Dragon Ball FighterZ

The team behind the groundbreaking Guilty Gear Xrd delivered the iconic Dragon Ball series to the fighting game world on a golden platter to kick off 2018. I can't think of anyone better than Arc System Works to bring the vibrant Dragon Ball Z universe into the fighting game arena... and do it right. Unlike the vast majority of previous Dragon Ball "fighting game" releases (example: the Budokai series) which heavily catered to casual gamers and lacked the most basic of fighting game fundamentals, Dragon Ball FighterZ was immaculately designed as a competitive fighting game, first and foremost. On top of that, this air-dash-crazy 3-vs-3 fighter offers a massive roster and is packed with fan service. It's been a long time coming.


Dragon Ball FighterZ character selection screen.

In terms of gameplay, what Arc System Works achieved in DBFZ makes for an easy-to-get-into, yet technically intriguing 3-on-3 experience. The variety of gameplay systems, intuitive combo engine, and 7-tier super meter offers a great balance of flashiness and fun. Team synergy and meter management play a huge role in your success or failure... and with a nice-sized roster of 40+ fighters, expect a significant amount of "trial and error" before finding a main team you'll feel comfortable with. Many elements that I loved (and still love) about the early Marvel Vs. Capcom series are "spiritually-inspired" into DBFZ's gameplay... but DBFZ takes the idea of air-combos and "air-fighting" to the next level. Best looking air-combos in any fighting game? Quite possibly. Not only is the gameplay visually stunning for spectators, it's very appealing for the player's eyes as well.

You might've heard DBFZ is a "mash-fest"... but that's not entirely true. Yes, the beginner-friendly elements (example: brainlessly mash light or medium for an auto-combo into super) might make it easy for 2D fighting game purists to throw shade on the game... but DBFZ is deeper than it lets on. Once you learn some of the legit full combos and air-combo possibilities each character has, you'll realize DBFZ has more potential than you might've thought at first, and offers something that "feels unique" for fans of high-flying, air-dashy 2D fighters. Even as an old school FG player, I actually find DBFZ's gameplay to be more "fun" than some traditional 2D fighters in recent years. For the "style" of gameplay Arc System Works was going for with DBFZ, the mix of simplicity and complexity is smartly balanced and designed. It even makes me wish I was more of a Dragon Ball Z fan... (even though that's never going to happen. I have my reasons.)

3-vs-3... Assist Attacks... fast-paced high-flying action.

To talk a bit more about the gameplay: All characters have the Dragon Rush ability which breaks an opponent's guard and launches them into the air for a follow-up combo. Super Dash resembles the homing style dashes of the Arcana Heart series, making it easy to chase down your opponent anywhere on the screen. There's also a "Ki Charge" mechanic for charging meter and a parry mechanic used to deflect projectiles. Vanish Attack has your character teleport directly behind the opponent before kicking them out of the air, and can be used within combos. Auto Combos initiate by rapidly pressing Light or Medium attacks and, interestingly, feature unique animation not seen in regular combos. Most characters have 1-button projectiles (Ki Blasts) with no directional inputs required. I both dislike and like the idea of 1-button projectiles, but considering how damn cool fireballs look in this game (especially when they get deflected and break stuff in the background), I can get over the 1-button thing. Besides, projectile wars are pretty damn fun in DBFZ. Lastly, Z Change lets you switch out your characters through super moves, a la MVC2. Mix-in some cool Assist Attacks to put the pressure on your opponent, and you've got one of the most fast-paced and frantic 2D fighters since MVC2 / MVC3.
The way characters can fly around, in and out of combos, is not only true to the source material... but it just looks "right" as a Dragon Ball fighting game. (It makes much more sense than Injustice 2, for example, where DC's super-humans are awkwardly stuck on the ground throwing random shit at each other). What's cool in DBFZ is... if you want to zone a bit and spam projectiles like a jerk, you're free to do so... but if you're defending against that tactic, you have a ton of room to move around on the stage and plenty of options for dealing with projectiles. The 3-on-3 tag system also naturally changes up the flow and pace of the action, so no one "tactic" is seen too often.
Dragon Ball FighterZ includes a basic Tutorial and 10 Combo Challenges for each character. Unfortunately, many of the combo challenges seem to be afterthoughts, with some requiring only single-button presses for an entire combo. While these missions can help total "nooblets" understand how basic timing for fighting game combos work, it would've been nice if ASW included a wider variety of actual combos for learning how to use each character properly. Furthermore, several of the more complex combos require very strange, and "unnatural" timing... in my opinion. It's hard to explain, but certain combos seem overly difficult to connect and just don't "feel good" to perform. It's frustrating when a combo drops because it was "0.45 milliseconds" too slow or too fast, even when your inputs were perfect. (Luckily, this only seems to be an issue with certain characters and how their movesets were designed.) Overall, Tutorial offers a fairly good starting point on how to play DBFZ.

