There hasn’t been a single moment since the first trailer where the internet hasn’t been excited for Dragon Ball FighterZ. Arc System Works’ experience with 2D fighters and their beautiful visual style for Guilty Gear Xrd seemed to be a match made in heaven for Dragon Ball, a series which, surprisingly, hasn’t had a “traditional” fighting game adaptation. Until now. The fantasy became reality when Dragon Ball FighterZ was shown off, and after playing it - well, it’s wonderful.
Arc System Works’ unique visual style runs the whole game at 60FPS but limits the frames visible in character animations. This odd juxtaposition helps give the feeling that what you’re watching is being animated, not a 3D model moving in real time, but a sprite or even perhaps a hand-drawn animation. Only when the camera swoops around characters for cinematic attacks does it become clear that these are full 3D models, that just look so good, so authentic, that when the camera is static they can become uncanny with the anime renditions of these characters and their attacks.
And of course, that’s just the art style. When it comes to fighting, Arc System Works have again taken the base for their brand of 2D fighters and adapted it wonderfully to fit Dragon Ball. Characters move briskly on the ground and in the air with a variety of dashes, characters can tech out of certain moves to avoid combos being extended, and of course you can block in the air and on the ground - all staples of Arc System Works’ fighters Guilty Gear and Blazblue.
Dragon Ball has been slightly simplified, mind. Punches and kicks have been replaced with a three-button Light, Medium and Heavy attack set up, with a final button reserved for projectiles. Of course, this is a traditional fighting game now, so quarter-circle “fireball” motions can be used to access more special attacks, such as command grabs, larger ki projectiles and heavy hits.
The simple button layout means combos for a lot of characters are similar and don’t require much research, though there are characters with unique attributes. Krillin, Piccolo, Buu and Android 16 all feel distinct, with their own combos and specials, whereas the Saiyans tend to feel like variations on one another, with different supers and assists being the main things to keep in mind to extend combos.
There’s a whole bunch of moves for each character that will make you feel like a Z Warrior. A heavy hit will knock opponents back and a homing chase move can be used to fly over to them and begin a combo - this can be used at the end of normal attack strings, and can even be continued or mixed up with a teleport cross-up that each character has. The variety of movement options that and speed are both true to Dragon Ball and make for an exciting fighting game experience.
The main questions now are, how will the story mode play out (will it be essentially the world’s longest cutscene with no fighting, a la Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN and REVELATOR?) and how many more characters will there be. This is a 3v3 fighter, and although the current cast is loads of fun to play, it feels like the game needs a bigger roster so players don’t end up going against the same characters too often.
Right now, though, Dragon Ball FighterZ is basically confirmed to be a wonderful fighting game - if a bit simplified when compared to some of the FGC heavy hitters, and even other Arc System Works games. One for both fighting fans and Dragon Ball fans, finally!