting game community (which I have only recently been introduced to) comes together to enjoy a game without being quite so divisive. Frankly, there are few other games that have such mass appeal to casual, hardcore, and even non-gamer markets. You could sit down with almost anyone and have a good time with FighterZ, and that is its finest quality. If you love Dragon Ball, anime in general, or just some over-the-top action, Dragon Ball FighterZ nails it. Dragon Ball FighterZ is available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Steam.

1 Comment

One Response to “Dragon Ball FighterZ Review”

  1. Zackary Schejbal on September 27th, 2018 9:00 am

    Huh. Interesting. Not much of a dragon ball fan but I might check it out.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Dragon Ball FighterZ Review