The fighting game everyone has been waiting for, Dragon Ball FighterZ, is finally at our doorstep! We’ve spent well over 50 hours in the past week with Bandai Namco Entertainment and developer Arc System Works newest gem of a game which brings together Dragon Ball fans and hard core fighting game fans for the first time ever. What did we think of it? Take a look at what we liked, disliked, and our closing comments on our verdict!
====What We Liked====
Easy Enough for Beginners, Challenging Enough For Fighting Game Experts
Dragon Ball FighterZ is a very easy game to learn how to play. At the very minimum, there are three buttons that when mashed will each allow players to do a nice combo. In other words, anyone can do three different combos without any skill at all. This will allow victory against the CPU in story mode, which is what the average beginner will want to enjoy. Of course for the experts, that’s not enough! The challenge for them comes in chaining the attack buttons together in different combinations with the right timing to do maximum damage! This is needed for the hard difficulties in Arcade Mode and of course online where the experts roam. The challenge faced in Arcade Mode and online will make experts come back for more and more. Heck, it may bring back beginners as well and with the right motivation, turn them into experts!
One way a beginner can become an expert is through training in practice mode. The Practice Mode in Dragon Ball FighterZ is very robust! First off, there is a nice tutorial on the basics of everything a player needs to know – from movement to attacking to defense, it’s all there presented in an easily understandable manner. Then there is a tutorial on performing combos, some of which are really advanced and can do a lot of damage to the opponent if pulled of successfully. There are visual cue that displays if a segment of a combo is done correctly and players can even watch demos within practice mode to see combos being performed. In addition to that is a free practice mode which allows players to do so many things they desire – from turning off the HUD to swapping characters right from a menu within training mode. It’s not enough to describe the level of robustness of Practice Mode or show a video, it’s something you have to experience for yourself!
Dragon Ball fans are all about the characters. We need more than 100 characters in every game or else that game is a failure. That was our personal thought process too until Dragon Ball FighterZ came along. We use Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 as a reference. Even though we liked that game overall, it had more than a hundred characters with DLC, but most of them were not worth using because in front of a character like SSGSS Vegito, Hit, or Zamasu, much of the roster was useless. That’s not to say we don’t want more characters, we do want more, but they all must be quality characters. Dragon Ball FighterZ shows all 24 playable character are worth using because they are balanced. Balance is the key. Yamcha can stand up against a SSGSS Goku and it can be a fun and fair fight. That’s not all though, there is variety in between the characters. Again, using Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, that game had probably 15-20 versions of Goku and 10-15 variations of Vegeta that basically played the exact same. In Dragon Ball FighterZ, characters play differently, including the two forms of Goku and two forms of Vegeta, which adds additional depth to the game.
Up to 16 human players can get together locally to battle it out, with brackets, in Tournament Mode! Only two controllers are needed as two teams fight at a time while the rest spectate. Tournament Mode has quite a few options too, like the ability to set the rules so players can change their team of characters after every match or be forced to use the same set of characters throughout the tournament.
Graphics and Music
Dragon Ball FighterZ looks just like the anime, but in video game form. Whether it is a cut scene or actual in-game footage, it all looks crisp, clear, and terrific! The music is quite attractive too! What’s very nice is players can pick their favorite in-game theme to play before every match!
Battle System and Camera Angles
Dragon Ball FighterZ has a phenomenal battle system. In some games, it literally feels like the game will not take a command sometimes, land a hit when it’s not supposed to hit or not land a hit when it’s supposed to hit. Or the player will randomly turn around with their back against the opponent when they should always be locked-on. Why that happens in some games, we don’t know, but everything in Dragon Ball FighterZ feels logical and just right. It’s the reason it is being deemed a competitive fighter. Also, the camera is always focused properly on the action which makes it a comfortable experience (at least until some crazy skilled opponent comes, in that case you might have the urge to chuck your controller at the TV, but that’s not the game’s fault).
References and Charm from the Anime/Manga
All Dragon Ball games use references from the anime series. It’s why iconic moves like the Kamehameha or Final Flash make it into the games. Dragon Ball FighterZ takes it a few steps further. First off, it feels like the game actually mimics the characters movement in the same manner as the anime. The way a punch is thrown, the way a character walks, the stance a character takes are all mimicked using the original source material. Second, the character personalities come alive in interactions between characters. For example, Vegeta has lines he speaks only to Trunks and then Trunks has lines he only would respond to Vegeta with. And it’s like they are taking to each other as if it is part of the anime. This is not only in story mode, but also in the normal battle introductions. These introductions are taken a step further with dramatic scenes. When the conditions are right, then they are taken to a level that exactly matches the anime. For example, when one team has Goku on it and the other side has Frieza on it and the battle is being taken place on Planet Namek, then the introduction shows Frieza killing Krillin and Goku going Super Saiyan.
