Dragon Ball FighterZ producer on uniting communities
Tomoko Hiroki talks about the team's objectives when making the successful 2.5D fighting game
The New Year got off to a great start for game releases on both Steam PC and console – with Dragon Ball FighterZ among the top sellers across multi-platforms.
The 2.5D arcade-style fighter took a step back from Bandai Namco’s free-roaming 3D battles seen in the last two Dragon Ball games, Xenoverse and Xenoverse 2, and brought more of an emphasis on close-quarter combat – and its graphical appearance paying homage to the anime series.
Hitting two million sales across all platforms and becoming the most-played fighting game in Steam history are but a few honors that FighterZ has already acquired in such a short space of time. Bandai’s strategy to bring back current and former Dragon Ball gamers, alongside fighting genre fans, seems to have paid off.
Speaking exclusively to Fanatical, Dragon Ball FighterZ producer Tomoko Hiroki spoke about Bandai Namco’s main objectives and what they and the development team (Arc System Works) wanted to achieve going into their latest Dragon Ball video game project.
“The main objective of this game was to introduce the excitement of fighting games to Dragon Ball game fans, while at the same time get people from the fighting game community to enjoy a character game in a way that they know of,” says Tomoko, who has worked at Bandai Namco Entertainment for 10 years. “To summarize, it is to make an enjoyable and accessible game for both. Dragon Ball games have a long-history within the gaming community itself, and we think it is the perfect time for us to deepen our expansion into the fighting game community.
“Our expectation while creating Dragon Ball FighterZ was for this game to be a critically-acclaimed character game, that is acknowledged by the fighting game community for its competitiveness. At the end of the day, we hope that this can be the game for people from different communities to enjoy.”
One of the many reasons why Dragon Ball FighterZ seems to hit so many sweet spots with anime fans and previous Dragon Ball gamers was the inclusion of Akira Toriyama, the creator of the Dragon Ball anime, who provided his expertise by supervising the creation of the brand-new character and antagonist, Android 21. We asked Tomoko what it was like having Akira on board and the overall experience it added to Dragon Ball FighterZ.
“Rather than a whole supervision, we had Akira Toriyama to supervise the character design of Android 21,” explains Tomoko. “For other characters and portions of the game, we had Shueisha and TOEI Animation to supervise the creation of FighterZ. The supervision support from all parties helped us to create an authentic – yet fresh – Dragon Ball content that everyone can enjoy in Dragon Ball FighterZ.”
There's a long-standing history of great Dragon Ball arcade-style fighting games, with Dragon Ball Z III: Ressen Jinzōningen (1992) being the first notable game from Bandai’s list to move to live-action, arcade fighting as opposed to the turn-based card battle systems used in previous games through the late 80s and early 90s.
Tomoko – who previously worked on Dragon Ball Z Extreme Butoden (2015) and Dragon Ball Fusions (2016) – talked about how Bandai approached FighterZ in a different way.
“Our approach starts by determining our targets: which were Dragon Ball game fans and fighting game fans,” says Tomoko. “The team’s aim on this project was to merge the elements of character games and fighting games, and then create a game that would cater to both parties. One way to achieve that was by trying to simplify the button layout (command)—making it easier for fighting game beginners, while adding the strategizing element for veteran fighting game players at the same time.
“A button-mashable game in some cases, but on the other hand, a truly competitive game when fully utilize all battle features. Compared to previous games, the accessibility of the game was truly our biggest concern in making this game successful.”
It was this simple yet effective button layout, and the capability of enjoying the game whatever your skill level, which led to critics and gamers heaping praise on Dragon Ball FighterZ. We asked Tomoko how important it is, to Bandai Namco, that fighting game veterans and new players can adjust to the game's mechanics so swiftly.
“Very important,” she says. “Making the game mechanics accessible for both Dragon Ball fans and players from the fighting game community was one of our main goals and also the overall concept. We’re glad with how players have received this game so far – and we’re looking forward to more people picking up this game and joining the Dragon Ball FighterZ community.”
With such a long-standing franchise of fighting games based in the Dragon Ball universe, we asked Tomoko whether there are any popular elements and features from previous games which she felt needed to be included in FighterZ.
“I personally like that feature because it truly represents Dragon Ball, but not only that, implementing a one-of-a-kind feature like Ki Charge to a fighting game like Dragon Ball FighterZ would certainly broaden the battle dynamics – thus making the game much more interesting for fighting game fans.
“That’s why the inclusion of Ki Charge in this game was important for me.”
With overall ‘Very Positive’ reviews on Steam and ‘86’ on Metacritic since its launch in January, we asked Tomoko about any particular feedback from players that the team is most proud of.
You can also check out our take on what the game got right here