Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best fighting games ever made. FighterZ does the impossible by striking the perfect balance between accessibility and depth while providing Dragon Ball fans with all the fanservice one could wish for. While the story may go on a bit longer than necessary, the sheer uncontainable fun found in the main combat system makes up for it and then some.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Console: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: Bandai Namco, Arc System Works
MonsterVine was provided with a PS4 code for review
For a franchise based almost entirely around insane over-the-top action and fighting, Dragon Ball has a surprising lack of 2D fighting games. There are plenty of 3D fighters that emulate the high-flying scope of the show, but there’s been a stunning shortage of well-made 2D fighters. Dragon Ball FighterZ has remedied this issue in the best way possible, as it provides Dragon Ball and fighting game fans alike with a game that can be played by any, mastered by some, and enjoyed by all.
The story of FighterZ is surprisingly enjoyable, partially thanks to the newly designed villain Android 21. 21 feels like a nice mix of essentially every Dragon Ball era, as she’s an Android who works for Red Ribbon and can become a Majin. While the road to fighting her feels a bit long in the tooth at times, the story is still incredibly enjoyable because of the fully voiced cutscenes and the unique way it turns the player into a character in the plot. I won’t spoil it too much, but there are times when characters directly talk to you, and let me say, having Piccolo tell you to your face that you’re strong is essentially a childhood dream come true.
The story mode has you navigate across a small board, taking part in smaller battles until you reach the boss of the chapter. While a fair amount of the battles are optional, it feels like there are a few too many chapters in the main “Super Warriors” arc. While the other “arcs” provide some interesting variations on the plot (playing as the villains, for example), the main story feels a bit padded by extra boards. The narrative itself is still a lot of fun, I just wish it was a bit more brisk.
The gameplay of FighterZ is where the game shines most, as it strikes a godly balanced between “easy to learn” and “fun to play”. All 24 characters that make up the game’s roster feel different and entirely unique, all while still feeling accurate to their manga/anime counterparts. Beerus’s lethargic but overpowered nature shines through in his trap and projectile-based moveset, while Kid Buu’s untamed aggression lends itself perfectly to his wild and bizarre attacks. I found myself having fun with almost every character, which is a testament to how well-designed the whole roster is.
There are only a few special moves for each character, with all of them being pretty easy to pull off. More powerful combos definitely require a bit of extra practice, but the combo challenge mode serves as a great way to learn certain combos for each character. The combat is pretty simple on the surface, with a solid amount of depth present for players who want to really dive deep into the game. It’s a classic example of easy to learn, hard to master (though not too hard), making this the perfect entry point for anyone struggling to get into the fighting genre.
There’s quite a variety of modes in FighterZ, ranging from the standard Arcade mode to combo challenges and training. The real highlight is online, which runs rather well. I rarely ever dropped more than a couple frames, and I found the experience overall to be quite responsive and smooth. I do wish you could fight someone more than three times in a row without dropping back into the lobby (some rivalries between myself and other players got pretty heated), it’s a minor issue that only requires a little extra effort. Fighting in both Casual and Ranked matches is a blast, especially since you still get a small amount of BP for losing Ranked matches. This is a great way to encourage new players to try out Ranked mode, as you can still build up your BP if you lose.
Unlockables in the game are obtained through capsules, a lootbox-esque progression system where you use ingame currency to buy capsules that have different avatars, character colors, titles, etc. The capsule system in FighterZ worried me at first, as the random item drops and ability to buy capsules in increments of 10 was eerily reminiscent of mobile freemium games. The items are entirely cosmetic however, so while I still find the trend to be worrying, it’s essentially harmless in FighterZ.
The amount of fanservice in FighterZ is simply glorious. Every feature of the game is chocked to the brim with extras, from lobby avatars of characters that aren’t playable to Dramatic Finishes that emulate iconic scenes from the Dragon Ball franchise. I’ve never seen this level of pure dedication to a franchise in a fighting game, and I’m not sure we will again anytime soon. There were quite a few moments that made me pause just to appreciate how dedicated FighterZ is to honoring Dragon Ball’s legacy, which is likely some of the highest praise a game like this could get.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is a visual masterpiece. While the game is 60fps, the character models run at 24fps. This intentional choppiness emulates the anime perfectly, evoking nostalgia while looking stellar. There’s an impressive attention to detail with even the most minor environmental effects. Kamehamehas will rip grass out of the ground, and deflecting ki blasts sends them to the background where they explode and destroy whatever’s behind you. Even beam clashes look gorgeous, as the colliding energy blasts snap together and crackle, shooting out stray energy rays as they collide. The amount of detail and care that went into the visuals is stunning, and you can tell that everyone working on the game has a real passion for Dragon Ball.
The music and sound effects are as strong as the visuals, with many sounds being lifted straight from the show. Every beam blast and teleport sounds incredibly satisfying, while the energetic soundtrack, made up of everything from hard rock to jazz, feels perfectly in-line with the corny action that has made Dragon Ball so iconic. The voicework, both English and Japanese, is just as full of passion as the rest of the game. It takes genuine strength to scream as much as Dragon Ball voice actors have to, so I feel it’s necessary to give them some credit. Tragically, FighterZ was also the last project Hiromi Tsuru, the Japanese voice for Bulma, was able to lend her voice to before her sudden death. Bulma is quite involved in the story and has some great jokes here and there, so I feel FighterZ does right by the late Tsuru and her legacy as Bulma.
The Final Word
Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best fighting games I have ever played. Everything about FighterZ, from the gameplay to the visuals, is an absolute blast that will please anyone who enjoys Dragon Ball and/or exciting but accessible fighting games. A slightly padded story can’t hold back this immovable force of a fighting game that you need to be playing right now.
MonsterVine Score: 5 out of 5 – Excellent