 About 27 versions of Goku to choose from.

As important as it is.... Gameplay isn't "everything" in fighting games. Yes, character designs and the way their movesets "feel" actually matter. Characters aren't just "functions". (We learned that lesson with MVC: Infinite, didn't we Capcom?) Who you're using to fight, and how you feel about them, makes a big difference in the long-term enjoyment of a fighting game. In some ways, Dragon Ball Fighter Z lives and dies by its tried-and-true roster of immediately recognizable anime icons. These characters are household names, for better or worse. (Because if you don't "like" Goku, you're probably not going to like half of the roster of this game.) Repetitive hair-styles? Check. Overly dramatic yelling? Check. Typical anime / weeb business that only a "special breed of nerd" can fully understand? Check. Super-happy best-friend earrings that grant special powers? WTF? Gross. I'm done. Jokes aside, the character-specific interactions and dialogue before, during, and after fights is pretty amazing stuff in terms of attention to detail... even if you don't fully "get it" (because you haven't watched all 291 episodes of DBZ).
It's true that some character designs are "timeless" and really don't need to change over the years. Some older character designs stay fresh with a "revamp" of sorts... a new outfit, for example. However, in DBFZ... a new outfit, a different hair color, or even "a piece of hair in a different place" somehow means an entirely new character. Artistically, this doesn't do anything for me. I'm not inspired by this... and it even messes with my OCD. Two Wolverines in MVC2 was bad enough... 10+ characters who look exactly like Goku is another thing entirely. I understand what they're doing for fans of the original lore, but for everyone else (and believe it or not, there are a lot of us)... these Goku-clones become visually monotonous, and part of the reason I never became that interested in DBZ. Akira Toriyama is awesome and all, but he sure has a weird obsession with "one kind of hairstyle".  
Thankfully, no matter how many Goku's are on the screen at once, Dragon Ball FighterZ is one hell of a beautiful video game. It's one of those games that makes me scratch my old-man-beard and say... "My my my, vid-yah games suuure have come a looong way." (Right before I yell at some kids to get off my lawn.) Back in my day, most video games based on cartoons or anime almost always looked laughably bad. (Insert NES/SNES/Genesis memories here.) Even the "best" of those games had major visual imperfections when compared to the TV or movie adaptations. However, DBFZ looks crisper and cleaner than "some" of the actual anime productions (especially portions of Dragon Ball Super). The vibrancy and motion of character models during DBFZ's cinematics and gameplay are seamless, looking spectacular from all angles, at all times. All projectiles, particle effects, and "support" effects like wind and environmental interaction / destruction spectacularly scream "next-gen fighting game". Regardless of what you think about DBFZ's gameplay, you'd have to admit DBFZ is a visual masterpiece. There's no frame of animation that looks bad. Yet again, ASW has raised the bar for 2.5D visuals. (I only wish there were more characters to look at, besides Goku, Clone Goku, Evil Goku, Green Goku, Buff Goku, and Midget Goku. Seriously, I'd love to see a Capcom Vs. Whatever with this amazing visual style, but that's just me.)

DBFZ packs in a ridiculous amount of fan service.

Similarly to Guilty Gear Xrd, Dragon Ball FighterZ features interactive online lobbies where players take control of cute 3D avatars of their character of choice and explore different areas / online modes. There are both offline and online versions of the lobby - where you can interact and chat with other players. If the lobby system doesn't suit your fancy, there's also a traditional menu with all of the modes readily available. DBFZ packs a decent variety of single-player and multi-player modes. Some fighting games in recent years can't even launch with a proper Arcade Mode. Well, good news... DBFZ has one (and it's great)! The various courses and cleverly named CPU teams make Arcade Mode very replayable, and even makes you care about getting a high-score, like old times! Playing through 1-player modes earn you "Zenny", an in-game currency used to unlock character colors, new avatars, player card customizations, etc. Various "Quests" also appear onscreen which guide you on exploring different modes and drop extra Zenny. The unlocking system even reminds me of MVC2... yet another appreciated throw-back for old school players.
Dragon Ball FighterZ's
modes include: World Match, Party Match, Story, Practice, Arcade, Local Battle, Arena Match, Rankings, Replay, Z Union, and Shop. Online matchmaking is in line with previous ASW fighting games, and outside of a few hiccups, the game has pretty solid netplay, matchmaking, and functionality.

A bit overdone and quirky... but the lobby system is neat.

