Fighting game fans are about to get spoiled very, very early this year as Dragon Ball FighterZ is destined to make a whole lot of year-end lists when 2018 finally wraps up.
A large number of characters from the anime series are available at launch with fast paced, 3v3 matches available in story, arcade, or multiplayer modes. It’s clear Fighter Z is a labor of love from the developers, who absolutely nailed the feel of the Dragon Ball Z while interweaving elements from the anime into the gameplay.
From the color palette to the combo scheme and the sound effects, there’s just not much that Dragon Ball FighterZ does wrong. Let’s face it: letting you throw a guy through a couple of mountain ranges (ouch) or fill the screen with blazing blue fire is fun in its own right, but even better when it’s Dragon Ball.
Fighter Z is a Head Banging Anime Wonder
Dragon Ball FighterZ has a whole lot of different elements at play, but they all fit together really smoothly, offering up an experience that’s a joy to either watch or play. It’s not just the graphics and fighting mechanics either (although those are spot-on), but all of the game’s backing details as well.
Considering developer Arc System Works has been involved in the Guilty Gear series, it probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but there’s a killer hard rock/heavy metal soundtrack working to connect the game’s moving parts, from cut scenes to battles and even some of FighterZ’s menus. Most surprising to me (in a good way!) was that the opening trailer even has some guttural, harsh vocals, which you don’t typically find in video games — even when they do go more on the metal side.
Providing a strong contrast to the heavy music score is the offbeat way the menus work. Instead of just providing a standard menu screen to pick a game mode (although you can use a menu if you want to move around faster), there’s an adorable chibi game hub where any mode can be accessed by running to a different hut.
You can actually spend a good deal of time here if you want, using stamps and emotes to interact with other players or swapping between different chibi characters unlocked over time. It provides a feeling of community and a reason to earn different outfits between FighterZ‘s matches.
Randomized Loot That’s Not a Terrible Grind
One of the primary reasons for the chibi hub is to swap out color schemes and other items based on what you’ve unlocked through Z Coins (otherwise known as loot boxes).
Wait, wait, wait — loot boxes?!? Yeah, they are even here in your beloved Dragon Ball Z — but they are only for cosmetic items and random extras like new outfits for your DBZ characters.
Unlike some other games we’re not going to mention, you don’t have to spend real money (the option isn’t even available) or waste hundreds of hours in random number hell trying to unlock full characters.
Although they aren’t really needed for anything, if you want to buy those loot boxes, you can earn Zeni really fast by completing trials, playing different game modes, or just accessing different areas of the chibi hub in the tutorial.
Beating Up Your Friends And Family in FighterZ
But enough about the music and loot — the heart of any beat ’em up, of course, is the combat, and if that aspect fails, then everything else is just window dressing. Thankfully, Dragon Ball FighterZ knocks the combat mechanics absolutely out of the park.
There’s a decent number of combos to learn without going either overboard on complexity or pandering into simplistic. Potentially anyone — maybe even grandma — could pick up Dragon Ball FighterZ and grasp how to play.
The game utilizes a universal style for combos, one where you can essentially understand how to play any character once you’ve grasped the basics, then eventually master the specific differences between character types as you go along.
It’s a system that’s easy to get into, but there’s enough depth present for the hardcore crowd to show off their skills.
Plenty of options are available in how you want to fight as you build up a combat gauge for better attacks on the ground or in the air, with vertical recoveries to learn and a few different ways to break an opponent’s guard.
FighterZ‘s 3v3 style offers up a nice change on the tactical side for swapping out your other two characters or using them for combo assists — or even forcing the opponent to swap to another damaged character when they would prefer to stay with one healthy warrior.
Substance With A Heaping Dose Of Style
While the combat feels fluid and is plenty of fun, Dragon Ball FighterZ doesn’t skimp on the super slick graphical presentation. Every arena and character is lovingly crafted, and frankly, this game is just much more visually interesting than recent big name entries like Street Fighter V.
Every single color and super powered combo draws your eye in with an amazing combination between the game’s anime style and a 2.5D fighting orientation. There’s an incredibly organic feel where the characters, background, and effects are all melded together without a hitch.
It frequently feels like you’re playing an episode of the anime series, and the little mini cut-scenes for certain devastating combos are smoothly transitioned so it doesn’t feel like you are losing time or having to wait to get back into the action.
The Bottom Line on Dragon Ball FighterZ
I can’t really overstate how visually appealing this game is, whether you care about the anime or not. Even people who don’t normally show interest in fighting games can have a good time here just with the impressive visuals that feel like a moving graphic novel.
Before testing out your prowess in multiplayer, there’s plenty of fun features to try out with the campaign mode — like leveling up, unlocking different bonuses, plotting a course across the map to the boss, and earning new companions for the 3v3 battles.
On the campaign side, you are basically getting a couple of extra episodes of the show with a story that’s very meta as you the player inhabit Goku’s body and the other characters recognize this while talking directly at you.
Secret cut scene segments are available to unlock that are very much aimed at long-time fans of Dragon Ball Z — if you get the right combination of characters in story mode locations (or if you defeat an enemy with the proper team build). This extra effort to please the fans gives a reason to keep playing the single player campaign in different ways and adds a lot of replay value over time.
My only real complaints so far are that sometimes all the clone battles in between the boss stages feel a little repetitive, and the story isn’t going to win any Oscars, but its definitely serviceable.
The bottom line here is that whether you are a fighter newbie or hardened vet, Dragonball Fighter Z is a killer entry that’s well worth your time and has brought the anime series to life in a way no game before it has managed.