After years of games, the Dragon Ball franchise has chosen a particular style that series have felt comfortable with. Featuring free flying 3D arenas, huge cast of characters, and tons of fan service, if you picked up a Dragon Ball game, you knew what you signed up for. Dragon Ball FighterZ avoids this entirely and chooses to stick to a more traditional fighting game blueprint. Using a smaller roster, 2D plane, and combo heavy style, FighterZ shows us a side of Dragon Ball we haven’t truly experienced since the Budokai series.
Dragon Ball FighterZ borrows concepts from several other fighting games, primarily the Marvel vs Capcom and other hyper fighting styled games. The same goes for FighterZ’s look and style. The 3D cel-shaded combatants mimic the look of the anime, each sporting unique animations that further borrow from the series. As with Arc Systems Works own Guilty Gear, every fight is amplified by a heavy metal soundtrack that keeps the action pumped.
FighterZ utilizes a four button style, where three buttons are used for light, medium, and heavy attacks. The fourth button allows for unique Ki blast or Ki-based special moves to be performed. FighterZ also uses an auto-combo system where tapping light or medium will give players basic combos, giving casual players a way to compete against more professional opponents.
Each player selects three characters from the Dragon Ball roster to form a team. One character is controlled at a time, and can be switched with one of the other characters at any time. Players can also call out one of their other characters to perform Assist moves, allowing simultaneous attacks and combos with the whole team. All three of a team’s characters must be defeated for a match to end.
Typical mechanics from previous Dragon Ball games exist here such as vanishing techniques and flight dashes. Fights will have players using tons of Ki for different moves so every character can Ki charge to allow for meter charging. Vanishing can be used to teleport behind an enemy for a free hit for the cost of a bar of Ki. A Super Dash can used at any time to fly towards your opponent to close the gap. Dragon Rushes act as throws that launch opponents away while allowing for aerial combos. Sparking Blast is a last ditch move that powers up the character, increasing health regen and overall damage output.
It wouldn’t be a Dragon Ball game without the Dragon Balls themselves, so FighterZ utilizes them into combat. Players can earn Dragon Balls one by one as the fight progresses by doing special moves and combos. Once all seven are gathered, Shenron appears to grant a wish, allowing players to increase their strength, revive a fallen ally, recover health, or increase defense.
All of these moves combined allow for fast paced action that doesn’t stop until the last fighter is standing. Once you get a grasp for the assist system, combined with Dragon Ball vanishing and dashes, players will find the action stays constant and flashy.
Selecting certain teammates may affect matches in ways that Dragon Ball fans will appreciate. If certain characters start or end matches against one another, special cutscenes are triggered related to events from the series. Some characters will even interact with others during the fights themselves, such as Vegeta shouting “Kakarot” when clashing with Goku or Krillin joining Android 18 for her super move if he’s a member of her team.
Dragon Ball FighterZ’s story takes the players on a grand tour through the Dragon Ball universe. After the fighters have lost their powers to an unknown force, it’s up to the players to help the fighters combat the ever present clones that have invaded several locations around the world, while also dealing with the mysterious new Android 21.
Throughout the story, players will be collecting fighters as they move around a board from location to location under a certain amount of turns. Each board has an end point and several teams that the players can combat to gain experience to level up and also earn skills to better their teams such as Attack Up or Health Drain. Putting certain characters together in a team will cause special interactions and cutscenes before fights. Two moments I really enjoyed was Piccolo lecturing Vegeta on his parenting skills and Yamcha asking Goku if they ever trained together.
Completing the story will unlock a new character so don’t forget to finish it!
Dragon Ball FighterZ features its own Arcade mode to complete as well. Entering arcade, players will work their way up through numerous paths where wins, loses, and how well you rank will determine where you move next. Scoring wins and earning A ranks will lead you to the top, while continued loses will lead lower, towards easier fights. Completing an arcade path will earn a harder version of the arcade you completed. For those who don’t preorder Dragon Ball FighterZ, Super Saiyan Blue Goku and Vegeta can be earned here.
Training is where players will learn the ropes of Dragon Ball FighterZ. Aside from the traditional training mode, there’s a battle tutorial that’ll teach players every technique in the game from advanced guards and cancels. Once you get comfortable with a character, you can try the combo challenges where players are tasked with completing combos with certain characters. This is a great opportunity for players who want to learn more advanced combos to have their skills put to the test. Although the challenges do teach some combos you may not know, I feel like they left out opportunities to practice which characters assist well with one another, while also teaching which moves connect to each other.
Local Battles have plenty of options for those who want to avoid the online scene. Outside of being able to play against a friend, you can also fight against the computer under certain settings. The biggest feature in local battles is tournament mode where up to 16 players can duke it out against one another.
From arcade to local battles, Zeni can be earned by doing just about anything in Dragon Ball FighterZ. Zeni can be used to buy capsules, which in turn, can unlock cosmetics items for the player to use. Capsules can give additional colors, new titles for online, even new avatars to run around the lobby with. Along with currency, you can also earn Premium Z coins, which you earn whenever you get a copy of an item. With enough Z coins, you can buy a special capsule that will guarantee a new item. I felt like I always had Zeni on me. After a few local matches, I had plenty of new lobby characters and colors to choose from.
FighterZ also utilizes a replay feature where you can save any match against players. In here, you can rewatch your old matches with a view of player actions in real time. If you fight against an opponent who pulled off some combos you’ve never seen before, you can learn how exactly they did it.
During the time of this review, all online features were turned off so I wasn’t able to fully experience the online world.
Overall, Dragon Ball FighterZ is an ambitious game that both breaks the mold of traditional Dragon Ball games, while also giving future games something to strive to be. Dragon Ball FighterZ has tons of different things for both the fighting game enthusiast and the typical Dragon Ball fan. Whether you’re a longtime fan, newcomer, or just love fighting games, Dragon Ball FighterZ has something for you. Dragon Ball FighterZ is available on January 26th for Steam (PC), Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. For more, make sure you keep it locked to Mammoth Gamers!
Dragon Ball FighterZ was reviewed using a pre-release Xbox One key provided by Bandai Namco.