As a kid, I’ve always wanted to perform a Kamehameha. I know, it’s impossible (*whispers* still holding out hope). One year, I even dressed up as Goku for Halloween. If you haven’t caught at what I’m getting at, it’s that Dragon Ball has had quite an impact on my growing up. Once I got into video games and tried The Legacy of Goku games on the Game Boy Advance, I knew nothing would come close to that enjoyment…until I picked up DragonBall FighterZ.
Having skipped out on most of the well-regarded Budokai series and only dipped my toes in Xenoverse 2, the anticipation to jump into FighterZ was over 9,000. Taking many elements from the Marvel vs. Capcom series, Dragon Ball FighterZ (pronounced as “Fighterz”, not “Fighter-Z”) offers 3-on-3 team-based combat. The roster contains plenty of the iconic Dragon Ball characters: Super Saiyan Goku, Super Saiyan Vegeta, adult Gohan, teen Gohan, Gotenks, Krillin, Yamcha, Piccolo, Trunks, Cell, Frieza, Majin Buu, Kid Buu, Tien, Nappa, Captain Ginyu, Beerus, Hit, Goku Black, Android 16, Android 18, and Android 21. In addition to these characters, the Super Saiyan Blue versions of Goku and Vegeta are also available through either paid-DLC, earning enough Zeni (in-game currency), or by completing certain Arcade modes on Hard difficulty.
The plot of FighterZ is split into three distinct, but roughly similar, story arcs: Super Warrior Arc, Enemy Warrior Arc, and Android 21 Arc. The “main” arc, Super Warrior, features Goku as the main character as he and the Z fighters battle a new enemy in Android 21. FighterZ does a creative job in explaining how the player controls each of the fighters by stating certain waves around the Earth have suppressed everyone’s power and only you are able to fully unlock it. The Enemy Warrior Arc puts you in the driver’s seat of Frieza, and the Android 21 Arc has you primarily in control of Android 18. Each arc revolves around the general story-line of fighting Android 21 in some capacity, but taken from different perspectives. The timeline of FighterZ in relation to the anime places the game sometime after the Resurrection F movie.
In order to appeal to a mass audience, developer Arc System Works crafted FighterZ to be very kind to novice players. The mechanics present the standard light, medium, and heavy attacks, while also incorporating special abilities and the use of assists by your idle teammates. Just like any fighting game, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of button-mashing, but learning how to properly string together attacks is quite satisfying. An added bonus in stringing together long combos is being able to secure the Dragon Balls. You must land seven individual combos of 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, and 70+ to have the ability to summon Shenron. While it doesn’t necessarily matter what order the Dragon Balls are collected or who even collects them (the Dragon Balls are shared in a pool between you and your opponent) the player who has the max seven power bars filled will be able to summon the dragon. Once Shenron is summoned, the dragon will grant one of four wishes: heal your current fighter to full health, revive a fallen teammate with 50 percent health, automatically boost your Ki gauge (power bars) back to max, or restore five percent of your health and grant you a second Sparking Blast icon. The icon can only be used once in a match and it grants you a temporary raise in power. This mechanic is extremely important to master, because it can easily turn the tide in battle.
Aside from the standard fighting mechanics, each individual fighter has their own pros and cons. For example, Cell is able to perform an aerial Ki blast that lays waste to roughly half of the ground on the map, but the android has a grab move that can sometimes mess up a combo if you aren’t close enough to your enemy. Fans have already begun constructing lists online with various team builds that suit a wide-range of players.
Developing a video game is hard enough, but based on a franchise as popular as Dragon Ball can be daunting. Arc System Works and Bandai Namco went above and beyond the level of expectation in FighterZ. While certain parts of the plot are a bit weak, the voice acting and dialogue between the characters rival the anime itself. The bickering between Goku and Vegeta about who will fight first, and the extreme narcissistic attitude of Cell transform FighterZ beyond a standard fighting experience. Coupling the precise voice acting is the beautiful art work. Even though FighterZ is primarily a 2-D fighting game, the special attack animations make the game look three-dimensional and present a smooth, dramatic flow like the anime. The vibrant colors make the art pop out, and each set-piece is as beautiful to look at as nostalgic. Whether or not FighterZ becomes the next big thing in the fighting community, it will absolutely rank high on your own Dragon Ball gaming experience.
Final Score: 9/10