As the old adage so delicately puts it: Dragon! Dragon! Rock The Dragon! Dragon Ball Z! As true now as it was back then, this infallible selection of 90’s lyrics goes to show the true artistry that lies at the core of Akira Toriyama’s famed creation. Of course, a true creator never remains content for long and the various people who have added their input to this franchise have created many a variation on the formula that is Dragon Ball Z. This time around, it’s Arc System Works’ turn and they have most certainly put their spin on the seven magic balls that we have all sought since we were young. Which is totally fine because you can see the stars no matter what angle you look at them, thanks to the magic way they were made and…I’ll just move onto the topic at hand.
Dragon Ball FighterZ, the game that every fan wanted when they saw the artwork way back when and have only now figured out how to pronounce (like the word “fighters”). Myself included, by the by, those comparison shots of the original manga and mid-fight stills were amazing. They probably still are, I just haven’t gone back to look at them, you know, what with the game being released and all. Granted, the speed with which characters blaze around the 2D landscape somewhat limits frame-by-frame comparisons, though the experience is no less rewarding for doing so. Who would have guessed? From simple punches, to intricate combos and beams that apparently hold the power to destroy a planet, every action undertaken by a fighter is fluid and beautiful to behold. Although I will admit that said beauty is somewhat tarnished when you are on the receiving end, but I digress. The attention to visual detail remains the most obvious example of the effort Arc System Works put into this venture and, fighting mechanics aside, puts forth the kind of caring vibe that keeps player morale high. Don’t believe me? Wait until you see how many deep cut costume variations exist for the Lobby characters. Postboy Piccolo, anyone?
Speaking of the Lobby, it’s a pretty chill place to hang before you choose which mode you wish to beat some people up in. True, it is a simple system that has existed in many a game before, but this one is just so cute. With the various set pieces that comprise each game option and chibis characters that litter Online, there is certainly a a part of you that will just want to bop along to the music and run around as your favourite DBZ chibi friend. Or is that just me? Because it might just be me.
Biting into the meat of this game, FighterZ is different things to different people. For those like me, who lack any discernible amount of skill, it is an exercise in mashing buttons until cool things happen and you make it to the next Story Mode cutscene. For most others however (including myself on a very, very good day), it is a deluge of combos and technical blocks that create one of the fastest paced games of Scissors-Paper-Rock you will ever play. From a simple punch, a Kamehameha is born…only to be immediately countered by Android 18’s Energy Barrier, followed by a beatdown from one of the objectively strongest/cutest couples around. If your opponent picked both Android 18 and Krillin as part of their roster of course, I’m not getting into any kind of 17/18 thing here. Regardless, none of that matters when Nappa, of all people, screams a laser so hard that the whole entire planet of Earth explodes…not that that stops the fighting for even a single second. And isn’t that what Dragon Ball Z is all about?
Franchise piercing question aside, the beauty of FighterZ is that even a series of events described above are not restricted to players who know the exact timing needed to pull off Frieza’s “You might not survive this time” > Death Ball combo. Though said player’s will definitely be playing a different game, even us simpler folk can enjoy tremendously destructive assaults due to the simplicity of the inputs. Most every move can be performed with Quarter Circle + Attack, with basic variations from character to character. The timing can feel a little difficult to get down on occasion, often resulting in an unexpected beatdown that will certainly fuel your disdain for one character in particular, Tien. For those willing to learn, however, the Practice Mode provides a few variables that can better your technique…or infuriate you beyond belief. Let’s just say that Combo Challenges aren’t for everyone, although the ability to turn off all HUD elements in Training bouts is a nice touch that allows for some pretty sweet screenshots. I will say, that anyone who delves into Training early may find the first arc of Story Mode a touch redundant, as Tutorial Challenges litter it throughout. Speaking of…
Story Mode. That tried and true part of a fighting game that often goes ignored in favour of, you know, the fighting. Still, FighterZ provides us with an all new tale of Dragon Ball mystery to satiate our hunger, complete with a character designed by Toriyama himself. Perhaps more interestingly, for all you haters of the forth wall out there, players themselves are also a character unto themselves. With mysterious waves existing as a coverall explanation for how fighters like Tien are able to go toe-to-toe with Cell, a phenomenon known as Linking enters the forefront of importance. Simply put, You are able to enter the bodies of both heroes and villains alike, assuming control of their bodies and enabling them to tap into a fraction of their true power, sealed by the aforementioned waves. Though about as fan fiction as a concept can get, and that’s without even mentioning the Frieza/Cell team up, its meta nature does scratch a very particular itch. Who doesn’t want Vegeta telling them that violence awaits those who harm his Saiyan pride? Or Frieza prattling on about they are worthless before him? Or how much Gohan loves Videl and Pan, despite their complete absence from the game? Well, all that and more is available to those who (surprisingly literally) jump into the epic saga of Android 21 and Figuring Out Just Who the Heck She Is and What the Heck Is Going On…still working on the title.
As frustratingly vague as it may sound, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To the crowd of newcomers and fighting rookies (a.k.a. my people), it is a simplistic enough experience to prevent you tearing your hair out every ten seconds. For the more hardcore out there, it provides a new avenue to sharpen your skills and decimate any foolish enough to stand before you. If you instead label yourself as neither of these and simply hold a love of Dragon Ball Z in your heart, you may have a slightly more conflicted view of FighterZ. Though it undeniably carries the powerful soul of the series within, it is still a fighting game first and a Dragon Ball Z game second. Yes, you can button mash your way through each fight in order to witness the glory of a world where Frieza teams up with Yamcha, but you will arguably be missing out on a lot of what this game has to offer. Not that I can talk, considering I button mashed my way through each fight in order to witness the glory of a world where Frieza teams up with Yamcha. Still, I had a damn fun time and I’m sure you will too…even if Tien is a jerk who blocks every single one of your attacks and Dragon Rushes and pummels you into the ground repeatedly with Tri-Beam.
A little from FighterA, a little from FighterZ