A Surprisingly Good Fighting Game
When it comes to the history of Dragon Ball Z games, it’s fair to say the series has had its fair share of ups and downs. From the illustrious heights of the Budokai series to the disastrous Dragon Ball Z Kinect, the popular anime has seen an impressive array of games across various consoles with varying degrees of success. Dragon Ball FighterZ is the latest in a seemingly endless array of DBZ games that manages to bring just enough originality and variety to its fast, fluid fighting mechanics to set it apart from the majority of other Dragon Ball titles. Boasting an impressive variety of game modes, FighterZ’s positives far outweigh the negatives making it one of the most impressive Dragon Ball Z fighting games to be released in quite some time.
The fast, frantic gameplay captures the essence of the anime
After a brief introduction, the game begins with you in an online (or offline) hub world inhabited by miniature versions of popular Dragon Ball Z characters. From here, this large, open area plays host to a series of different game modes you can take part in via branching paths that lead to a specific mode. These areas include an original story mode, arcade fights, plenty of online challenges and a handy practice mode that gets you up to scratch on how to use each of the different characters and their unique combos. There’s an awful lot to do in FighterZ and the generous in-game money system allows you to buy some fun cosmetic enhancements. Although these don’t really change the game in any meaningful way, they do offer some customisation in how you look whilst navigating the hub world. Despite the overwhelming amount of content available here, none of the game modes feel tacked on for the sake of superficially increasing the time spent playing, helping FighterZ feel like a fleshed out, polished fighting game.
Unlike previous Dragon Ball games that had a tendency to overload the roster with hundreds of characters that all played similarly to one another, FighterZ takes a more robust approach with less players but deeper mechanics, requiring a slightly different play style depending on who you choose to play as. It’s a subtle change but coupled with the easy to learn fighting mechanics and 3 on 3 fights, brings just enough variety to the gameplay to keep this one from growing stale. The square button acts as a light, fast attack, triangle as a heavy hitting, slow attack, X as an energy blast (Ki blast) and circle either another combo or a heavy hitting melee attack. The moves are incredibly simple to begin with but there’s some impressive combos unique to each character, making this easy to pick up and play but difficult to master.
The Hub World acts as a gateway to all the different game modes
The aforementioned practice mode certainly helps hone these skills with each character given 10 specific combos to practice ranging from a simple combination of tapping square repeatedly or a more advanced move requiring a combination of teleporting, Ki blasts and melee attacks. Whilst some may find this mode a little monotonous, it’s actually surprisingly useful when trying new characters or as preparation for taking this online. Some of the more difficult combos work well online against unsuspecting opponents and throughout playing you’re sure to find a handful of characters that gel well your style of playing.
There’s a pretty good Story Mode that’ll take around 6 or 7 hours to complete and the unique story sees you control a variety of characters as you try and stop a mysterious clone army from destroying earth. There’s some cleverly implemented RPG elements here that allow you to level up and give yourself game-enhancing stats that do shake up some of the monotony that creeps in whilst playing through this game mode. There’s some original characters introduced as well including Android 21 who comes complete with a brand new move set to try and master and is later unlocked by completing the story, offering further incentive to play through the story to its conclusion.
Each character has an impressive array of unique combos and abilities
The Arcade Mode sees you pick 3 characters to pit your skills against a series of increasingly difficult opponents that grow more challenging to defeat depending on your rating at the end of each fight. As well as all these modes, there’s a local battle that allows you to play 2 player and arena battles that act as a simpler version of the online fights you’ll likely take part in. The match making is generally quick depending on how many people are in each lobby and during ranked matches there’s a fairly implemented system that allows for more balanced match ups. Casual matches on the other hand are completely unbalanced with players regularly mismatched with far more powerful players likely to absolutely decimate you unless you’ve grown accustomed to the nuances of playing this one online.
Playing online often results in some intense match ups
Having said all of that, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a surprisingly strong entry in the Dragon Ball universe. It may not be perfect and the story mode can get a little monotonous at times but the fast, frantic gameplay allows for some adrenaline-fuelled fights to take place that manage to capture the essence and heart of the original anime. The impressive array of game modes help to shake up the gameplay too and the smaller roster of characters makes each feel unique to play with the simple fighting mechanics balanced by a deeper system allowing more advanced combos. This makes FighterZ an easy fighting game to pick up and play but also one that’s difficult to master. While it may not be the best fighting game out there, the way FighterZ captures the essence of what makes the original anime so exciting and over the top makes it one of the best Dragon Ball Z games to be released in quite some time and well worth picking up.
Verdict - 8.5/10