Never before a game has hyped up people in the gaming community as Dragon Ball Fighter Z did. No gainsaying that it is further special to the gamers who associate with and Dragon Ball fans especially. The Game was aligned with the craving of the community for an anime fighting game. Fortunately, The Arc System Works decided to take the matter into their hand. It is like dream come true because arcsys have the reputation for making quality content. The accelerating system made it really fun to play. The mechanics are beginner-friendly but keeping competitive and complex nature. The art and animation makes it look like you are watching the anime. And the overwhelming reception it received from everyone, different tournaments, events, world championships, this became the center of attention. People who never watch Dragon Ball & Dragon Ball fans who don’t know much about traditional fighting games, all were flocking in. The game stands in per with other popular fighting games like King of Fighters, Street Fighters, Mortal Kombat, Tekken etc. The game has been sold 8 million+ copies since the first release & still growing popular.
It’s a 3v3, 2D fighting game. In which, You choose 3 characters & play as one. Furthermore, the other two are used as assists. The assist does one attack then leaves and can be called again when the gauge is filled. You can switch your characters midgame or the next one comes when you lose a character. You can even tag in a character in doing super attack or while doing a super. And when you are down to your last character, there is a comeback mechanic that gives you 20% damage boost. Pretty Dragon Ball like that tells you never to give up. You can also play 2v2 or 1v1 mode which affects the playstyle a lot as a whole.
The gameplay is pretty fair and balanced. It has beginner-friendly mechanics that makes it easy but it also have insane combo routes that bring out the competitive aspect. The auto combo, super dash, dragon rush and Z-vanish mechanics make it easy to fight, zone & stay in neutral. The auto combo lets you just press one button and do a basic combo. The buttons do inputs such as light, medium, heavy and special attack. The inputs for specials & supers are very easy as well. The super dash lets you travel fullscreen to reach your opponent and do combos. Dragon rush is the grab mech, once u grab, it punches the opponent & lets you do air combo. You can also tag out a character from the opponents assist. And the Z-vanish lets you vanish behind your opponent & do a heavy attack in cost of 1 ki bar. All that do feel like Dragon Ball since characters can fly out or vanish.
You guard against attacks by holding the back button. You can out-think the opponent by attacking low. But if they are guarding low then you can do overheads by jumping attack or some attack do auto overhead or you can just Z-vanish behind them. This is really neat because this turns out to be a mind game.
There are other mechs like forward dash, back dash, double jump, high jump, guard cancel, reflect. All these lets you maneuver strategically to get in close to your opponent or bait them. Most of them are self explanatory, but guard cancel lets you spend a bar & tag out or Z-vanish, which is like get out of jail card. You can reflect any attacks instead of blocking, even level 3 supers, which gives advantage to turn the table around & go into offensive.
You’ll notice that there is blue bar in the HP. That is the recovery bar. If you tag out, the blue bar recovers. If you tag that character out before the blue bar is filled or your opponent dragon rushes you to tag in that character, you will lose the remaining blur bar leaving no hopes for recovering, except one.
The ki bar fills up whenever you attack with normals or specials, even if you walk forward it fills up a bit. Ki can be used for super attacks, Z-vanish, guard cancel & heavy versions of specials.
This is the cherry on top of the mechanics. When activated it does a whole lot of things. Your attack & defense increases, the blue bar recovers automatically, when you Z-vanish and hold the vanish input, instead of heavy attack, you can do your own combo like normals, specials then super. It can also used for combo extension to deal more damage. But it only lasts for a little while. There is level to this. When you lose a character, it goes level 2, meaning higher attack power & it lasts longer. If you lose 2 characters & downed to 1, then it goes level 3, giving you highest attack power combined with the limit break 20% power up and lasts the longest. You can only use it once, if you use it before, you lose it forever, no other hope except one. But when used properly, it can turn the tide of the battle.
This is one of the main mechanics as mentioned before that has huge impact in the game. But this also is made interesting by giving each character 3 different types of assists. Assist type A & B does different special attack respectively and type C tracks the opponent, does a short combo. All types of assist can be used for adding more damage to combo, extending it and so on. You can even call an assist during super attack & character will be changed into the switched characters super.
These are the cream of the pies. With the beautiful art & animation, they look like anime cinematic cutscenes. The 3D camera works, special effects, lighting, sound everything just bursts out the hype. Though they are eye-candy, they are mainly used for fighting mechanics, tactically to deal the most damage as combo finisher.
