Dragon Ball, the classic (and still running) anime is pretty much a staple in pop culture and has had many entries in the video game market throughout the years.
I remember importing a few for the very first Playstation because I was such a fan. Most of the recent DB games have all been 3-D type arena like brawlers and I never particularly enjoyed them for the ones I did play always seem to have this rock, paper, scissor type of fighting dynamic to it that I found annoying. What I did love though was the huge roster of characters they always had, but ever since Marvel vs Capcom hit the scene I always wondered how come there isn’t a crazy over the top 2-D Dragon Ball game for consoles? Namco, must have asked themselves the same thing because here comes Dragon Ball FighterZ, the 2-D fighting game that a lot of DB fans have been waiting for.
The game was developed by Arc System Works, the makers of Guilty Gear and it was nothing more than pure genius on Namco’s part to let these guys work on the IP. The graphics in Arc’s own Guilty Gear are already anime quality so it was a perfect match to let Arc System give DB the same treatment. What Arc have done with DragonBall FighterZ is nothing short of amazing. They have taken everything that made the anime such a classic and incorporated it into an extremely competent fighter. Fighters fly at each other at ludicrous speeds, unleash a flurry of over the top projectiles at each other, deflect said projectiles and send them flying off into the background causing objects in the background to explode in a manner similar to the anime series itself. Each fighter can teleport (or move so fast that the eye can’t track their movements) behind a character for an extra hit, unleash their trademarks supers that will result in stages being blown apart or the opponent getting blasted off world. It’s these details that help make this game, not only one of the best DBZ games ever but one of the best fighters to come along in a while.
The gameplay is ridiculously easy to pick up and in no time you’ll be flying towards an opponent and spamming the light button to perform some more than gratifying Dragon Ball combos straight from the show. I personally had a great time just doing the basics for a good while until I started to learn deeper techniques. The people you face will catch on to button mashers and have appropriate punishing answers to them. But even still, button mashing at times works (at least for me) and I have a great time doing it. Every character has specials to perform and they are all glorious cinematics and I giggled with joy seeing all the call backs from the show I watched way back. Seeing (teen) Gohan throw a one handed kamehameha, Adult Gohan, Goten and Goku teaming up and doing a combined kamehameha or Trunk’s sword slash into an under arm blast is all just a pure tetanus shot of awesome nostalgia. There’s even a special where, if Frieza gets hard knock-downed, he can perform a desperate last attempt blast at the opponent just like the end of Goku’s and Freiza fight on Namek. Absolutely brilliant!
every fighter moving forward from Japan needs to be in this visual style…by law!
I cannot stress enough just how fantastic the visuals are. Guilty Gear Xrd looks amazing and this is seriously no different. I would go as far as to say that every fighter moving forward from Japan needs to be in this visual style…by law! King of Fighters, Street Fighter, Capcom vs Marvel, all of them….except for maybe Tekken, Tekken is fine the way it is.
the menus and network code for this game are downright atrocious
However, its not all sunshine and senzu beans. With all the things that Arc and Namco have done right with the gameplay and fighting mechanics, I seriously wonder if they outsourced and approved the rest of the game to Silly Sally’s Hack n’ Wack Network Inc. because the menus and network code for this game are downright atrocious. The main menu is non existent as the game automatically takes you online and puts you in some sort of virtual lobby where you take control of a lobby avatar and then walk to areas on the map to access game options like Story Mode, Rank Match, Local Play, etc. This is all well and good if it worked 100% of the time but I found myself getting kicked out of lobbies far too often and having to turn on the game and wait what seems to be an eternity just to connect to a lobby just to play story mode. Truly infuriating.
welcome to the most convoluted, most insane way in fighting history to play your friends in a game
What if you want to challenge some friends online? Well, welcome to the most convoluted, most insane way in fighting history to play your friends in a game. This set up, in this day and age of connectivity is unacceptable. First you have to pick a server from a huge list set up in different regions of the world, then you have to pick a lobby in that server, then you have to tell your friends the exact same info for them to join, then you set up a personal ring match (which by the way just recently started to work correctly), and then wait for all your friends to hopefully join the lobby/server and then give them the directions on where your avatar is on the map to join.
The confusion doesn’t end there! You know how in most 99.9% of fighting games where in the beginning of each match you select your characters to fight? Well Arc has decided that you must pre select your teams beforehand and in order to change the team you have to go into a menu and edit your team. When doing this in a ring match with more than two players you’ll miss out on spectator mode and you’ll just have to sit there looking at the lobby screen until that match is over. What the hell?! I remember Guilty Gear having the same type of system and I always thought that was bat shit insane but for Arc to do it for Dragon Ball and even worse Namco sign off on it is what really made me go Super Saiyan 3 with anger. Why? What’s the point in this?
I sometimes had to wait up to 20 minutes just to find a match
Pre-selected teams don’t make the matches go any faster. In fact, the loading times for online games are ridiculous. Seriously, you will sit there on the vs screen for minutes and whilst you’re there thinking its loading, that vs. screen transitions into a Now Loading screen and sometimes that will transition into an ‘Attention Please Wait’ screen! You seriously have no idea how many times my friends and I were all super pumped, talking egregious smack and then we just all sit there quiet…waiting for the match to start. Want to play a Rank or Casual match? Good luck! I sometimes had to wait up to 20 minutes just to find a match and then once I did I would get kicked out during a match because of the connection. Fix this Namco/Arc!
Another disappointment is the roster. It is really disappointing to notice the lack of characters from a show that has spanned decades. You have the basic characters you would expect Goku, Vegeta, Frieza, Cell plus some surprises like Tien, Nappa and Yamcha (Yamcha is a beast, no lie, Yamcha is freakin bad ass in this game). But I have to wonder when I see this game getting perfect scores when some of the same reviews dogged out Marvel vs Capcom Infinite for having a small line up too. Don’t get me wrong, I am no MvC:I fan but I can’t chew out their line up and then give DB a pass. This line up should have been definitely bigger and the only excuse for it not being bigger is DLC.
This game screams obvious additional DLC characters, in fact there are already talks from a data mine of the PC version on possible DLC characters. In my opinion this sucks because with a game whose source material started in 1989 (further back if you count the original series) up until now there is no reason why the roster couldn’t have been bigger. Characters like Raditz, Master Roshi, Videl, Mr. Satan, Dabura, BROLY should have been present day one in the game and this doesn’t even include the Super series which with the current Tournament of Power saga could have boosted the roster even more.
DragonBall FighterZ is an anime nerd dream almost come true. It is a spectacular fighting game that no doubt has wiped the floor with MvC as the over-the-top go to fighting game for the fans. However, the severe network issues, questionable and confusing UI design decisions and small initial roster keeps this game from achieving ultra instinct.