Since the end of the open beta, I’ve felt that Dragon Ball FighterZ was in good hands with developer Arc System Works. I’ve had my hands on the full version of Dragon Ball FighterZ for the better part of a week now, and even now I’m discovering that it’s more than that. More than just a competent fighter, Dragon Ball FighterZ absolutely bleeds with style and Arc System Works has packed every nook and cranny with a lot of love for the source material.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is absolute chaos. That’s usually a bad thing for a fighter, but it feels right at home here. Dragon Ball isn’t a subdued series. Flashy animations, witty character dialogue, and screen filling abilities are what make Dragon Ball, well, Dragon Ball. All of these things are present in Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Arc System Works have even directly replicated some iconic moments and abilities from the show and put them right into the action.
As a fighting game, Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t overly complicated. There are four attack buttons, light, medium, heavy, and a character specific ki attack button. Everything is pretty easy to learn. Fighting game purists might find some fault here though, as there are some pretty devastating attacks that are auto mapped to spamming certain buttons from the attack list. Luckily, Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t dependent on those abilities and players who take the time to learn the combat system will quickly learn ways to punish opponents that abuse those abilities.
The story mode is probably the weakest part of the whole package honestly. After clones of all the characters in the roster start invading the world of Dragon Ball FighterZ, Goku and friends must stop them and defeat a new Android, Android 21. Each chapter of the seven to nine hour story features a board game like map. Characters progress around the points freely and participate in battles against the clones. There are some event fights that can pop up randomly (not sure if they are actually random, or if a character I was using or something I did triggered them), but for the most part you’ll be fighting the same characters over and over again.
This wouldn’t be a problem if the enemies put up any kind of a fight. The story mode fights were extremely dull, and more often than not I ended up not taking any damage during these encounters. The main reason to play the story is for the fan service. I don’t care if Lord Beerus exists in this story alongside the Ginyu Force. Canonically, nothing really makes sense here, but that’s okay, because the interactions between characters and between enemies are perfectly realized here. One interaction had Majin Buu screaming at Kid Buu, when Goku asked Majin Buu if he could understand Kid Buu, Majin proclaimed that he couldn’t. They had just been screaming at each other. The references contained in Dragon Ball FighterZ are spot on, thus reinforcing the already clear picture I had that Arc System Works love the source material.
Other than the story mode, there are a handful of game modes for players to choose from. The one I had the most fun with (before the servers went live), was probably arcade mode. Instead of the usual fight to fight that I usually get from arcade modes in fighters, Dragon Ball FighterZ’s arcade system puts players into tiered battles. Each of the three stages have varying amounts of fights to participate in, and your path to the end depends on player performance in the previous match. As players move up tiers, the battles get progressively more difficult if you do well in the previous fight, and adjusts your overall rating at the end of the tiered pathway. This didn’t just make me want to complete the arcade mode, but made me want to do better and get better at Dragon Ball FighterZ. Some of the end fights in arcade mode were pretty difficult, so this was an excellent place for me to train before moving over into the offline modes.
On top of arcade mode, there is a challenge mode to practice combos, online ranked and casual matches, and two other story arcs for me to participate in. It’s a pretty beefy package for a fighter, and one that I’ll be spending a ton of time trying to learn more of the intricacies of the combat system. Each of the characters of the roster feel unique, even if a few of them feel out of place. Captain Ginyu and Nappa are the characters that feel like they don’t fit in at first, but after spending some time with each member of the roster, I can understand why Arc System Works decided to include them. Some characters have flashier attacks, while Android 16 and Hit are more technical fighters. Lord Beerus is a zoning character with his attack orbs that float around the screen and detonate when touched, while Kid Buu bounces around the screen and turns his enemies into candy. Every fighter feels like an important addition to the roster, and are complementary to a handful of the other fighters during a battle.
All of the activities of Dragon Ball FighterZ are housed in an adorable hub world. Every player can choose from a large number of chibi versions of their favorite Dragon Ball characters and roam about this hub. Players have emotes and can communicate with other fighters with preset messages and Z stamps that slap pictures above their heads.After the network issues the beta had, I am happy to report that everything has been ironed out for the full launch. I’ve only disconnected from one match, and I have experienced little to no lag. Matches are quick and easy to get into, and almost nobody declined a fight with me, which was something I dealt with a lot in the beta.
With more than twenty characters to learn and master, and a handful of engaging game modes to play, Dragon Ball FighterZ is an incredible package. Arc System Works has developed an insanely deep, but easy to play fighting game that is brimming with love and a deep appreciation for what they are translating. This is easily one of the best Dragon Ball games to release, and what it boils down to is that competitive Dragon Ball is here, and it’ll be sticking around for quite some time.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on an Xbox One copy provided for that purpose.