We’ve gotten an abundance of Dragon Ball fighting games steadily releasing in the last few years, many of which have been decent enough to stay in our memories. This year, instead of receiving another game in the Xenoverse series from Dimps Corporation, we received Dragon Ball FighterZ from Arc System Works. This marks yet another new entry in the famed manga/anime franchise that has been quite popular for decades now. Going back to its fighting franchises roots, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a traditional 2D fighting experience that veers away from the last few 3D installments. Here you’ll play as the classic anime-style characters from the Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super universe; along with some new characters designed specifically for Dragon Ball FighterZ. With a full story, arcade, local and multiplayer modes, Dragon Ball FighterZ has a decent amount of content packed in from the start. But is this enough to keep this long running franchise on its feet for another round? Let’s find out.
Let me just come out and say this right now: Dragon Ball FighterZ is gorgeous. It is one of the most colorful, smooth, intricately detailed, well animated fighting games I’ve ever seen. Attention to detail has been painstakingly placed in to every frame of Dragon Ball FighterZ, from backdrops to character animation, there isn’t a moment in the game where a character’s movement, dialog, or location felt out of place.
"Each fighter has its own move-set and interaction with other characters, with each of them looking grand and dangerous."
The fighters themselves are lovingly recreated from the anime in a beautiful cartoon-like 2D-style (though technically rendered in 3D). With over 20 selectable characters from the start, you’ll get to choose many whom appeared in Dragon Ball Z to Dragon Ball Super; along with classic fighters. Each fighter has a unique entrance and place within Dragon Ball FighterZ story, and amazing, unique styles of fighting — though that doesn’t mean they have a lot of moves. For instance, Goku is a very open style fighter who appears ready for the next move; while Beerus acts lackadaisical and never on guard. Each character’s “authentic to anime style” hyperbole just felt fantastic to watch.
Each fighter has its own move-set and interaction with other characters, with each of them looking grand and dangerous. However, to fully grasp the entire experience, practicing for several hours will be important to become a true master of Dragon Ball FighterZ. You can shoot energy blasts, do flying kicks, or force an enemy to switch characters with the tap of a button or two. Every move I did felt impactful. It looked great, and I really thought I was instantly a pro at the game. I think that’s exactly what the developers were looking to achieve, too.
But as time goes on and you face newer challenges, you’ll realize that hitting a button here or there, or a simple combo of X, X, X, X, isn’t quite enough. Even if more advanced moves are simple to learn, using them in battle at just the right time is key to winning a match. Sadly, there still aren’t that many advanced moves. When I turned the opponent’s difficulty up to 100, of course it walloped me almost instantly, but it did so with the same 3 mega-moves over and over again — all of which were energy blasts and virtually no punches thrown. So if you’re looking for a wide-range of stylized moves, Dragon Ball FighterZ kind of lacks in that department.
"Voice acting for each character is, again, authentic and feel really special to hear. The story won’t blow you away, but the detail of how it plays out, is like you’re watching a long episode of the anime, and it feels fantastic."
Setting that aside, the on screen action is spectacular. These fighters move incredibly fast, and you’re going to need to up your focus if you want to keep up with all of the fatal moves taking place right before your eyes. Along with the fighters, the backdrops were also well rendered. Now, backdrops in the Dragon Ball Z/Super anime are, for the most part, not very diverse. One fight may take place in a field, while the next in a stadium, or a city. But what is there is wonderfully designed, and adds a lot substance of the story. As for the game itself, backdrops are inspired from the anime but not much to speak for in terms diversity. From rocky fields to caverns, backdrops look perfectly authentic, but don’t have that sparkle that Street Fighter V or Mortal Kombat XL bring. Though you will find a few select recognizable locales such as Planet Namek, West City, and World Tournament Arena, these more recognizable locations are colorful, well recreated. Unfortunately, the backgrounds are non-interactive, and will have little in the effect of how the outcome of battle will play out.
As for game modes, you’ll find a full stand-alone story mode, arcade mode, local and multiplayer modes, a practice arena, and a shop. Story mode is actually more involved within Dragon Ball FighterZ than in most other fighting games. You won’t just find a cutscene with a couple lines of dialect followed by a fight. In the game’s story, the Z Fighters have been knocked out by a mystical force and strange enemies that look identical to the Z Fighters themselves. It’s up to Bulma, the blue-haired genius and Goku, the guy who’s always hungry, to figure out just what’s behind this evil energy and where these clone fighters, and other familiar faces from the past, have come from. As you progress, new characters become unlockable, allowing you to build a team of up to three fighters to even the odds.
Voice acting for each character is, again, authentic and feel really special to hear. The story won’t blow you away, but the detail of how it plays out, is like you’re watching a long episode of the anime, and it feels fantastic. The story is recreated with 3D modeling but has a totally 2D-stylization about it.
"Overall, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a game with a lot of potential, but light weight in execution. It’s beautiful, well rendered, and respectfully recreated in true to form Dragon Ball universe style."
Strangely enough, Story mode plays out over an interactive map where you select different routes to ultimately reach the boss fight. You’ll receive a set number of points at the beginning of each new story map, which will diminish with each point you select to “move” around the map. Some points are blank spots, while others host a fighter you must take on before moving forward. Many of the fights are avoidable, but you get Zeni (money) with each fight. So I went for every fight I could get. What’s so odd about this point-per-move map style is that if you make a few wrong moves while going around the map trying to reach each fighter, you’ll eventually run out of points and its instantly game over. Like, what is that? Why couldn’t it just be one move at a time? Why did they have to add diminishing points? It makes no sense.
There’s also an Arcade Mode. It’s not complex, but it has a sophisticated ranking system involved. With three courses to play (Snake Way, Extreme Gravity Space, and Hyperbolic Time Chamber), each course is diverse in technique and skills. Once you start, the route you travel through is determined by your personal score in the previous battle. Depending on your battle skills, you can go up, remain the same, or come down in rank.
Overall, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a game with a lot of potential, but light weight in execution. It’s beautiful, well rendered, and respectfully recreated in true to form Dragon Ball universe style. The story mode stands out as a real catch for fans of the anime. The fighting feels great, but once you dig into the game you’ll notice how limited the number of moves are. For those who enjoy the anime, this is a fun experience that really captures that feeling that you’re really there.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Solid and action oriented gameplay, beautiful visuals, fast paced gameplay, decent number of gameplay modes.
Doesn't include much variety in the number of special moves, point-per-move map style is a weird design choice.