Could you imagine a world where the competitive eSports in the fighting game genre didn't exist? It would most likely be quite boring without the hype and the enthusiasm of the fans. Of course, this scene isn't for everyone. There is a good portion of people out there that prefer to just have fun with what they do rather than make a competition out of it. Well, I believe Arc System Works has brought us a gift that either side of the spectrum can finally enjoy. Dragon Ball FighterZ is very easy to get into, but it is also complex enough to entice even the most seasoned of fighting game veterans. This delightful swirl of ice-creamy goodness is then brought together by the cherry on top: Dragon Ball.
Everybody loves Dragon Ball. Your brother loves it, your dad loves it, and that kid you went to high school with loves it (albeit a little too much). Its history is well known for anime fans and those who do not typically associate themselves the genre. The high octane-fueled fights between some of the most powerful characters ever created, the humor, the relationships; there's something in it for everyone. Fans of the series have been missing one thing ever since its conception: a true, honest-to-goodness tournament style fighting game.
FighterZ is definitely a popular topic in gaming today, but how does it actually hold up outside of the hype? Beyond all of the fans that scream at the top of their lungs and attempt to undergo a Super Saiyan transformation, the core of the game is pretty solid. Rather than focusing on individual strengths and weaknesses of the player, the game has a more team-centric ideology that creates a new and different style of gameplay within the genre. Instead of working on specific combos or links, you work on team optimization. Instead of working on complicated button inputs, most of the characters follow a similar method of play style. For better or for worse, this makes the game more accessible, but it also changes the way you play the game to some extent.
Accessibility is further exemplified by the game's automatic combo system. If you just want to have a good time, you can mash buttons and easily pull off some flashy combos while playing through arcade mode or with your friends. Of course, where there is accessibility, there is usually a low skill ceiling. FighterZ manages to keep the ceiling fairly high despite the ease of access, and this is because of what makes this game different from the rest. I found myself practicing combos and character combinations for hours after getting brutally defeated by other players online. I felt like the sense of competition and depth was still there despite the more casual feel to the game. Veterans should not have to fear that this game is not for them.
There are fighting game mechanics that have been changed to fit the formula, but many of them are actually still there. You can dash across the sky and perform a grab into an off-the-ground combo. You can do what is known as "Sparkling" to do more damage and recover health. You can switch out characters mid-combo to start a chain. There are assists, supers, and everything you would expect out of a 3-character team-based fighter. There are plenty of diverse characters for fans to choose from, and even if all of the wants you want aren't there, there will be more coming out in the future if you have the season pass. Each of the characters feels unique and different, even with the simple command inputs that repeat across the roster. This just makes it easier to play and have fun with for those who aren't quite as well-versed in the world of fighting games.
For those of you who don't care about placing high on the leaderboard rankings, you have a lengthy story mode and fleshed out arcade mode to fight your way through. The plot is fairly simple: Goku has been possessed by the player, and it's up to you to use his body to fight the clones that are terrorizing your friends. While the story mode isn't all that groundbreaking, it does manage to hold a good amount interest for those who are fans of the Dragon Ball franchise, especially with the addition of an original character. Worry not, Android 21 isn't just another lazily pasted Saiyan to come straight out of a child's imagination. She manages to bring quite a bit of life into the already existing Dragon Ball lore without messing with the continuity. She's a pleasure to see in the story's CG cutscenes and a blast to play with as well.
I would wholeheartedly recommend completing the story mode of Dragon Ball FighterZ, but be prepared for quite the grind. While the story itself isn't bad, the actual mechanics of the story mode tend to overstay their welcome. You traverse a map by moving your character portrait from one place to the other, fighting NPCs, leveling up, getting stronger, and changing your team along the way. Unfortunately, the difficulty of these fights is revoltingly easy. I got quite bored of beating up the same sandbags over and over again just to see the next bit of dialogue. As tedious as it might be, the dialogue is a treat. It's great to see some of your favorite characters converse before a fight and talk about what they've been up to over the past however many years it's been since the end of Dragon Ball Z.
One issue I consistently had with the game was being able to get into a lobby. The game defaults to connecting online, selecting a lobby, and putting you into to a hub world. There were so many people playing that almost every lobby was constantly full. It could take five minutes of me trying to connect to a lobby and receiving a message that it's full before I actually connect to it. It might currently be an issue, but I believe it will most likely seize to be in the future once the player base falls down. And while it does force you into a lobby, you can technically connect to an offline version of it as well. With that being said, I find the lobby very easy to traverse and quite a fun replacement for traditional menus in today's gaming climate. Better yet, you can still access menus when you pause the game in order to improve the experience for players who prefer to see something more straightforward. A greater accomplishment than making the hub world work is something that quite literally caught my eye.
The visuals are gorgeous. While it might seem a bit awkward to fully flesh out a 3D model and put it in a 2D space, I've never been wronged by Arc System Works. Goku has never looked better in the third dimension, and neither have his companions and the worlds they live in. The use of color is extraordinary and vibrant; I sometimes get lost in the plentiful bright colors and dark lines that make up the entire aesthetic of the game. Better yet, it completely fits the manga and anime style and satisfies the purist inside me. If you think the visuals are impressive, I implore you to listen to any of the character themes from Dragon Ball FighterZ. Some of these tracks are definitely beyond what I was expecting out of a tie-in game, especially considering how many games from the Dragon Ball series exist today. I can say I'll be listening to some of these themes for quite a long while after the release of the game.
Everything about this game seems to flow perfectly together. It's light, yet heavy. It's fun, yet serious. It has the style and feel of Guilty Gear, the craziness and fluidity of Marvel vs. Capcom, and the familiarity of Dragon Ball. All of these things blend together very nicely in order to create a game that can truly be enjoyed by everyone. I can play FighterZ any time with anyone and have an absolute blast with it. Whether you're a hardcore fan of the genre or not, this really is the fighting game you've been looking for.
Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38