When it comes to fighting games, few franchises have strayed as far from the genre's 2D roots as Dragon Ball. Thankfully, Dragon Ball FighterZ is here to make the manga fighting series great again with spot-on 2D gameplay and plenty of eye candy.
I honestly didn't know what to expect when I started playing Dragon Ball FighterZ. Xenoverse just didn't click with me and I was frankly getting tired of the franchise as a whole. I think the last Dragon Ball game that I actually enjoyed was the Budokai series. So, when I entered my first fight in Dragon Ball FighterZ and saw the gorgeous Guilty Gear style visuals, I thought to myself, "2D gameplay, huh? This is going to be awesome!" I'm happy to say that the hours and hours that I've played it since have indeed been full of exciting times.
Generally speaking, the gameplay is rather accessible as casuals can easily learn the ins and outs. However, there is enough depth to satisfy genre veterans, too. While many games in the genre focus on memorizing combos, Dragon Ball FighterZ primarily relies on timing in order to juggle opponents and counter their attacks. When you add in the 3-on-3 mechanics, you're looking at a super-tight formula that'll keep you hooked.
As I've already mentioned, Dragon Ball FighterZ has incredible visuals. The pre-fight scenes are fantastic and for once, I didn't want to skip them. The characters are rendered in 3D yet are so fluidly animated and detailed that they come across as 2D sprites which is absolutely stunning. During fights, the camera zooms, pans, and rotates according to how the fight plays out and it's awe-inspiring watching your attacks result in cinematic scenes. Plus, the music is rocking (as expected) with plenty of guitar-fueled tracks. Overall, Dragon Ball FighterZ looks and sounds as masterfully as it plays. Oh, and the story sequences are great fun to watch, too.
Speaking of story, Dragon Ball FighterZ's story mode is impressively comprehensive as it consists of a few lengthy story arcs that each feature loads of optional unlockable scenes. You can spend hours upon hours fighting through the maps and still discover more content. That being said, one major disappointment is just how unchallenging the AI is to beat. Most of the story mode is super-easy but even when you fight computer opponents on a higher difficulty setting, I found that they're simple to exploit. For example, they don't seem to ever block or counter certain combos. On the other hand, playing online definitely provides much more of a challenge.
Dragon Ball FighterZ's main menu is an online hub where you and dozens of other players control chibi versions of Dragon Ball chums. From there, you can enter the handful of modes as well as compete in online matches. I found everything to work rather well but the matchmaking could definitely use some work. Sometimes, it would search for so long that I just quit and played through arcade mode again. It doesn't make much sense because there are a lot of people online but getting matched still takes forever.
Finally, I should discuss Dragon Ball FighterZ's character roster. There are 22 characters to play as which isn't a small selection at all. That being said, there are so many characters in the Dragon Ball universe and previous games featured hundreds of them. I understand that the much smaller roster makes the gameplay more balanced and focused but I miss the wide range of characters in previous Dragon Ball fighters. Also, after doing training with many of the characters, I'm a bit disappointed how similarly a lot of them play. Sure, each character has their own distinct array of moves but a lot of move sets are so similar that mastering characters is less rewarding.
Arc System Works are masters of crafting excellent 2D fighting games and Dragon Ball FighterZ is no exception. Its accessible yet rewarding fighting mechanics and stunning graphics definitely make it the first must-have fighter of 2018.
- + Accessible gameplay with enough depth to appeal to genre veterans
- + Awesome visuals and sound
- + Comprehensive story mode
- - Character roster is a bit lacking and many move sets are too similar
- - AI is very easy to exploit
- - Matchmaking generally takes far too long