Pre-Order Bonuses and Most Characters Unlocked From Start
Dragon Ball FighterZ does pre-order bonuses perfectly! SSGSS Goku and SSGSS Vegeta, two playable characters, can be unlocked early when pre-ordering. However, for those that don’t pre-order, they can still unlocked by playing the game the old fashioned way! Specifically, by earning the right amount of zeni (300,000 for Vegeta and 500,000 for Goku) or by beating the hard courses in the game’s arcade mode. And for those that didn’t pre-order, but still want early access, they can still get them by purchasing early access for a mere $2.99. The other pre-order bonus, the lobby avatars for SSGSS Goku and SSGSS Vegeta, which don’t add any value aside from aesthetics, can also be purchased for $1.99.
Also, aside from SSGSS Goku, SSGSS Vegeta, and Android 21 (who is unlocked by beating story mode), all characters were unlocked from the start! For somebody who just wants to jump right into the battle and play with many of their favorite characters without having to invest time into something else, Dragon Ball FighterZ makes it possible.
Playing Online with Strangers Is Easy
In Dragon Ball FighterZ, it is easy to play online with strangers. Just go to the “World Match” area and select a ranked match (which saves a players records and the amount of points they’ve earned based on wins/losses) or casual match (no win/loss records saved). While the FighterZ beta had some trouble with this, the final version of the game has been quite smooth in our experience.
Replay mode is a nice feature Dragon Ball FighterZ. You can save your own replays and watch replays others have saved. It’s basically YouTube, but in the game so there is no need to go to YouTube to see fights. Further, everything is in an organized fashion. The replay screen says which players (their username) are fighting and which characters they used right from the replay selection screen. We also liked the commentary by the tournament announcer. Sometimes the announcer gets annoying by repeating the same things over and over (maybe the developers can add more lines and also lines for each type of attack to add variety), but overall, we enjoyed it.
====What We Disliked====
Check for Online Lobby Everytime The Game is Launched
The game checks and tries to connect online everytime the game is launched, at least on PS4. This takes probably 30 seconds, but that’s too long. And if the game tries to log a player into an online lobby when it’s full, then the player has to wait and manually select the lobby, which is annoying. On launch, we believe there should be an option from the beginning that asks if a player would like to play in an offline lobby or an online one. And of course, this option can be saved so the next time the player launches Dragon Ball FighterZ, the game will automatically log them into their preferred lobby type.
There are a lot of enjoyable scenes in story mode, but as a whole, story mode wasn’t great. First off, it didn’t feel coherent. There are three arcs in story mode, but rather than each arc building upon the other, they make it seem like each is an alternate telling of another. It’s like a more extreme version of the Dragon Ball Super anime vs the Dragon Ball Super manga. Many of the same characters appear in both, but the way things unfold are different in those two. Second, progressing in story mode is annoying. There are fights called “boss battles” which progress the story, however, to partake in a boss battle, a character must move around on a game board-looking map to get to the boss battle and fight in many pointless fights against clone versions of the playable characters. Filler for the game’s filler story, if you will. We personally would have just liked to go from one story-progressing fight to another. Lastly, the save situation was kind of confusing. Unless you manually save, you will lose your progress in the story mode map and will have to replay fights you already won, which happened to us on a few occasions.
No CPU vs CPU
Fans wanted this in Xenoverse 1 and Xenoverse 2 as well and FighterZ continues the trend of leaving out CPU-only matches. This would have been the perfect game for CPU-vs-CPU matches because of the fantastic battle system. It’s a shame CPU-only matches were left out of FighterZ as it would have truly been a joy to watch two high-level CPU’s go at it.
Playing with Friends
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam all have a nice system to invite players into a game. However, Dragon Ball FighterZ does not make use of it, it completely disregards it. Inviting friends to play a game online is a very unintuitive, troublesome process. One player must create what is known as a “Ring Match” to host a group of friends and then communicate outside of the game to their friends what lobby they are in, including the continent and country which that lobby is in. The friends then have to go into that same exact lobby by themselves and find the host’s physical character in the FighterZ lobby. Take a look at the video below to see what we mean. It should be much easier. In Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, and basically all other games we’ve played, the host clicks an option within an online lobby that says something along the lines of “Invite Friend” then picks which friend(s) to invite. Then those friends get an invite and upon acceptance are easily and automatically able to join the host’s room. Also, it is worth noting at launch and at the time of this review, aside from the unintuitive and troublesome process of even hosting or joining a Ring Match, many players have been unable to play with friends due to technical issues (Bandai Namco says they are currently working on addressing the technical issues).
Dragon Ball FighterZ is a phenomenal game that every Dragon Ball fan and every fighting game fan should have! The gameplay experience itself is just so well done that you want to come back for more and battle with friends and strangers! Every character, even the ones that are supposed to be weak in the anime/manga, are fun to play as. A few of the dislikes we mentioned keep Dragon Ball FighterZ from being the perfect game, but we think the developers can actually fix or patch in updates to fix in three of the four items (the only one which can’t be fixed is the story) to certainly raise its value. It is worth mentioning this game is a sharp contrast from Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (which is a fantastic game in its own right) and if you’re more of a solo gamer, that would be the way to go. The fun and excitement in Dragon Ball FighterZ all comes from playing with others. This is the first game in the FighterZ series and it can only go up from here, in our opinion. Even though this game just came out, we’re excited for what a potential sequel can bring, as we ourselves have a handful of ideas to make an overall phenomenal game even more phenomenal!