Have you ever wanted to recreate some of the flashy moves Goku, Piccolo, Vegeta and the rest of the Z Fighters do in Dragon Ball? Well, you’re in luck, there’s another game for the much beloved anime series out on the market called Dragon Ball Fighter Z. And let me tell you it’s one hell of a blast to play!
While originally released back in early 2018, now is the perfect time to actually deep dive into the game since new downloadable fighters are finally coming out for it and it is the first Dragon Ball game that is officially accepted for EVO — the world’s premier fighting game tournament that normally features games like Street Fighter, Tekken and Mortal Kombat. Now I know what you’re thinking though, “I’m a huge fan of Dragon Ball, but not much of a fighting game fan due to complex controls” so let me ease your worries and say that Fighter Z is everything but complex.
It’s actually a very simple, pick up and play type of fighter that any one of any skill can easily get into. The controls are as follows with light, medium and heavy attacks on the face buttons, alongside a ki blast button, two tag out buttons for your team, and also a grab and a dash buttons as well. And of course, holding back allows you to block. On top of this, the light and medium buttons if pressed a certain number of times on their own can instantly auto-combo launching opponents into the air and/or dishing out a powerful special attack depending on which button you use.
This is actually perfect for new/first time fighting game players, since it keeps them right in the fray and makes inputing any special a breeze. But don’t worry, you can so totally input your own specials and build your own combos too if you’re a seasoned fighter — the Street Fighter quarter circle forward/backwards style which applies for all of the fighters special moves. The only advance controls that pop up are snap-vanish attacks where you appear behind your opponent to dodge powerful attacks, ki charging to build up your special meter but leaves you wide open and tag-team combinations specials which require additional input while doing your special that’s very similar to Capcom’s VS series of fighters of yesteryears.
The actual meat of the game in Fighter Z though is all about 3 vs 3 matches, where two players go at it with their respective teams in lightning fast battles that mimics the anime faithfully on a 2D plane. Thankfully the matches are short and not as obnoxiously long as the anime tends to drag out. On top of just straightforward fighting other players both locally and in online vs modes, solo players can also take part in a robust arcade mode, training mode and a lengthy story mode that spans three unique character arcs.
Arcade mode is the typical fight up a ladder, with each fight getting progressively harder then the last, but on top of this depending on your rank in the previous match it will determine your arcade mode path. Fight really well and you’ll get to the very top of the ladder, fight relatively tame and you progress in matches but not to the top of the ladder. Also, arcade mode sports multiple difficulty options, such as choosing between just having 3 matches to deal with or amping it up to 8 or more matches. Story mode on the flip side, incorporates some light rpg aspects as you befriend friend and foe alike to take on the villainous Android 21. Each of the three arcs are not technically connected to each other, but compliment each other as strange “what if” tales. However by completing all three arcs, you do unlock Android 21 for use in the game. Training mode itself is a by the books type of mode where you can review techniques and also practice combos, it’s nothing fancy.
The thing that I find that keeps drawing me back is the actual presentation of the game itself. The animations and graphics of the game brings the series to life and captures the anime faithfully! Certain attacks can cause transitions in the fighting plane, like unleashing your finishers or doing a knock back attack through a mountain. Whenever you or your opponent knocks out a character, the other team mate rushes into the fight, leading to a clash. And certain character and stage combinations, be it with your own teammates or with opponents, can actually change your finishers (like Gohan and Gotenks) or outright change the intro of the fight (like with Goku and Freeza on Namek). It’s these little details that ARC System threw in, ontop of the solid fighting mechanics and balanced gameplay, that really makes this game a gem.
The only things that I would say is questionable is that sometimes in story mode cutscenes, the game would tend to stutter around as characters would talk to one another. Secondly, would be the hub/lobby screen where players can pick chibi — little sprite versions of Dragon Ball characters — and walk around interacting with characters or choosing modes, this actually forces the game to be constantly in online mode when you boot up the game. Even though the game is still playable in offline mode, but makes that hub/lobby screen dead and useless when like that. An actual menu system would be much better for situations where online isn’t viable. However with that said, the game is extremely polished and you can tell the team behind it had to be massive fans of the series itself to treat it with such care and love.
Right now Fighter Z is still trying to find its meta-game and advance strategies haven’t been made. As of this writing, Fused Zamasu and SSB Vegito have yet to be released and once they do, expect the entire meta-game itself to change once more to incorporate the two new fan favorites.
So don’t worry, the game is constantly being updated and fixed for exploits, so everything is still balanced in a competitive sense. It truly is the perfect time to jump in if you’re a newbie and/or a seasoned fighting game vet.
In closing, if you find yourself in need of a new fighter and are tired of games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and even Marvel Vs. Capcom, then look no further than Dragon Ball Fighter Z!