In a year already filled with surprises, who would have thought we would finally get a great DRAGON BALL FIGHTER Z game? Go ahead and ask any Dragon Ball fan what their favorite game is, and you’ll get a myriad of answers. Dragon Ball games date back to the original PlayStation 1 and have run the gamut from terrible to mediocre to even decent.
However, Arc System Works has finally given us a game worthy of the name. DRAGON BALL FIGHTER Z is not just a great Dragon Ball game, but a great fighting game through and through. Mechanically sound and easy to pick up, it includes everything that makes the series great. Gorgeous cel-shaded animation to last-minute comebacks against unwinnable odds are par for the course.
DRAGON BALL FIGHTER Z’s New Tale
The main draw for long-time series fans will be the entirely new story, set after the events of the most recent iteration of the show; Dragon Ball Super. The story picks up with a mysterious villain having cloned earth defenders as well as a handful of villains.
These evil clones using these now wreak havoc across the globe. It is up to the player to take control of Goku and friends to take the fight to them; which is done on a branching map. Each story section unlocks new characters for you to try out, and the battles ramp up in intensity as you proceed.
This method of linear progression can be grating after a short while, but the voice actors are firing on all cylinders and do an excellent job keeping the material fresh, so boredom isn’t an issue. In between the fights against computer-controlled opponents, there is a central hub where you can level up and train your characters. This mechanic adds a fun amount of RPG elements and the well-written dialogue can be particularly hilarious during the downtime.
Fight Your Friends (or the Internet)
Along with the story mode, the game includes an assortment of other modes including both online and off. Arcade is a fun diversion and has you fight towards an ever more difficult ladder of computer-controlled opponents. Training, allows you to pick a fighter and teaches you basic to advanced combo attacks with them. If you’re the competitive type, online fights are where this game’s true spirit shines.
The roster draws from 24 characters from the series long history; including the super powerful Saiyans to cackling villains. More characters will be released as Downloadable Content later in the year — two having already been announced! All characters have their own strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to tailor your team to a specific style.
Do you prefer to fight up close? Keep your opponent guessing? Each player can switch between their three fighters at any time during the match, and even call out one of their resting characters for an assist move. Whether you use this to supplement a combo or merely keep your opponent on their toes can make all the difference.
You VS. Everyone
Online matches are divided up into Casual and Ranked matches, fighting players from all over the world. As you play more and win, your rank will go up affecting the players you’re matched with. This works for the most part, but on occasion, you will find someone nigh unbeatable.
The only real problem with this system is the way in which you accept matches. Once you queue for an online match, you and your opponent both have to accept. This can lead to situations where you have accepted a match, but your opponent hasn’t. You then have to wait nearly 60 seconds while the timer rounds down to move on leaving you twiddling your thumbs.
Meat and Potatoes
Arc System Works has done a fantastic job of bringing the series fights to life on your television. Sparks fly, character soar through the air and energy beams explode across the screen. Stages are beautifully rendered and faithful to the anime, characters and stages take damage as the fights go on; stages crumbling, characters bruising.
Fights in DRAGON BALL FIGHTER Z take place on a flat 2D plane, differing this game from many of its predecessors which were far less inviting. The fighting system is deceptively simple. Each button is assigned a different attack, and a flurry of taps on a single button will pull off a flashy auto-combo. At first, you’ll be relying on these combos for your main strategy. The more you play, the more you realize the systems go much deeper, rewarding in-depth exploration and time spent in the training mode.
You can select any of these modes from a lobby screen. Customizing your avatar is easy and fun, using money accrued during matches. These, for the most part, work as intended, however hiding these modes behind what is mostly an “always online” service hasn’t paid off.
As of this writing, nearly a month into release, the game’s servers can be temperamental at best. During fights, you can be disconnected, and taken back to the home screen. This can be utterly frustrating, especially when you’re having a tense battle.
Were the entire game not based around a lobby system this wouldn’t be a problem. Many of the games best features, including Ring Matches, are unplayable unless you can find a lobby. An offline lobby exists where you can participate in offline offerings. However, no online features are available.
Get Ready to Take on the World
After a few rounds of DRAGON BALL FIGHTER Z, you’ll feel like you’ve just lived an entire season of the anime. Fans of the show will have so much to love, a well-written story and fighters from all eras. Fighting game fans, don’t you worry — after the disappointing effort that was MARVEL VS. CAPCOM: INFINITE, DRAGON BALL FIGHTER Z won’t let you down.
It offers a great game with deep technical mechanics for you to sink your teeth into as well as a robust online match system. With a steady stream of downloadable content planned, as well as multiple balance patches in the future, Fighter Z has plenty of staying power. Whether you’re a fighting game fan, anime fan or just plain into incredibly good looking animation, this game is worth your time. You’ll have a blast.