Of course, there's only so much "creative freedom" Arc System Works had when creating DBFZ. The devs decided to respectfully represent the source material in nearly every way imaginable... and I definitely respect what they did with this project, even though I'm not a DBZ fanatic. Aside from being one of the only authentic, competitively-sound Dragon Ball fighting games in existence, FighterZ oozes with fan service and throwbacks to the iconic manga/anime. Lifelong DBZ fans probably go nuts over this stuff. Possibly the most impressive part, ASW used direct animation references from the manga/anime when designing veteran characters' movesets, down to their specific normal attacks, specials, and super moves (and even camera angles). The immediately eye-catching visuals of Dragon Ball FighterZ expertly highlight these smartly dynamic animations through brilliant camera-work and vivid facial expressions, bringing to life iconic moments from the anime / manga. It's beautiful stuff.
Arc System Works demonstrates even crazier attention to detail with "Dramatic Enactments". This level of detail is also a first for fighting games. When players perform certain actions with specific characters or teams, before or during a battle, they can initiate "special cinematics" reenacting memorable moments from the anime. This includes unique pre-fight introductions when certain teams face each other, and during gameplay if certain conditions are met. If specific characters stay alive on the same team, some will even team-up during super moves. Additionally, Dramatic Finishes occur when specific characters defeat their appropriate rivals on a specific stage. For example, Nappa killing Yamcha on Rocky Fields (or the other way around), or Goku defeating Frieza on a destroyed Namek. The basic stage destructions / stage transitions also look amazing on their own. Even non-DBZ fans should be able to appreciate this crazy level of polish.
DBFZ's Story Mode itself is, expectedly, a bit monotonous. Like most ASW fighting games, you're looking at a multi-chapter, multi-hour chore to complete... with (I'm guessing) 20+ hours of dialogue? Story Mode has you take on different opponents as you advance through certain "paths" of your choice. As expected, a lot of the dialogue in the cinematics is cheesy, and pretty typical mainstream anime fare. If you're invested in DBZ characters and know them well from the source material, I suppose their dialogue is more passable. For everyone else, most cutscenes might put you to sleep. Overlooking its repetitiveness, Story Mode's manga-like cutscenes do have their cool moments, showing off the game's cool 3D models in neat manga-style camera angles, allowing you to fully appreciate the game's visuals. It takes a few chapters, but the story actually starts to pick up midway - beginning with Android 21's debut. Overall, it's a step above the production value of GGXrd's story mode - which certainly wasn't bad. The lore and elements that built up the unmistakable reputations of DBZ characters (and their power-levels) are nowhere to be found in DBFZ's story mode. To get the desired effect, you really have to know "who is more powerful than whom" to appreciate most scenes where things actually happen.






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Page Updated: May 19th, 2024
Developer(s): Arc System Works
Publisher(s): Bandai Namco
Designer(s): Junya Motomura         Director
Tomoko Hiroki
Artwork By: Akira Toriyama             Source material
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date(s): Jan. 26th, 2018            /
Feb. 1st, 2018
Sept. 27th, 2018            Switch
Sept. 28th, 2018          Switch
Characters Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Piccolo, Krillin, Yamcha, Future Trunks, Tien Shinhan, Frieza, Cell, Android 16, Android 18, Nappa, Captain Ginyu, Majin Buu, Kid Buu, Adult Gohan, Gotenks, Beerus, Hit, Goku Black, Goku (SSB), Vegeta (SSB), Android 21, Broly, Bardock, Fused Zamasu, Vegito, Goku (Base Form), Vegeta (Base Form), Cooler, Android 17, Jiren, Videl, Gogeta, Gogeta (SSB), Gogeta (SS4), Broly (DBS), Kid Goku (GT), Janemba, Kefla, Ultra Instinct Goku, Master Roshi, Super Baby 2, Android 21 (Lab Coat)
Featured Video:
Related Games: Guilty Gear -STRIVE-, Guilty Gear Xrd REV2, Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R, Hokuto No Ken, Sunday X Magazine, Street Fighter V, SFV: Arcade Edition, Under Night In-Birth: EXE Late[st], Injustice 2, TEKKEN 7, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite, Fighting EX Layer, Blade Strangers, BlazBlue: Central Fiction, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, Granblue Fantasy Versus, DNF Duel

Gameplay Engine  8.5 / 10
Story / Theme  8.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  9.5 / 10
Animation  9.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  8.5 / 10
Innovation  9.0 / 10
Art Direction  10 / 10
Customization  8.0 / 10
Options / Extras  8.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation  9.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  7.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  8.5 / 10
Characters  7.0 / 10


 8.8 / 10

 Review based on PS4 Pro version 


Final Words:

Any way you look at it, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a huge achievement by Arc System Works, and in more ways than one. The in-game presentation is unlike anything seen before in a fighting game or video game (besides GGXrd, of course). DBFZ packs groundbreaking levels of fan-service, an innovative new style of air-based combat, and overall very solid execution. As a game, DBFZ offers an easy starting point for new / novice fighting game players and considerable depth for more experienced fighters. At the highest level, DBFZ's pace is as frantic as the iconic MVC series... but perhaps even succeeds MVC2/3 as an ultra-polished and exciting spectator game. 

