Dragon Ball FighterZ on PlayStation 4
From the time I’ve spent with Dragon Ball FighterZ, it’s safe to say that 2018 is off to a good start for fighting game fans. Shedding the 3D fighting style of the Xenoverse series but not quite fitting into the more traditional Tenkaichi titles, FighterZ feels unique in its own respect, appealing to hardcore patrons of the genre thanks to the simple brilliance that is Aksys Games’ gameplay design while simultaneously evoking the anime from which the title is based on.
Right off the bat you’ll notice that Dragon Ball FighterZ draws some inspiration from the Marvel vs. Capcom games, most notably in how each match pits two sets of three fighters against one another. Just like in the aforementioned Capcom series, one character fights at a time, though players can tag out injured fighters to heal a limited amount of hit points lost in battle. Players can also call in another fighter to perform an assist move mid-battle and should one be really good at racking up combos, he or she could knock an opponent off the field for some amount of time so that another fighter is forced to do battle. For lifelong fighting game fans, the similarities between Dragon Ball FighterZ and Marvel vs. Capcom are definitely apparent, though for some reason the former feels much easier to utilize in practice.
This is perhaps due to how FighterZ controls. Combat is arguably even easier than in other Aksys series like BlazBlue and Guilty Gear, as the top three buttons of a controller are mapped to light, medium, and heavy attacks and the trigger buttons are used for super attacks and swapping teammates. Aside from this there are no complicated input commands to memorize and no charges and 360 motions to worry about. If you’re familiar with Hadouken in Street Fighter, you’ll grasp FighterZ’s controls with ease. If you’re a beginner to the genre, Dragon Ball FighterZ’s mechanics may offer one of the most accessible means of getting your feet wet in today’s fighting game climate.
While this for the most part is great, it’s worth noting that the simplicity in design may infuriate more seasoned fighting game professionals in that newbies can easily execute damaging auto combos by mashing light, medium, and heavy attacks together, resulting in matches where players can go in without a care or thought in the world and wreak havoc by spamming the same moves over and over again. Skilled players can counter these attacks by a well-timed heavy move, but inconsistencies in online connectivity may not always work to one’s favor. There’s also the lack of damage done through blocks and the simplicity of closing the distance between one’s character and an opponent to consider.
Despite this, no one playing the game will ever feel completely useless or out of their league, as a basic level of play serves as Dragon Ball FighterZ’s most distinguishing component. It entices anime fans who have yet to experience what a Dragon Ball game is like to pick up a controller and begin playing right away. The result is a colorful amalgamation of Kamehamehas that feel as if they’ve been ripped straight from the show, and a wild spectacle of lazer beams shooting across the screen at once. It’s crazy, chaotic, and fun, a formula that Dragon Ball fans have come to know and love today. The cell-shaded style of the FighterZ only aids in immersing the player further, as it feels as if one is actually playing an episode of Dragon Ball while fighting. Launching opponents into the air, punching them towards the edge of the screen, and blasting them back down to the ground just never gets old.
Speaking of episodes, Dramatic Finishes serve as another excellent nod to fans of the show, as pitting two specific fighters together sometimes yields cutscenes that harken back to integral moments in franchise history. Watching Goku turn Super Saiyan for the first time after Frieza blows up Krillin, witnessing Gohan team up with his father to disintegrate Cell, or preventing Beerus from destroying the entire planet are moments that Dragon Ball fans both new and old can relate to. This means that should one have a son or daughter that’s into the Dragon Ball series, Dragon Ball FighterZ serves as a great time to spend some quality time with one another.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is enough of an experience to master on your own, however, as its simple controls have potential for seasoned pros to layer on their own complexity. Yes, flashy combos are just a button press away, but manual combos exercise far more efficiency and afford more freedom, especially in mid-air. Should one want to invest time, FighterZ offers the ability to pull off more damaging attacks that take up much less meter. The added layer of strategy is there for people that want it and for newbies who feel like taking the extra step.
As far as how the game’s story mode plays out, players are tasked with defeating waves of clones and resurrected franchise villains in three unique arcs that serve as different perspectives to the battle at hand. Unfortunately, the entire 10-hour campaign is largely forgettable, if only because it doesn’t offer much it terms of canon to the main Dragon Ball anime storyline and each incoming threat feels like a training dummy. The best moments that arise come from witty banter between the cast, oftentimes referencing things like Yamcha’s weakness or how Krillin keeps dying. It’s good for a chuckle if you’re a seasoned fan of the show, but doesn’t go much farther than that.
Arcade mode poses a far greater difficulty level and is perhaps the best way to prepare yourself for Dragon Ball FighterZ’s online component. After each fight, the player is graded on their performance. This letter determines which path (high, medium, or low) he or she will take going forward, making for quite a nail-biting experience should you want to maintain that high road. The challenge is turned up to 11 when considering how the mode spikes in difficulty mid-way through your progression, which may or may not be a good thing depending on easy you grasp the game’s mechanics. To top it all off, players can’t restart a match if they’re losing, meaning they’ll have to start all the way from the beginning again if they want to keep up their streak. It’s brutal but will no doubt satiate hardcore players who want to test out new characters or get their fingers nimble for online play.
Speaking of online play, FighterZ’s is better in the main game than during the beta, though there are still noticeable lags here and there that toss matches in the opponent’s favor. It’s not a complete deal breaker as Aksys could remedy that aspect with a patch or two, but could be frustrating for those that want to battle with others for hours on end right away.
Finally, it’s worth noting that loot boxes containing stickers and emotes for your chibi character can be purchased with in-game currency, though aren’t at all intrusive to the experience as a whole and are purely cosmetic in nature.
Dragon Ball FighterZ has the gameplay foundations to usher it into the echelons of some of today’s premiere tournament-worthy fighting games. Aksys may have to implement some tweaks when it comes to combo multipliers and the game’s online component, but as is, Dragon Ball FighterZ is an entertaining game that’ll make you want to invite all of your fellow Dragon Ball fans over for a couple of matches, if only to see Vegeta curse Kakarot’s name one more time.
Score: 4.5/5 – Great
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