The Dragon Ball universe has had many incarnations over the years in the fighting genre, from old side on fighters, to the Budokai series, to the fighting game/RPG series Xenoverse. Now with Dragon Ball FighterZ the game steps back to the side on style, to see if it can perfect itself with strong mechanics and stronger graphics, and the question is if it can live up to that E3 hype.
The game itself is built on some strong mechanics. Using the face buttons for the attack types light, medium, heavy and ki, allowing for easy repetitive combos, if you can land them. This makes the game feel satisfying to pick up, but the use of more complex combos has a bit more of a difficulty curve, which you will need to master for online.
What gives the game the real Dragon Ball feel is its use of instant transmissions, energy attacks, and more so, the Super attacks. Some of the shoulder buttons initiate stronger attacks such as Goku going super Saiyan 4 and unleashing a huge beam, which requires powering up, and good timing. These attacks can do serious damage to an opponent if you manage to land one.
The other element of Dragon Ball FighterZ to get the hang of is transitioning between fighters. Fights can have up to three fighters, using two of the shoulder buttons to switch between them. This can be as simple as switching places, or jumping in to launch an attack, or transitioning during a combo. Mastering this makes the world of a difference to a fight as an injured fighter can regain some health when pulled aside.
The game’s biggest hook is its look. The game is a gorgeous representation of the anime from the side on, and for certain attacks to finish the fight, it will cut away for explosions, or show someone getting hit into a building. This alone separates the game and makes it a delight to watch its gorgeously realised cut scenes as well.
Now the game mechanics are one thing, well to be fair a big thing, but the real kicker is how you will be spending your hours playing. Offline is isolated to the Story mode and Arcade mode, as well as Tutorial and single offline fights.
The Story mode tells the tale of an Android that is causing all kinds of havoc and has managed to merge souls with heroes. Thanks to emitted waves that supress powers, the only way the Dragon Ball heroes and villains can fight is with the use of the soul. This explains the use of three fighters in a fight, but one fighting at any given time, which to be honest it’s far from the worst Dragon Ball story, looking right at you fake Namek saga.
The Story mode also pops you on a map where you need to navigate tiles to get to the boss. You level up by grinding fights and have limited moves to finish each map. Th majority of these fights are against clones which have filled the world, explaining away the refights. To be honest it’s unnecessary faff, which could have been replaced with a series of fights between cutscenes, and I found it more of a hindrance than an enhancement.
The Story mode is split into three stages, the heroes, the villains, and I won’t spoil the third. The heroes’ saga is filled with tutorial fights which are immensely annoying. They have the enemies moving so you can complete the tutorial which can be a pain, especially when you repeat the same tutorials. This is gone after the hero’s map but it’s still annoying, more so because you can complete all of that on its own in the tutorial mode, so it is unnecessary placed in the story too.
The arcade mode sets you on a path such as Snake Way and pits you some fights. Depending on how well you do, it seeds you to different places, and upon completion you get a letter ranking. It’s fun, simple, short, and has none of the faff.
Online fights let you choose your region and the server, so you can pick the most populated one for the purposes of getting fights. This is easy to switch if you find you are having issues, but I never encountered an issue on the Australian servers I joined. Kicking into online fights it has Ranked and Casual options, and Arena which is against others on your server. For casual players there is next to no difference between them.
The game isn’t flawless though, with the occasional stutter in cut scenes, and more so the total unnecessary nature of the hub that you run around in, but more so was an annoyance with the tutorial. The tutorial pits you against a fighter doing his moves. If you beat the fighter, it will then pull you out, show you somewhat completed it, and then to finish it, you start that tutorial again. This isn’t the worst thing because the tutorials are short, but still.
When push comes to shove, Dragon Ball FighterZ is everything I wanted it to be. A fun, and deep fighting game, which is gorgeous. The story is longer than it needed to be, but that’s kind of fitting for Dragon Ball Z.
Released: January 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One