Dragon Ball Z is a crazy animè series, and it’s this craziness that has earned it legions of fans since its inception in 1986. It told the tale of series protagonist Goku and his friends who battle all kinds of aliens and androids that sought to put an end to life on Earth or take over it completely. Dragon Ball is better known for its wild fight scenes which involve mixing up martial arts with Street Fighter-style special moves, I mean, come on, everybody knows what a ‘Kamehameha’ is, right?
Well, with a successful TV series inevitably comes video games, and Dragon Ball is in abundance across all eras of the medium. Ranging from role-playing games to fighting games, you’re certain to find a Dragon Ball game within minutes of walking into your local video game store. The latest Dragon Ball game to hit the scene is Dragon Ball FighterZ, brought to us by Arc System Works, the very same company that created the fantastic Guilty Gear Xrd games; they are no strangers to converting animè to fighting games and have certainly mastered that art. Dragon Ball FighterZ is a fan service made in heaven, this game is up there with the best of them. Let me tell you why.
Dragon Ball FighterZ has a fully fleshed out story mode which puts you in control of Goku, or at least his mind. Goku regularly talks to you as the player, aware that you are in control of him. It’s highly inconvenient that a bad guy (or gal rather) created especially for Dragon Ball FighterZ, a femme fatale of sorts, has created armies of clones and has attacked Earth, and it’s up to you, as Goku, to tap into his abilities, become Super Saiyan, and take this Android 21 down. The story is typical Dragon Ball Z stuff with brilliantly animated cutscenes filled with Japanese voice-overs and English subtitles. It’s as though it’s ripped straight from the TV series but much more three-dimensional. You basically have a limited amount of turns to move Goku on an over-world map screen, accessing different stages and encountering clones or old enemies where, after a bit of banter and trash talk, the fighting begins. You can earn upgrades and abilities, but by 10 hours in, I was wondering what the hell it was all for as the story simmers down to a dull pace, voices start to grate, and I just wanted it done.
The real reason to play Dragon Ball FighterZ is everything else on offer here. Three branching ladders in Arcade Mode to tackle through, local and online matches and challenges to conquer, each focusing on the core fighting gameplay Arc System Works has perfected. One-on-one or three-versus-three matches like those seen in Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite, you select out of the 24 fighters on offer with Super Saiyan versions of Goku and Vegeta, each with their trademark moves seen in the TV series to oddballs like Majin Buu, Kid Buu and Nappa who can use his Saibamen to attack his opponents. The range of characters is beautifully balanced, and each one has their own strengths and weaknesses, but all are extremely fun to play.
The fighting takes place on a 2.5D plane, and each match is an assault on the senses due to the simplicity of the controls. They allow you to easily unleash flashy combos which can be done simply by button mashing the light, medium or heavy attack buttons, keeping the action on-screen happening at a blistering rate. This system is also Dragon Ball FighterZ’s downfall too as unskilled players can easily earn victories by spamming these easy-to-perform combos which are also extremely damaging. Skilled players, however, can use characters’ special moves which only use the traditional quarter-circle and a button press combination and never deviates from it. Each character also has a projectile attack which is used by pressing the X or A button, another spammable attack allowing for cheap wins. These can be countered through using another standard attack which shoots your fighter towards your opponent and performs a diving attack. Your opponent’s projectiles have no effect when performing this attack, and it’s helpful to get back into the fight using it.
Each time you land successful hits or receive damage, your Ki meter fills gradually, which is needed to perform your special moves. It can also be filled quicker by using another standard ability, which is risky to use, called the Ki Focus as it leaves you wide open for attacks. After hitting level 3 or higher on the Ki meter, you can unleash your ultimate attacks which are your most powerful and most flashiest moves. Each one brings with it a short animation that’s a joy to watch before the damage is inflicted. Moves like Goku’s Family Kamehameha and Gotenks’ Volleyball Smash are exhilarating to pull off, and both are screen-filling spectacles. Ending a match with these abilities will earn you a Destructive Finish that shoots your opponent into space or obliterates them within a huge nuclear-like explosion.
As much as it is easy to exploit FighterZ’s simple controls, the game is accessible and an utter blast to play. Animation and graphics are spot on and true to the source material, there are plenty of fighters to choose from and a decent number of things to do. The main reason to play, though, is the eye-watering, fast-yet-brutal fights, exciting special moves and unreal ultimate attacks that are awesome to witness. Whether you’re a fan or not, you must play this game.
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 26th January 2018