The Dragon Ball anime is one of the most popular animes of all time, particularly in The West. Across the nineties, young people–including us–watched the adventures of Goku and his group of friends every day after school. It is so popular that Dragon Ball and its follow-up Dragon Ball Z has seen references to it across large swathes of popular culture.
As is the way with a popular form of entertainment, other forms of entertainment look to cash in. With Dragon Ball Z, the video game industry has looked to cash in–as well as the film industry, but we won’t go there. Over the years, plenty of games have come out boasting the likes of Goku, Vegeta, Frieza and the rest. Usually, they are beating each other up in a dynamic fighting-based game. While these games have no doubt been popular, they have never really been able to capture the essence of the show. Well, with Dragon Ball Fighter Z, they have captured that essence.
At EGX2017, we went hands-on with Dragon Ball FighterZ. We took a team of Trunks, Android 16 and Android 18 out for a spin. And we were impressed. Made in Unreal Engine by developers, Arc Systems Works, character models look spectacular and move with fluid efficiency. In fact, they look like you are playing an episode from the show. Unleashing Trunks’ Sword attack took us back to him utterly dismembering Freiza, an iconic moment from the series.
Like the visuals, the gameplay is crisp and chaotic. Two teams of 3 battle it out across destructible landscapes. Similar to Marvel v Capcom, the object of the match is to be tactical with your switches as well as landing the hammer blows to your opponents. Having a well-balanced team is vital for success. Or, at the very least, being able to bring out each individual characters benefits and mitigate their weaknesses. At first, it can be quite disorienting, particularly if your opponent switches players frequently, but eventually you can get the hang of it and appreciate the chaos. It is a refined system that mixes well with the always fast-paced, climactic battles from the series.
As mentioned, each fighter has subtle characteristics that come into play too. Trunks’ Sword can help him with mid-range slashes, and he is adept at closing or creating distance. In contrast, Android 16 is much more of an up-close-and-personal brawler and grappler. He prefers to deal devastating damage with a range of grapple maneuvres. Each will take time to learn and master, adding depth to a game that is also well suited for novice fighting game fans.
Why do we say this? Well, the moveset is very simple, at least initially. You have a light, medium and heavy attack and a Ki blast to get you started and into a match. This means that even novice players can get their feet wet by being able to mash light or heavy attack for damage. In fact, that is exactly what we did the first couple of times we played. After that, the systems become more complicated, enough to sate the more hardcore fighting fans. Added to the tactical team play, you have an accessible yet deep fighting game based on a very successful fighting anime.
It all makes for a great and worthy Dragon Ball game, and one that we can’t wait to play again.