What Dragon Ball FighterZ got right
We review what makes Bandai's latest fighting game a hit
Dragon Ball FighterZ is a 2.5D arcade fighting game featuring a strong roster of characters from the popular anime series, including Goku, Vegeta, Cell and Frieza. Stepping away from the 3D large-scale battles seen in the MMO action games Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, FighterZ pulls players back into close quarters for an intense thrill ride.
We checked out the game before launch to give you an idea on what to expect, and what the game got so right.
Fresh approach to narrative and campaign mode
Dragon Ball players have been used to the time travel element seen in both Xenoverse games, but Dragon Ball FighterZ takes a fresh approach with a brand new story, supervised by none other than Dragon Ball anime creator Akira Toriyama. Mysterious waves have spread across the world, draining the energy of the fighters to the point of exhaustion.
Using the LINK system, players will be absorbed into individual characters to help them fight and regain their strength - whilst learning more about the events that have unfolded. The Red Ribbon Army are believed to be responsible for these dangerous waves of energy, but the appearance of a brand new character - Android 21 - sees a twist in the story, as Goku and friends (and former enemies) begin to understand what is happening and the deadly threat that they face.
The story mode - split into three main sagas - has also taken a step in the tactical map direction, with players now moving across a series of zones in each chapter. This innovative strategy approach tests the players' ability to choose the correct path in a limited amount of moves.
You can race to the main mission in each chapter, rescuing a fighter and assigning them to your team - but the risk of this approach is that your fighters (fighterz) may be too weak. There's also the option of moving around the map and taking the long route, fighting enemies to gain XP and learning a few combos by completing in-battle tutorials - but the longer you wait to approach the main mission, the more power the enemy/enemies gain. A quirky feature to make sure that you experiment with your unlocked roster is the fact that fighters take health damage from previous battles into the next one - so either rest members of your team or brave the next fight with a disadvantage!
There are perks which you can attach for each fight which will help with health recovery and regeneration, but switching now and again also allows you to level up other characters.
Finding that balance between leveling up and taking out dangerous threats gives this campaign a real edge over story modes in other arcade-style fighting games.
Super awesome combat
With developer Arc System Works on board - the team behind the Guilty Gear series - players will immediately get the sense of simplicity combined with enjoyability. That's not to say that this will be an easy ride as powerful enemies will come at you thick and fast - but being able to master some effective, super awesome combat moves with just a few clicks or button presses makes the experience all the more satisfying when you kick your opponent through a mountain for a Destructive Finish or blast them into space.
Similar to the likes of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, battles are 3v3 - with each team able to call in (tag team) allied fighters into combat for either a short period of time - adding additional damage to a special combo - or switching characters. You'll need to watch the cooldown bars as fellow fighters can't just be swapped in and out every few seconds, which is good as it prevents random tag team button mashing.
Those who've played the Xenoverse games will be familiar with how long it can take to power up during battle, turning Super Saiyan, etc, given the fact that the enemy could defeat you before you reach your preferred power level. FighterZ already has Super Saiyan level characters, so that skips one transformation, and accessing SS2 or SS3 can be as easy as unleashing a special attack. Take Super Saiyan Goku for instance when using the Meteor Smash move - when your Ki level is high - Goku will instantly power up to his SS3 form, perform the attack, and then return to SS.
Having the opportunity to unleash a series of epic special moves without spending too much time powering up is definitely a step in the right direction, one that gamers will appreciate in the heat of battle.
It's the little things that make a difference with Dragon Ball FighterZ - the 2.5D style of this game pays homage to the anime series' look, it genuinely feels like you're watching the TV show in some cutscenes - and even the way new fighters come charging into the arena to replace a fallen ally gets you pumped up for the next round.
The ability to pick up the game and quickly become accustomed to the combat makes this a great Dragon Ball game for fans and newcomers alike.
Taking the fight online
From the game's Central Hub, players will have control over a miniature Dragon Ball character - which can be customized - and from here you'll be able to select a number of online modes. Party Match is where things really get intense, six players take part in the 3v3 battles - each controlling one of the roster as you tag team in and out for a tactical edge, or to save your friend from defeat.
There's also Circle Match mode, where eight players can enter the room to fight each other, and the World Match mode where you'll have the choice of ranked or casual matches. If taking on the world isn't your bag, you can play offline Tournament mode or take on AI teams in Arcade Mode - which, when completing the hard mode path, unlocks SSGSS Goku and SSGSS Vegeta!
Early beta gameplay in multiplayer battles appears good with no issues, so expect a smooth performance from launch.
The roster is generous, but not too clustered, so you won't be scratching your head over which trio to pick for battle, the full list of fighters confirmed for launch can be found in our game preview post. Whether you choose a team of Super Saiyans or the Androids, you'll have a blast.
The soundtracks used throughout the game offers the usual ambiance to a scenario in the story or an arena setting, but songs like the Main Theme have been perfectly picked for this game. To get the players' heart racing and adrenaline pumping even from the opening scene, even before entering a fight, makes this game ooze with entertainment. It's everything you'd expect, and want, from a Japanese style fighting game.
Adding the well-known sound effects and the return of popular voice actors from the anime - such as Sean Schemmel (Goku/ Black Goku) - makes FighterZ all the more authentic.
With a unique story and fast-paced, addictive combat - Dragon Ball FighterZ looks set to be one of the top fighting games for 2018.
SAM'S SCORE: ★★★★