Dragon Ball FighterZ just wrapped up its closed beta over the weekend, showing off a product that’s shaping up to be everything you would pretty much expect an Arc System Works Dragon Ball fighting game to be. During E3 Dragon Ball FighterZ offered up an impressive first look by showcasing a visually enticing game that wonderfully mimicked the style and pace of the anime series. On the most shallow part of the surface, Dragon Ball FighterZ certainly looked like a game that would entice both fans of the anime and fans of Arc System Works’ previous fighting games.
A more detailed look at what Dragon Ball FighterZ is offering so far in terms of character roster, gameplay mechanics and stage interactions adds new layers to the already staggering amount of anticipation behind this game. The closed beta essentially threw players right into the deep end of the pool with no lifeguard in sight by only allowing players to hop into the arena with other online opponents without any option to go into a training room. There are plenty of fighting game betas that don’t give you that option but with Dragon Ball FighterZ that choice felt particularly frustrating.
Remember all those times throughout the Dragon Ball series that the most powerful fighters were engaging in combat that was so fast and sporadic that allies like Krillin and Yamcha could only nervously stand off in the distance as they struggled to even keep up with the fight as spectators? Remember how they could hardly decipher who had the upper hand at times because both fighters appeared to be little more than dashes of energy and an occasional mountain exploding off in the distance was the only real indicator that one fighter finally landed a substantial blow that didn’t just result in an immediate counter by their equally as impressive enemy? The fantasy behind a Dragon Ball fighting game is that you will spend time being the lightning fast fighters off in the distance but the reality is that while the characters on screen will certainly act out that dream, you as a player will spend a lot of time feeling like Krillin or Yamcha.
The constant use of projectiles, the unlimited access to vanishing techniques and combat that seems to utilize vertical space far more than any other current gen fighter out right now provides a fun but sometimes hectic playground that also uncovers a sobering truth. Creating a true Dragon Ball Z fighting game that pays proper homage to the fighting style on display in the anime can very well be both a gift and a curse.
Anyone who is used to the likes of BlazBlue won’t be caught too far off guard but newcomers who stumbled upon Dragon Ball FighterZ simply because they are a fan of the anime could easily end up feeling extremely uncomfortable with online matches in the beginning. Dragon Ball FighterZ is so quick with so many different animations on screen at one time that it felt difficult to even test buttons when facing an online opponent who was ready to get their hands dirty.
The good news for anyone who was just trying to get a feel for the controls, however, was the fact that there wasn’t a whole lot to figure out. The simple combat system on display, for now, provides a door that is wide open to fighting game novices, encouraging them to dip their pinky toe in the genre. As expected, Dragon Ball FighterZ feels very much like your typical Arc Systems Works game but dressed up in a Dragon Ball Z skin and watered down a bit for beginners. This means that inputs were all pretty simple, characters had a relatively short roster of moves, meter builds up so quickly that meter management doesn’t feel like a huge priority, and players didn’t necessarily need to be technically gifted fighting game players to easily best certain opponents. In other words, button mashers had quite a bit to celebrate here.
Anyone coming over from games like Street Fighter, Injustice, or Tekken will have to immediately break a few habits that usually would be formed from the unwritten bible of fighting game technique. Where most games in the genre would ask you to utilize blocking and try to find unsafe enemy attacks to disrupt, Dragon Ball FighterZ constantly puts the pressure on you to put the pressure on your opponent. While different fighters have different classes in the game, you will pretty much always want to have some sort of rush down strategy. Toss out projectiles to get some space control, dash, or teleport in to close the gap, punish as much as possible with whatever button mashing you choose and back the hell up before trying to start the process all over again.
The closed beta provided a limited look, only allowing access to online battle and showing off a ridiculously adorable lobby, but it also served as a reminder of both the game’s promise and its potential shortcomings. So far, Dragon Ball FighterZ feels like a true Dragon Ball-themed fighting game that just feels downright fun to play and it also beautifully pays homage to its source material. At times, however, it can also feel too button mashy with oversimplified controls and a limited amount of inputs for each character. With the game currently being as fun as it is, some may easily look past that, but others may end up finding the oversimplification a tough pill to swallow.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is slated to release in February 2018 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.