Chillin’ With Krillin
HIGH Blowing enemies away with super attacks, then seeing the result from outer space.
LOW That’s one insufferably drawn-out story mode.
WTF Android 21 has one hell of an eating disorder.
It’s fair to say that I’m basically clueless about the Dragon Ball franchise. I’ve never read the manga, nor watched even a single episode of the anime. That said, it didn’t take Bandai Namco long to get my attention when they announced Dragon Ball FighterZ last year. After all, Arc Systems Works were involved in its development, and as the creative force behind the excellent Guilty Gear franchise, it’s clear they know how to make a damn fine fighting game.
That said, after spending twenty or so hours with FighterZ, I find myself in the slightly odd predicament of thinking that it’s a gorgeous and highly accomplished brawler that I’m simply not blown away by.
Upon loading Dragon Ball FighterZ, players are thrown into a slightly odd avatar-based lobby system that doubles as the main menu of the game. There are a fair amount of modes available whilst wandering around, including genre standards such as Arcade and Story options, as well as online and local arenas for throwing down with other players. Fights are comprised of tag team 3-on-3 bouts, with characters swapping in and out to assist the active character by extending their combos or interrupting the opponent’s. They’re also good for swapping them out to let them regain some health.
The 24-character roster’s decent, I guess, even if most of the cast are too samey for my liking. Many of the fighters look too similar due to their clothing, coupled with the near-perfect replication of Akira Toriyama’s art style. Some characters like Goku or Vegeta also have alternate versions of themselves. Female characters are almost entirely absent from the lineup, with only Android 18 initially available, and Android 21 unlocking after finishing the story mode.
Dragon Ball FighterZ‘ controls are a little different from traditional 2D fighters. The main attack buttons aren’t there to throw out individual hits, for example – they generally chain into additional attacks via repeat presses. On the PS4, tapping square performs a normal combo, triangle ends with a super attack, circle throws out heavy blows that bounce opponents off the wall, and the X button hurls fireballs. There are also a ton of movement options such as double jumps, air dashes, a homing dash, and the ability to tag other characters in for assists or to join in on coordinated supers designed to blow the opponent straight to hell.
Frankly, I’m not entirely sold on the proliferation of auto-combos here. Part of the excitement of a good fighter comes when a player attempts a tricky, hard-to-execute combo with high damage potential, and there’s a chance that they could flub it halfway through and get punished for the mistake. When combos boil down to simply tapping triangle numerous times… well, it’s far less likely that either player will mess something up that simple.
It’s not that there’s no scope for advanced players to excel however – when accounting for assists, manual super-assisted attacks, jump cancels and all the other tricks FighterZ has, there’s a terrifying amount of potential to overwhelm opponents who only have a basic grasp of the system. However, at low levels it leads to matches feeling rote, and almost automated in their approach. The homing dash every character has adds to this issue, given that most of the online matches I played were spamming it to ludicrous levels.
Unfortunately, the online matchmaking feature is currently borked. It takes way too long to find someone to fight against, with matches routinely taking five minutes or more to connect whilst sitting in queue. For some fighters with lower player counts this is par for the course, but Dragon Ball FighterZ‘ lobbies were stuffed absolutely full at the time of review. I have no idea why, but it simply has trouble connecting into actual matches. Get ready to twiddle much thumb while waiting.
Speaking of which, the story mode is a thundering disappointment. Initial impressions were fairly positive thanks to the excellent graphics during cutscenes and a fairly unique semi-RPG approach to battles — fighting multiple matches will gain EXP used to power up selected characters and make things easier for them further down the line. Numerous buffs and perks can also be acquired, such as auto-regenerating health or doing more damage per attack.
Unfortunately there are two glaring issues holding Story mode back. First, the script is absolutely terrible, filled with mediocre dialogue and a weak plot. Second, the whole thing is insufferably drawn out with an insane amount of matches against cloned versions of the main cast. Spread over three story arcs and shown from three separate points of view, it takes about eight hours to reach a final conclusion that doesn’t feel even remotely worth the effort it took in getting there.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is an odd one. It looks incredible and has a fair amount of depth below its auto-combo surface, but it failed to get its hooks into me. The single player modes aren’t particularly engaging, and the broken online makes engaging in the multiplayer take way longer than it needs to. Those lucky enough to have a thriving local fighting scene are the real winners here until the servers are sorted out. FighterZ isn’t entirely my thing, but it’s easy to see that it’s as well-made, polished, and fanservicey as humanly possible.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Arc Systems Works and published by Bandai Namco. It is currently available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 14 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 5 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Teen and contains Cartoon Violence, Mild Language and Mild Suggestive Themes. There’s nothing in here that would freak out the kids, in my opinion, though the fact that one of the android characters looks humanoid and acts a bit like a cannibal might raise an eyebrow or two. She turns enemies into candy, then chows down on them so… yeah.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game’s more or less entirely playable without aural cues, though split second advantages may be missed due to characters audibly warning of upcoming attacks. Subtitles are readily available.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.