After exploding onto the scene of E3 2017 and being my personal highlight of the show, Dragon Ball FighterZ has arrived and is looking to take the fighting game crown. Are this game’s power levels over 9000? Or is it this enough Yamcha waiting to happen?
The very first thing anybody will see when they start playing FighterZ is just how god damn fucking beautiful it looks. The anime style visuals are outstanding to look at and give the game a level of authenticity never seen in any anime adaptation in gaming to date. Everything from the explosive Ki blasts to the lighting fast combat looks fantastic and is captured brilliantly. The only time the game looks rough around the edges is during some victory poses but I feel that is more than likely down to placement of the camera as opposed to the actual models themselves.
This is a game with an eye for spectacle, several times in fights you will finish off an enemy with a mighty heavy strike and cause the opponent to fly off the stage and smash into a mountain. These small touches make matches feel so much more epic and capture the magic of the anime in small but meaningful ways. The game even rips direct scenes from the anime at the start and end of the battles, My personal favourite being the intro with Teen Gohan Vs Cell.
The combat itself is very simple to pick-up and play which is both its biggest strength and most glaring weakness. Dragon Ball FighterZ takes the auto combo system and builds onto it to a stupid degree. Mashing the Light attack over and over again will give you a 6 hit combo allowing you to smash an opponent into the wall and then chase them down for a further couple of hits. Mashing the medium punch button will give you a unique combo that will use a bar of your super meter to do a super combo.
These auto combos are problematic as it removes the sense of wonder and progression that comes with learning how to play FighterZ, I feel that if more time was spent developing a better tutorial that teaches newcomers the ropes and how to go from good to great the game would be better for it. Because my god, this game is so much fun. Attacks link together in a very Marvel Vs Capcom 3 style, with light, medium heavy being the basic path. Once you graduate from basics though you can adapt more and more high-level techniques with things like jump cancels, off the ground attacks, assist extensions, vanish attack extensions and tag hyper combos. These all together make the game feel exceptionally deep, much deeper than it first appears, but this makes the addition of the auto combo feel like a safety wall that keeps new players from exploring too much, because it eliminates the need to explore.
Unfortunately, the tutorial for the game is basic and does not go in depth with a lot of the intricate details of the engine. Seasoned fighting game players may find this to be a joy as it leaves more room to explore and figure it out but for new players it can be a daunting task of being taught these individual attacks but not how they all connect in a combo. There is combo trials for each of the cast and I would say I am at average skill level and I had these trials beat usually within 10 minutes for each character. It is nice that they are there but they are bit too basic and do not really allow the brilliant combo system to shine.
Thankfully there is quite an array of content available for players to sink their teeth into, the game features an Arcade Mode with an organic difficulty curve which will satisfy gamers who want to smash the high score and get the best grade possible. It features combo trials for every character in the game and a full-fledged story.
The Story Mode is the biggest piece of content in the one player option however it fails to please on any front. The story itself feels more like fan-fiction with an evil new android showing up to take over the world (Standard) and destroy the cast.
There are three arcs to the story and each one focusses on a different group. The Super Warriors arc focusses on Goku and his friends as they team up to defeat this mysterious new Android. There are moments of comedy that feel lifted straight from the show but for the most part the actual cutscenes themselves are horrendously tedious. There are no bombastic displays of strength of exciting transitions to gameplay. Worse yet is that there are plenty of rescue events featured where you arrive on the scene and have to slap around some clones to save a friend who can join your team. Which sounds good but the game handles these all in the same way. The flow consists of: Find team mate unconscious, save them from death, fight clones, end the fight, queue cutscene where they explain what is going on.
A lot of the time it feels lazy and it would be fine if the fights where grand in scale and entertaining to play, but they are not. Each time you start a chapter in story mode you must progress around a chess-like board fighting dull clones of the roster that are devoid of the personality of the characters they are mimicking, and eventually, the plot will move along. This is done in all three arcs and each arc has the same story beats making the entire mode a slog to get through.
Playing these modes does reward you with characters and currency but the unlock system in Dragon Ball FighterZ leaves a lot to be desired. As you play you will receive Zeni, which is the in-game currency. Anyone who has played an Arc Systemwork fighting game will recognise this, however, the difference here is that you cannot spend Zeni on things like Colours, Lobby characters, customization for your player card, etc. You can spend it on a random loot drop.
Loot drops are in a fighting game, it finally happened.
There is nothing that is ground-breaking in these drops, but they do not need to exist and make the process of unlocking items lose all sense of accomplishment as you are no longer getting the currency to buy the costume colour for your favourite fighter. You are rolling the dice to receive a random colour for a random fighter. There is real world monetization of this, but you do receive enough Zeni to never bother with it. The only issue is that the system has no real need to exist and with the game already being expensive and featuring a £30 Season Pass it just feels like an overzealous triple dip on the players wallet.
It is undeniable that where Dragon Ball FighterZ shines is when you are playing against another player and for this, it needs a strong online component and while there are many modes and ways to play, the netcode is very bad. Which is a huge shame as the entire game seems to be focused on the online play of the title, with the main menu itself being an interactive multiplayer lobby where you can challenge other players inside. This all falls the pieces when you realise the struggle of trying to get matches. When you finally do get a match, 90% you will lose due to horrific lag.
Obviously, when playing with another player you run the risk of these awful connections but in other titles like Street Fighter V Arcade Edition, Injustice 2 and Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite I have small issues with poor connections. In FighterZ every other match has lag which makes the game feel unplayable and not enjoyable. Which is a real shame as the game itself when I am playing on a stable connection or locally, is some of the most fun I have had with a fighting game since last year’s outstanding Tekken 7.
That is not to say the online offering is lazy. There are plenty of online modes with Player Matches, Ranked Matches and Lobby matches. The entire main menu of the game is a big lobby with players populating it much like we have seen in games like Destiny and Call of Duty WWII.
Despite these shortcomings, Dragon Ball FighterZ does manage to hold my attention with its open-ended combo system and addictive gameplay. It does completely drop the ball when it comes to the main chunk of single-player content and the online experience ranges from okay to fucking awful quite frequently but it cannot be denied that Arc Systemworks have indeed created a fantastic love letter to fans of Dragon Ball and fans of fighting games in general.
Dragon Ball FighterZ comes out on top despite its lacklustre story offering and inconsistent online play. Any fans of Dragon Ball or fighting games should definitely check this fighter out.
You can purchase a copy of Dragon Ball FighterZ from GAME or Amazon UK, or else from your local video game retailer. Check out the official trailer for Dragon Ball FighterZ here as well, and be sure to let us know in the comments below whether you’ll be picking it up! Be sure to follow us here at PixelTome over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well to stay up-to-date with all our latest reviews, news, features and more.