Dragon Ball FighterZ has always showed promise: from the first reveal ahead of E3 2017 to the character trailers showing off each of the fighters before launch, the game consistently promised to do well.
It seems able to combine the hectic energy shower fights of the anime series with the playable, fun mechanics you’d find in other ArcSystem Works games (BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, Persona 4 Arena and more besides).
The most impressive thing about Dragon Ball FighterZ – from the second you boot up the game – is how it looks.
ArcSys has managed to really capture the feeling of Dragon Ball’s famous animation style in its engine: from pelting your opponent with ranged fireballs (or Ki Blasts, as they’re technically called) to pulling off a top-tier Super Move and watching the world shake in response around you, everything about the game simply feels authentic.
Mixed with how much attention to detail the developer has put in when it comes to the game’s lore (every character has something to say to another, if you put them in the right situations), you’ve got a game that allows you to live out practically any Dragon Ball scenario you’ve ever dreamt up.
It’s perhaps the best videogame version of a Dragon Ball fight we’ve seen to date. And we have a lot of games to choose from when we say that.
The fighting mechanics themselves are as tailored to expert players as they are beginners.
Say you see an example of Goku chaining punches, kicks, Ki blasts and finally his Super Kamehameha together and think ‘hey, I want to do that’ but you’re an absolute beginner – not a problem.
By introducing an Easy Combo system into the game, players without deep levels of fighting game skill can easily pull of satisfying combos that result in some spectacular special moves – no matter what character you pick.
There’s the simple version of these auto combos that rely on you hammering Square (PS4) or X (Xbox One) and simply juggle your opponent into a Super, or a more advanced set that requires you to move clockwise around the pad to pull off more moves.
By learning some Special Attacks and Chase moves, you can provide a little variation to your moves to ensure you don’t get absolutely battered by veteran players.
Similarly, thanks to the 3v3 system the game is built on, there are enough combinations of Super moves, assists, tag-ins and more that mean seasoned players are still going to have plenty to experiment with months after the game releases.
As you’d expect from an ArcSys game, this is a deep, multi-layered fighting game that we can see being played at professional tournaments for years to come.
The game’s single player offering also puts other fighting games to shame.
If you take the fun but straightforward experience Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite offered late last year, Dragon Ball FigherZ blows it out the water. And it outright embarasses Street Fighter V’s initial offering too.
The Story Mode takes place over three arcs – each focusing on a central story from a different perspective.
Long story short, all the heroes and villains of the Dragon Ball universe are stripped of their powers and you – the player – are a wandering soul that can possess the bodies of the characters and reawaken their powers.
It’s a nice way of getting around the fact you swap characters so much.
In an effort to find out who started sending out these mysterious disruptive waves that seal power, you set off on a quest, defeating clones of the affected heroes along the way.
The Story is laid out like a light-RPG: you must gather perks and buffs that recover your health as you fight through various maps, unpicking the story. Chapters are broken off into maps, each with between 5 and 15 fights available to you.
You can rush through the story if you need to, but considering all the characters and teams of three you assemble trigger different cutscenes and bytes of lore when you encounter new enemies, we recommend ecking as much of this experience as possible out of the story before you progress.
It’s a smart and loyal original story – and honestly, it could stand up there as one of the better narratives spun in Dragon Ball’s chequered multimedia universe.
The Arcade mode is similarly inventive, too.
There are three Arcade ladders offered to you, each with two difficulties to play through.
The ladders work on a system that encourages you to score well: lose as little health as possible, perform high-damage combos, pull in assists, perform tech moves… all of these will help you get a good rank.
High ranks (rated from F through to S) allow you to move up one level as you progress to the next round of fights.
Mid-ranks push you along at the same level, where low ranks demote you a tier.
It keeps you on your toes and offers a more interesting system for you to play through than simply a series of fights culminating in a boss battle.
It also offers pretty impressive incremental training that builds you up real well for online and PvP battles.
The Training Mode itself is comprehensive and features the now-classic challenges that ArcSys typically puts in its fighters: step-by-step guides to mastering a character’s most useful combos.
Paired with a tutorial system that explains the game’s myriad systems, it’s a complete training suite: one that every fighter should have.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is a robust package finished off with extraordinary graphics and a love for the core series that oozes out of every character interaction, every animation, every move.
Battling in this game can make you feel like a Super Saiyan badass, even if you’re new to fighting games.
The closest rival you have to Dragon Ball FighterZ is Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite – and Bandai Namco’s newest title simply blows Capcom’s 3v3 fighter out of the water: the combat is tighter and more exciting, the graphics are more impressive, the single-player offerings are more robust, the cast is more interesting and the whole thing just makes you feel like the best fighting game player there is (even if you’re not).
If the online section of the game holds up, this has the potential to be one of the best fighting games of the generation.
THE VERDICT – 5/5
• Incredible graphics, loyal to Dragon Ball history
• Interesting, original story
• Comprehensive fighting mechanics
• Dodgy English voice talent
• Difficulty curve might be a bit much for fighting newcomers