Dragon Ball FighterZ is Over 9000!
Developer Arc System Works put a lot of thought into Dragon Ball FighterZ. From shot for shot recreations of iconic manga scenes to the series’ lighted-hearted humor, Dragon Ball FighterZ delivers for longtime fans. The gameplay itself has seen praise from the fighting community for finally allowing for a serious competitive scene. And while the multiplayer can sometimes leave something to be desired, overall the game has a lot going for it.
Fighting with Flair: Gameplay
If there is one thing FighterZ did not skip out on, it’s the series’ flair for the dramatic. As a matter of fact, it’s a gameplay mechanic. Meeting specific criteria in a match allows for “Dramatic Finishes”. For instance, if a player has Goku and Krillin together in a team fighting Frieza and Frieza beats Krillin, instead of a normal knockout the player is treated to a recreation of the scene where Frieza kills Krillin while Goku is forced to watch. Another such “Dramatic Finish” involves Beerus and Goku.
Even smaller Easter eggs lay hidden about. Certain teammates may appear in each other’s super moves. Android 18 normally fights with her brother 17, but if Krillin joins the team then the married couple will fight together. The number of Easter eggs and creative finishes implore the player to try different team compositions.
Dragon Ball FighterZ allows for a much more streamlined experienced. A common problem with some fighting games, particularly the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, happens when the next character in a line-up jumps into the match. A waiting opponent can attack as soon as the character pops in, leading to a cycle of hurting. FighterZ makes it so that both players enter a dynamic opening, resetting character positions upon completion. This allows for a fresh start for both players and avoids unfair advantages.
Another great use of abilities lies in the assist characters. Even canonically weak characters like Krillin, Tien, etc., get their chance to shine when it comes to assist abilities. Taking a beating? Fall back and summon Krillin for a Senzu Bean. Need to build super meter? Yamcha will sweep in with some rapid-fire punches. Stunning enemies? Tien and Chiaotzu have you covered. The sheer amount of thought put into every character and interaction makes the gameplay incredibly fun and rewarding.
Episode 2: Graphics
A great amount of detail went towards making the game look like the anime. Through the use of clever animation and cell shading, cut-scenes appear as if ripped straight from episodes. Another spot of detail comes from sustained damage. Both characters and the background will retain damage from a fight.
Deflecting a Ki blast may result in it flying towards the background and damaging the scenery. The damaged scene will remain for the rest of the battle. Likewise, the more beaten a character, the more physical indicators. Torn clothes, wounds, bruises, and more will appear. The realistic depiction of such scarring adds credibility to the fights.
Perhaps one of the coolest aspects of the game comes from the depiction of the manga. The characters’ animations have very specific call-backs. From the position of the body to facial expressions, the graphics capture the spirit of each person. Vegeta’s animations are a direct reference to his battles in the manga. Gohan’s low kick has origins in his fight with Cell. Everything has a basis in the source material, which will delight fans of the franchise to no end.
The one downside to the graphics comes from the cut-scene animations. As good as everything looks, the movements feel stiff. The animations look as if the animators had a start position and end position, with the computer filling out the in-between. Most times, the goofiness of the scene works well with the animation. During serious scenes, however, the robotic movements tend to take away from the emotional impact. Overall the cut-scenes could have used a tad more polishing, but the graphics and animations work incredibly well everywhere else.
A Solid Story
Fighting games don’t usually delve too deeply into a story. At most, they function as an excuse plot to get characters to battle. Even Dragon Ball Xenoverse used its story to recap existing lore. Dragon Ball FighterZ takes a whole new direction.
The Story Mode opens to an original story and original character, Android 21, developed by Akira Toriyama himself. With a new evil looming over the horizon, friends and enemies alike will need to team up to face the challenges ahead. Three arcs make up the story: The Z Fighters, The Villains, and The Androids. Each arc further elaborates on the motivations of each character.
The character interactions make the story really shine. Certain scenes can trigger depending on the team composition. A funny possible interaction involves Goku and Krillin making fun of Yamcha’s perpetual bachelorhood. For the villains, no love is lost between Cell and Frieza. The snark to snark combat between the two affords many chuckles. And for the love of King Enma, don’t ask Cell about Hell. He would rather forget.
These small moments of classic DBZ humor, combined with the anime art style, really makes the player feel as though they are watching an episode of Dragon Ball. The one flaw in the story comes from the grind that takes place. Disregarding boss fights, the characters fight clones of the whole cast. The first few times work to show off moves, but every time thereafter is a placeholder. The story can be summed up as “fight through a gauntlet of clones until you reach the next story cut-scene.” The bits of character interaction break up the monotony, but it would have been nicer if more of the fights related to the story. By the time the third arc rolls around, the clone fights become less entertaining and more pointless.
Here’s a simple fact. When the servers work, playing online is incredibly fun. Unfortunately, cases of matches crashing mid-round are distressingly common. The issue runs across on all platforms, from PC to consoles. The incredible popularity of the game means that servers tend to be overloaded quite quickly, even after a week of release. This can get pretty frustrating the fourth time in a row it happens, especially when a match seems to go particularly well.
Another unfortunate choice that has many gamers shaking their heads is the choice of lobbies for matchmaking purposes. Players will need to waft through a vast amount of overpopulated lobbies every time they wish to play online. Although the lobbies are crowded, wait times can reach up to five minutes before finding a match. And if you want to play with friends? Tough luck. No easy invite system exists in the game. The only surefire way to play with a friend involves the following steps:
- Both people pick the same region and lobby
- One person creates a Ring Match
- Using some outside means, the owner of the room shares the invite code with their friend
- Play! (Provided the room actually gets created)
- Rinse and repeat every single time
Many gamers ask why a simple invite system couldn’t have been implemented. This process really bogs the potential of the game down. When it works, clashing with others while unleashing game-changing supers really pumps up the blood! But, the process of reaching those epic fights leaves a lot to be desired.
To put it simply, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a love letter to Akira Toriyama’s classic series. Arc System Works put in clear effort to stay faithful to the source material. The humor, the characters, the interactions, even the little odds and ends have thought put into it. While the multiplayer may have issues, when the servers do hold up the online offers fun challenges. Without a doubt, Dragon Ball FighterZ gives fans from all across the board exactly what they want and then some.
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