For me, Dragon Ball Z has always been about getting stronger, getting better and fighting back. Throughout my high school years and into young adulthood, I watched as much of the amazing anime as I could. That feeling I got when watching the anime is exactly what Dragon Ball FighterZ gave me throughout roughly 20 hours with the game.
Now, all I can think about is the spectacular fights I had and the overwhelming odds that I overcame. That’s what Dragon Ball Z is all about and that is exactly what Dragon Ball FighterZ, developed by Arc System Works and published by Bandai Namco, delivers.
The Story – Kamehameha!
When playing Dragon Ball FighterZ, it feels like you have been transported straight into the anime. Everything looks so authentic that it was almost as if I was playing a 10-hour episode instead of a game simply based on the anime. Some cheesy lines, a few plot holes and a couple of moments with extremely bad lip-syncing didn’t put me off the campaign. Instead, it just made the game feel even more authentic.
The story revolves around waves of energy across the globe that is making it difficult for the great fighters to, well, fight. There are also a plethora of clones popping up everywhere and wreaking havoc. If that isn’t enough, an unknown spirit (you, the player), has inhabited Goku’s body. For some reason, you can control various fighters and when you do, the aforementioned waves do nothing to them. That’s why you, inhabiting Goku’s body, set off with Bulma to find your allies, fight a boatload of clones and figure out why this is all happening in the world.
Yes, you fight a lot in a 3 versus 3 tag team format, which is great, but what got me hooked in the campaign is levelling up your fighters to get stronger (through what is called a link level) and you also have some choices to make. Every mission, you get a certain number of turns to get to the end, so you can choose if you want to fight more, or take the shortest route to the boss and continue the story. Fail, and you have to start the map all over again. This puts some weight on every fight and decision you make, which is almost as addictive as the flashy, highly entertaining gameplay throughout.
The campaign is good, but it is not the best fighting game campaign I have ever played. Building up your character and “link level” is a thrill, but I think some gamers might get a bit annoyed with the game’s story, especially roughly half-way through. Further, one needs to remember that the game is true, authentically Dragon Ball Z, which means that you will need to read all the subtitles or learn Japanese.
I felt the subtitles were a bit too small on my 43-inch 4K TV and at times, it was difficult to read. However, one great thing is that the game pauses after each line and you have to press a button to continue, so you have enough time to read it, even if you have to squint a little.
Dragon Ball FigtherZ is the epitome of easy to learn, hard to master. Unlike most other fighting games out there, becoming “good” at the game doesn’t take a very long time, as pulling off awesome-looking combos are quite easy. Just a light attack, for example, combos into some cool moves. Even some of the most complicated moves in the game really aren’t that complicated at all and gives players who are new to the fighting genre or those who simply aren’t that skilled quite a few options to work with.
One prime example is that of a sneak attack. Positioning is still important, but it is so easy for you to just teleport behind an enemy and knock them around a bit. All you need to do in Dragon Ball FighterZ is press Triangle and Circle on the PS4, that’s it! Blocking is part of the game, yes, but breaking a block is relatively easy as well, as the only thing I needed to do is press R2. That’s not to say the game doesn’t have depth, as chaining along big combos does take some practice.
Further, you have a Ki meter to look out for and the ability to recover some lost health if you press a specific button at just the right time. Further, the game has a three versus three tag battle system, which means some really cool, multi-character combos can be pulled off. That also means that choosing your team and which characters combo together the best is of great importance when you want to play competitively.
Dragon Ball Fighter Z allows everyone and their cat to get into the action and button smashing works, sometimes wonderfully so. However, there is a lot to master as well, which means the best players will start standing out amongst the higher you make your way up the ranks, which brings me to multiplayer.
Multiplayer – A hit or miss affair
Due to some recent PSN outages, I struggled to play a lot of multiplayer matches this past weekend and gave the game some time before delivering my verdict. Unfortunately, the game’s multiplayer is a hit-or-miss affair, in more ways than one. When playing online, I felt some horrible delay in some matches, while in others it almost felt as if I was playing against an AI.
