Review: Dragon Ball FighterZ

Dragon Fisticuffs

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

Note: This review originated as an assignment in one of my classes. I edited it slightly (and waited for the semester to be over) before posting it here.

Dragon Ball FighterZ‘ varied roster, stunning visuals, and attention to detail highlights the best the Dragon Ball franchise has to offer–but can the gameplay measure up to its Super Saiyan visual flair?

My first exposure to Dragon Ball Z was in middle school. I was at my friend’s house and he had the show
running in the background.

“Have you seen DBZ before?” He asked.

I said no, and he convinced me to watch it. In the episode, the main character, Goku, faced off with an odd-looking purple alien named Captain Ginyu. The majority of the show’s runtime was spent with the two characters screaming at each other. I relentlessly made fun of the whole thing, much to my friend’s dismay.

The next day, I watched the following episode. And I did it again the day after. I was hooked, and I’ve been a huge fan of the series ever since (sorry for doubting you, Timothy).

So naturally, I was excited when I heard that Arc System Works–the developer behind the popular BlazBlue and Guilty Gear fighting games–was developing a new fighting game with the Dragon Ball Z license. My expectations were high that this new game, called Dragon Ball FighterZ (pronounced ‘fighters’), would nail the over-the-top action and drama that the franchise is known for. Does FighterZ deliver on my hopes?

The short answer is: hell yes.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is a three-on-three competitive tag-style fighting game; each player chooses three characters from a roster of 24 to form a team. Characters face off one-on-one with teammates available to swap in or provide assistance with the push of a button. Once their health has been reduced to zero, the next character jumps in with an explosive flourish, until one team is left standing. It is fast-paced, chaotic, and most importantly, fun–even if your opponent is beating you senseless

Matches are 3-on-3 affairs with lots of tag-teaming, visual flair, and subtle complexity.

To make things easier for players who may be fans of DBZ but not necessarily fighting games, Arc Sys has implemented an auto-combo system. With the repeated press of a single button, a player can trigger a devastating series of attacks that will leave their opponents reeling. This system can make even the most novice fighter a formidable challenge.

However, to really excel at the game, you have to get your hands dirty–learn how to read your opponent, lay on the pressure, and set them up for more complex attack combinations. Games have always tried to be easy to get into but difficult to master, however, Dragon Ball FighterZ is the first time this notion truly feels accurate. It is this ease of use and subtle complexity that makes Dragon Ball FighterZ stand tall in the overcrowded ring of fighting games.

The attention to detail in Dragon Ball FighterZ is incredible. Its beautiful visuals perfectly capture series creator Akira Toriyama’s art style. The roster of fighters span the entirety of DBZ (with a few from the sequel series Dragon Ball Super) and their interactions are entertaining and true to each character’s personality. Iconic scenes from the anime are incorporated into special moves and dramatic finishes that woven throughout each battle. To top it all off, a dual English and Japanese language track are offered so that players can decide if they want to hear the original voice cast or Funimation’s American voice-overs.

The Dragon Ball FighterZ story mode has a weak plot, but terrific character interactions.

Dragon Ball FighterZ has a robust selection of modes in which players can participate. Connecting to a central online lobby, a player chooses an avatar representing characters from the series in a variety of outfits and colors, and can join in on a multitude of game types. On offer is an arcade mode of variable difficulty, a practice mode to hone your skills, a replay channel to watch top matches and review your own fights, local battles, ranked and casual matches, and ring matches where you can fight your friends online.

For those looking for a single player experience, FighterZ provides a 12-14 hour story mode with cutscenes, full voice acting, and an abundance of opponents with whom to engage. The mode’s great and often humorous character dialogue makes up for an otherwise weak plot.

Any modern fighting game worth its salt has to have a reliable online component. These days, there is little use to a fighting game that you can’t take online, so it is with great happiness and relief that I can report that I have had little issue connecting with and fighting people from around the world. There are occasional hiccups, lag, and dropped connections, but for the most part, the experience has been smooth.

Despite a few hiccups, Dragon Ball FighterZ online component works reliably.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is a gorgeous, authentic experience, and a love letter to the series that many of us grew up with in the 90s. Arc System Works has made sure that Dragon Ball Z finally has a game that is fast, fun, and enjoyable to the series-faithful, fighting game enthusiasts, and casual gamers alike.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is the first truly excellent Dragon Ball game, and not just a game that will appeal strictly to fans. It is also the closest we can get to fully recreating the episode where Goku and Captain Ginyu yelled at each other and traded blows for thirty minutes–except this time, I won’t have anything bad to say about it.


Posted by Stan Guderski