Bandai Namco has had a resurgence in the last few years. As a publisher, they have helped release major titles like Tekken 7 and several niche franchises like Sword Art Online and Gundam. This year, Bandai Namco featured several games at Tokyo Game Show 2017 including the much anticipated Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Dragon Ball FighterZ caught almost everyone off guard during E3 2017. The game moved away from the Budokai and Xenoverse style of games and shifted more towards anime fighters style a la Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. This made sense since it was made by Arc System Works, famous for this sub-genre within fighting games. The fast pace and flashy move sets of those games fit the tone and aesthetic of the Dragon Ball universe perfectly.
Dragon Ball FighterZ: First Impressions
Both Bandai Namco and Sony Interactive Entertainment provided ample space for Dragon Ball FighterZ. Visitors chose between playing against the A.I or against another player. I opted to battle the computer since I was flying solo that day. Thankfully, Bandai Namco had the foresight to make English instructions for foreign visitors like myself.
As a casual fighting game fan, the Dragon Ball FighterZ controls were fairly familiar to people who have played Marvel vs Capcom or other similar games. There were Light, Medium, and Heavy attacks that can be chained, as well Special attacks that shoot the weak ki blasts. Z Assist allowed your other characters to provide supporting fire and Z Change allowed you to switch your characters.
Dragon Ball FighterZ smoothly incorporated the unique elements of the Dragon Ball lore. Dragon Rush was a grab move that replicates the blindingly fast flurry of strikes from the anime. If it connects, the player can force the opponent to switch characters or set him up for another combo. The Super Dash was a charge move that homes in on the opponent that allows you to block some projectiles. Well-timed Z Reflects deflected certain projectiles, negating chip damage. Executing attacks or using Ki Charge powered up the Ki Gauge, up to a maximum of seven.
Using super attacks only required quarter-circle moves, a la Street Fighter, or pressing Down Down and used different numbers of Ki Gauges. These Ki Gauges can also be depleted to use Vanish, the always-cool teleportation move that gets you behind your opponent for a new combo string. Sparking Blast was a one time, desperation move that increased the damage and increased the health regeneration rate!
Smooth, Quick, Rapid Combat
I tested Dragon Ball FighterZ for about 15 minutes at the Bandai Namco Booth and it was an absolute blast. I took Android 18, Krillin, and Goku out for a spin. It was fast-paced from the get go as every character had a base combo that was the same for everyone. I never had to worry about playing keep away or annoying zoning techniques as Super Dash closed distances fast, forcing close quarters combat. Ki Gauges built up fairly quickly, often not requiring using Ki Charge at all, since it was very slow comparatively.
As I was still getting hang of the controls, I’d often accidentally use Vanish. This slowed down the pace slightly, but it’s easy to continue combos from there. Similarly, I wasn’t able to completely master the Super Moves, so I’d often end up using a Level 1 instead of a more powerful Level 3. In the same sense, I’d often be wowed when I press the Assist button during a Super, allowing for mind-blowing two or three man supers!
Producer Tomoko Hiroki mentioned in the past that they developed the controls to help appeal to casual Dragon Ball fans. At the moment, it appears the Dragon Ball FighterZ team succeeded in doing just that. Players can choose to mash buttons without feeling too spammy. In my opinion, this gave the game an edge over other fighting games. However, I recognized skilled players can use its depth as a fighting game to elevate it to eSport status.
Story, Lovable Cast
One of Dragon Ball FighterZ‘s biggest appeals was the characters that they provided. The story of Dragon Ball necessitated continuously suffered power creep, creating more ludicrously powerful characters every arc. This waylaid many fan favorites, relegating powerful characters as jokes. This game removed the traditional power levels, allowing players to pit normal humans characters like Krillin against famous apocalypse-level enemies like Frieza. The announcement of popular Dragon Ball characters Yamcha and Tien made this even more clear.
Bandai Namco hasn’t included a Story Mode for the game in the demo. However, the Story Mode of Dragon Ball FighterZ is pegged as a new adventure. The new storyline prompted the introduction of a new, game exclusive character. The Japanese voice actor for Android 16, Hikaru Midorikawa, and Producer Hiroki introduced Android 21 in a story teaser trailer. It wasn’t told whether she’s friend or foe, given her connection to the Red Ribbon Army. Other story details included the presence of clones of the main Dragon Ball cast, resulting in Android 21 becoming both friend and foe, in true Dragon Ball fashion.
Conclusion, Verdict (so far)
Overall, the game’s release is totally worth its hype. The title is shaping up to be an amazing addition to any fighting game user’s library and a shiny new toy for Dragon Ball fans. The controls are crisp and the art style captures the essence of the anime. The dynamic combat means there’s going to one chaotic experience both in the living rooms and on eSport stages. Fans wouldn’t have to wait either, as Dragon Ball FighterZ gets a worldwide January 26, 2018 release for $59.99