As it stands, you either get an amazing experience or a terrible one, there seems to be no middle ground, at least that is what I can tell from my experience on the PS4. It is of the utmost importance in fighting games that the delay is kept to a minimum, as chaining some (admittedly easy) combos become impossible. I’m sure not even Vegeta at SSGSS can block an attack with a 1.5-second delay.
There is also a bit of an issue with the game’s lobby, where you do everything, from continuing the story to playing in some arcade challenges. During the weekend, while everyone was trying to play the game, the lobbies were full, which meant even after a story mission as I wanted to go check out some multiplayer, I had to wait for a lobby slot to open up then manually join. The lobby is the social space where you can meet others, join a variety of game modes, do quests or just hang out and throw some emotes around. It is a great feature, but I would have liked to be able to play the story mode without joining a multiplayer lobby first.
Performance – It’s over 9000!!!
The game has the most beautiful cel-shaded (no, not Cell, stop it!) graphical style I have ever seen and when the powerful, over-the-top moves kick in, it is simply glorious. I felt like I was transported into the anime as the graphical detail left nothing to be desired. On my PS4 Pro, the game without so much as a stutter, jitter, or anything like that.
Even more impressive was that throughout 20 hours with the game, not once did I encounter a bug, graphical or otherwise. That is an extremely rare thing and I think it is the first time I have ever said that in a review. That’s exactly how my scouter says a fighting game should perform, as a smooth experience is an absolute must.
Dragon Ball FighterZ delivers that smooth experience and also some of the most beautiful, anime-like graphics I have ever seen. Throw in some glorious stage transitions, tag team entries and explosions, and you have one of the best looking and performing games out there.
Even Majin Boo won’t throw a tantrum about Dragon Ball FighterZ’s loot boxes and neither should anyone in my opinion. Sure, hating on loot boxes is all the rage at the moment and some might just dismiss a game purely because it has loot boxes. If you do that with Dragon Ball FighterZ, then it is entirely your loss. The game’s loot boxes are called Z
No pay-to-win here. Speaking of paying, you can purchase loot boxes with two types of currency, Zeni and Premium Z Coins. Of course, you can purchase Premium Z Coins with real money (the feature wasn’t enabled just yet when I played the game on release) or you can save up some Zeni.
Zeni can be earned by completing quests (for example playing some Arcade Mode), by playing any match type or doing the campaign. After only 4 hours of play, I had enough Zeni to purchase over 20 loot boxes, so I really don’t see any need to spend real money, as Zeni is so easily obtainable.
The loot boxes do contain some cool stuff, like avatars to use in the social space, emotes, titles and more. They are nice to have, but since they don’t affect gameplay at all, I think Dragon Ball FighterZ has handled loot boxes perfectly.
The Verdict – A Super Saiyan Effort
Dragon Ball Fighter Z will make every Dragon Ball Z fan ecstatic and if you love fighting games but didn’t even watch the anime, then it is still worth playing. Sure, the fighting mechanics do feel a bit basic at times when compared to the likes of Injustice 2 and its complicated combos, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The gameplay is so very accessible, which means everyone can jump straight into it with no problem at all. This opens up the door for so many players and with the game’s great multiplayer component as well as the social hub, it leaves very little to be desired.
The game looks incredible, as if you’ve been transported into the anime, or dare I say better, it looks even better. The story is great, but there are a couple of really uninteresting hours tucked in the campaign. Even so, I did enjoy the experience quite a lot in my 10-hour playthrough and when I was ready to get into the multiplayer action after the story was done, I had all the knowledge needed to put up a good fight against other players. The only big issue is that there seems to be some server lag and even some disconnects in the multiplayer, which I hope the developer sorts out soon.
Should you buy Dragon Ball FighterZ? If you love the anime or simply want to get into a fighting game that is easy to learn and compete in, then it is a big yes from me. The game is just so much fun and has a tonne of awesome content and flashy, fast-paced and satisfying gameplay for players to enjoy.
Available On: PS4, Xbox One and PC | Reviewed
This review is based off a review copy provided to us by Bandai Namco Entertainment