As an appreciator of martial arts, DBFZ's characters are perhaps more enticing to watch (and use) than Guilty Gear's bizarre cast of characters (as much as I love those crazy bastards). It's a breath of fresh air to see Arc System Works fighting game characters who throw mostly punches and kicks, for once! They nailed the key fighting animations, complimenting the most important parts of a fighting game with a magnificent in-game graphics engine. Arc System Works did it again... Dragon Ball FighterZ is a work of art.

Worth mentioning, Dragon Ball FighterZ appeals to a wider audience than most fighting games due to the "legacy popularity" of the series. If you're over the age of 20... you probably have a fairly solid opinion about the series in general, for better or worse. That said, as great as DBFZ looks and plays... it probably won't make you an insta-DBZ fan if you weren't already a fan since the late 80's or 90's. That's the double-edged sword of a fighting game based on classic anime / manga. It is what it is. However, I will say if you're a fighting game fan who appreciates "small details" in your fighters... there are tons of interesting & innovative touches to be surprised by in DBFZ. You can tell ASW are DBZ fans, and it's a nice thing to see.

My biggest issue with the game? It's Dragon Ball Z... It only does so much for me. All of the clone Gokus (AKA nearly half the roster) is a redundant visual in this game. As far as fighting game character "designs" go, DBFZ might lack excitement in some areas... but the iconic roster does offer some very interesting fighters( besides characters with Goku's hairstyle). Every character in DBZF is represented amazingly well, fleshed-out in their personalities, unique movesets, and role in the original lore. On a side note, DBFZ characters have some of the most badass-looking super moves I've seen in a long while! (And many are interesting successors to those we know and love from MVC.)

Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the most "immediately visually appealing" fighting games of this era. In some cases, unskilled players can make a fighting game look really bad when they mash buttons... but that's not the case with DBFZ. The game always looks good. That said... DBFZ might even be too epic for its own good. How is that possible, you ask? The awe of "flashy cinematics" eventually wear off in long-term play, and what you're left with is... the game itself - the most important part. Is it "easy" to see when something truly epic happens in a DBFZ match? It's debatable, since practically every match appears as an epic battle. It's an interesting (and mostly good) problem for a fighting game to have, but hear me out. Since the 1990's, I've lived for "epic moments" in fighting games. These moments I speak of are created by the player's skill and decision-making, not the cinematics. Of course, these moments are still very possible in DBFZ, but they can end up being anti-climatic due to the ridiculousness of any given match. When everything's epic... the truly special moments of a match don't quite stand out as much. Also considering the 20-second corner trap combos, and the general "long" matches at a high level... in my opinion, DBFZ isn't quite as fun to watch competitively as other tournament fighting games.

I think some fighting game players (including myself) are a bit salty that DBFZ looks as amazing as it does... yet doesn't feature any "original" fighting game characters. Games like Street Fighter and King of Fighters have recently experimented with new 3D graphics, but have yet to achieve anything as "natural" or nearly as beautiful 2.5D as DBFZ's visuals. That said, you die-hard DBZ fans better adore this game, and appreciate Arc System Works for the insane amount of polish they put into it. (*Inb4 DBZ uber-fans claim they won't play Dragon Ball FighterZ due to unbalanced character power-levels or some bullshit.) Fact: DBFZ has some of the best fan-service in a video game ever, whether or not the spoiled brats of the fanbase fully appreciate it.

You can also thank Arc System Works for the first Dragon Ball fighting game appearing on your favorite fighting game website, FightersGeneration.com. I don't put up a TFG profile for just any mainstream anime fighter. But DBFZ is a through-and-through 2D fighter with a strong foundation, heavily taking inspiration from some of the best "arcade" 2D fighting games of all time.

After 20+ years, a Dragon Ball fighting game is finally relevant in the competitive scene. DBFZ has achieved unmistakable success with big turnouts at major tournaments since its release in early 2018. How long will it stay on top? Legendary competitive fighting games like MVC2 and many iterations of Street Fighter kept players inspired for decades. If DBFZ is as great as hardcore fans claim, it should be around for years to come. DBFZ shows off what the fighting genre can offer in 2018. Even if DBFZ doesn't float your boat, it's one of the best high-flying 2D fighters in recent memory. ("DBFZ is the new Mahvel" they say.) After years of support and many balance updates + rollback-enhanced online, DBFZ is an example of a successful anime fighter that made waves in the competitive realm and even made a name for itself in eSports.
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen

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