Dragon Ball FighterZ was one of the very few games I was looking forward to play this year, partly because I am a childhood Dragon Ball fan, and partly because of the sheer allure of the game portrayed in the trailers and gameplay reveals. Arc System Works leaves no stone unturned in making sure that the game remains true to what made the franchise great by completely embracing the characters and atmosphere of the series. Dragon Ball FighterZ is not the first game based off the legendary anime series, but it’s definitely one of the better games of the franchise.
DRAGON BALL FighterZ is born from what makes the DRAGON BALL series so loved and famous: endless spectacular fights with its all-powerful fighters. Developed by Arc System Works and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, DRAGON BALL FighterZ maximizes high end Anime graphics and brings easy to learn but difficult to master fighting gameplay. The game got released across all platforms on 26th January, 2018.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Gameplay And Sound
At the very beginning the game’s intro showcases a part of the roster, but what impressed me the most is that the characters are portrayed in their own characteristic behavior not only in the intro but, amidst the game too. To name a few, Freiza’s heinous smile, Gohan’s timid nature and Goku’s ludicrous but responsible character, is portrayed elegantly in the game. These subtle features are seldom a part of fighting games but, it’s interesting to see Arc System Works focusing on minute features to make sure the game resembles the anime as much as possible.
The game begins in a hub area where players are free to either kickoff the story mode of the game or, head on to a practice or a tutorial session. The game features a very in-depth tutorial which rightly accustoms players to the various controls of the game and at the same time gives a concise preface of the things to keep in mind amidst a battle. The first and foremost things fighting games crumble too is their repetitive nature. Although Dragon Ball FighterZ partly shares that flaw, Arc System Works have indeed a made a commendable attempt to minimize this flaw as much as possible. This is done by the story mode, which is not a mere show of a series of cutscenes and battles, but, it aims at providing immersive gameplay by incorporating dialogue options. The dialogue options in the game don’t affect the outcome of the story, but still, it’s a praiseworthy feature since its seldom a part of fighting games.
Arc System Works intelligently intertwines the virtues of a fighting game into this game but at the same time doesn’t falter to keep the very theme of the game intact. The battles for instance, are no longer the customary battles we see in the regular anime, but instead they are a 3v3 tag team battle. The players are given the ability to take some cooldown restrained help from their teammates amidst a battle, or switch out if they are low on health. Once a character is down, the second member of the team tussles with the opponent in a short cutscene which is seemingly pleasing to watch, as it brilliantly showcases the heated battles customary to Dragon Ball. Similarly, cutscenes are shown when the arena changes amidst a battle and when performing some “Super” moves, and both of them are brilliantly implemented in the game, offering players a breath amidst battles and at the same time offering some stunning visuals.
The game’s controls are fairly simple and one doesn’t need to remember a number of button combinations to execute the combo attacks, and the combo attacks feel automated, but it is indeed satisfying for Dragon Ball fans to perform the much popular “Kamehameha” and “The Destructo Disc”, to name a few, owing to the realistic way in which they are portrayed. Arc System Works makes sure that the battles are not reduced to button mashing loops by making sure the enemy AI counters repetitive attacking combos. But, the enemy is often feeble and not even close to posing a challenge for players. The super combos for instance can only be performed if the character’s ki is upto a certain level. The Ki can be raised amidst a battle, by holding specific button combinations, and there are often instances that enemy doesn’t even attack while raising Ki, and consequently it makes the Super combos increasingly easy to perform. The character levels in the game are a gimmick and I faced no difficulties in defeating opponents 6 times over my character level.
Apart from the story mode, players can also re-experience or rather get a first hand experience of historic moments in the anime by selecting suitable characters and arenas. For instance, selecting teen gohan as your character and Cell as your opponent, and choosing Cell Games Arena as the stage, players might re-experience the historic fight between Cell and Gohan with a cutscene at the end of the fight which replicates Gohan’s one-handed Kamehameha. There are quite a few of these in the game and are termed as “dramatic” finishes. These are extremely enticing to watch and fuel the nostalgic elements of the game.
Complementing the gameplay elements are the auditory elements that the developers have perfected their grasp over. Dragonball wouldn’t feel the same without those heavy hitting punches, those massive beam blasts and sound plays an important role in creating an oomph behind ever action that is performed.
As far as music goes, the OST consists of a variety of tracks that include all kinds of rock from Japanese to heavy to (kinda) gothic and I would highly recommend everyone to pause for a few minutes to enjoy the soundtrack.
DBFZ remains true to the source material and tells a story that will be compelling for fans, but just like it’s contemporaries, lacks the narrative pull that other story heavy genres present, mostly due to its lack of player involving narrative. If you are a Dragonball fan, the interactions between characters will make you feel right at home due to the accuracy of the characters portrayed. Of the art style being remarkably authentic in capturing the atmosphere of the anime, there is no doubt and with the voice actors doing a remarkable job one could mistake some of the game’s cut scenes for the anime itself at certain moments.
The story has been divided into 3 arcs which basically tell the same story, but from different perspectives and the player has to complete each arc to move on to the next. It will get repetitive due to the fact that you are playing the same story against an almost brain-dead enemy AI, but for any Dragonball fan, I would suggest sticking with it, even if you feel like it’s a grind, because the ending is totally worth it. You could even say that it kinda has a dark tone to it in the last arc. The plot of DBFZ expects you to have a decent idea about the lore behind each character because the story keeps throwing these various personalities during the first two campaigns and without knowing their background stories from the source material, it’ll become extremely hard for any newcomer to appreciate the banter exchange.
The story of DBFZ is as Dragonball-esque as it gets, where everything’s about becoming strong through training to defeat an enemy far stronger. While that may not be much to ride home about, the nifty additions such branching dialogues and contextual cutscenes give the game a neat twist that keeps the game fresh when it comes to non-gameplay moments. For example, the banter between Cell and adult Gohan about their past fight or about Gotenks wondering whom he should call dad when both Goku and Vegeta are around etc elevate the authenticity.
Now, not every anime based game is able to nail down the visual style that is synonymous to its anime counterpart, and Dragonball Xenoverse 2 is a prime example of that. There is no doubt that Xenoverse is a good looking game, but any fan of the Dragonball franchise can tell that the character models are made for a video game and seem plastic, for the lack of a more reasonable analogy.
Arc System Works’ has painstakingly crafted every moment of the game to stay faithful to the source material where the characters and backgrounds look like they have been taken straight out of the anime. The cel shaded art style only helps in making the game look better.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is undoubtedly one of the best games of the franchise and Arc System Works indeed deserves praise for incorporating several features which are seldom a part of fighting games and which cover up the common flaws which mar fighting games, and hence this game rightly serves as a benchmark for upcoming fighting games. Whether you are a Dragon Ball fan or not, Dragon Ball FighterZ is indeed one of the games you should definitely try out.