There are level 1 and level 3 supers. But there are also level 2, 4 & 5 supers depending on the character that have such supers. But to go to level 2, you have to do level 1 first. Same for level 4 & 5, first you need to do level 3. But you can’t just spam because you can get punished if the opponent dodges or blocks and you have to manage your ki. You can also tag your other characters into doing super, both level 1 & 3. This is call DHC or Delayed-Hyper-Combo in FGC term which can extend the combo, do more damage.
You can collect dragon balls in mid-battle and summon the eternal dragon and make a wish. If you land an auto combo, you get a dragon ball. Other way to get is land a combo that consists of certain numbers or within that numbers. For example if you land a 10 hit combo or within the 10s, you get the 1 star dragon ball. If you land 70 hit combo or within 70s, you get the 7 star dragon ball. The problem is the dragon balls are shared between opponents. If you collected all 7 of them, the opponent can use them, summon the dragon by landing an auto combo. You can make one of 4 wishes, revive a character, restoring health, getting extra sparking and becoming immortal. This is the way you can get back a lost character or another sparking. But it brings back with 1 third of the HP. And the immortal wish only auto recovers the blue bar. But how much intense the competition gets, the dragon ball factor is often forgotten.
Characters are the reason why the game shines the most. Everyone is unique to one another, have different techs, different pros n cons, different combo routes. This always gives fresh experience going up against different match-ups. The different specials & supers effect the movement, combo routes & playstyle. Some characters are best at close quarter, some good at zoning, some are counter attack focused, some even have transformation, and some have built-in assist characters.
The base game has 23 characters from initial release and 21 characters were released as DLC. Each character have different animations, intros, outros and voice lines as well that show off their character traits. There are even different interactions & dialogues between character based on the anime or manga. They gave a lot of attentions to characters who don’t shine much in the show but here, they can be top tier. Piccolo, Krillin, Yamcha, Tien & a lot of other characters have unique techs that often put them above the main ones. Players even win tournaments with these characters just because how well they can be played. They really went next level with the development.
The animation looks super good. The way they animated is a bit tricky though. It’s 2D but also 3D. The graphics is computer generated but doesn’t feel like that. What they did is drew every frame then joined them together like traditional hand-drawn animation, but retaining the 3D status. When a character does super attack, you can see the camera movement but the art don’t get distorted. To make it look exactly like Dragon Ball anime, they make different renders for dramatic shots & added to the whole animation. A unique take but effective in order to stay true to the anime. The special effects are also manually rendered like lighting, dust cloud etc. and perfectly implemented. The background is vibrant & crisp. It can be interacted when you reflect a ki blast & it hits randomly in the background. If certain supers are used to KO a character the stage gets destroyed & you will fight in the ruins. You can also cause stage transition from one to another if a heavy attack is landed to KO a character, you just fly out to another map Dragon Ball style.
There are also dramatic intros and finishes. A special animation is triggered when certain character are matched up in the correct stage just like from the anime. Iconic moments like Goku vs Frieza, Gohan vs cell and some more are recreated with the game version’s animation. And it looks just as amazing.
The story is pretty mediocre. There isn’t much content or anything interesting. They just tossed a plot that brought all characters power to same level, brought back dead characters. Evil boss trying to do evil stuff. And the events aren’t that great either. You just fight some dumb AI then some mini bosses. The only great thing it gave us is the new character, Android 21. She’s complex, cool design & has a motive. Akira Toriyama, the author of Dragon Ball manga drew her himself. She’s even top tier as a fighting game character.
Online & Netcode
The online mode has variety of content. There are ranked matches you can play to rank up or you can create custom room for selected people. Arena mode which have game modes with different conditions like no assists, infinite ki etc. All these are fun in their respective way.
The game uses delay-based netcode. It works fine when getting a match against living relatively close but it can get laggy when someone from far away gets in the match. It’s a shame that the game never got rollback netcode since a lot of other games getting patched. It would’ve improved the online experience as a whole.
Is Dragon Ball FighterZ the best fighting game of all time? Maybe not but it might as be the one. The hype, the feeling it brought for the community is insanely awesome. New combo routes are still being discovered by people. The insane posts in tweeter, YouTube almost make it feel like endless and new insane moments are created in the tournaments. It’s got enough support from the developers in bringing more content, balancing the mechanics & improving the game. And there is expectation that more content is coming. All in all, it’s really awesome.