Review: Dragon Ball FighterZ Goes Super Saiyan

All the screaming and explosions without the exposition episodes and eyebrow twitches. 


Let me take you back to the 90’s really quick, an era where anime could pretty much only be found at Blockbuster videos and interest in Japanese cartoons was considered a hobby only for the socially inept. This was around the time I had my first exposure to the Dragon Ball franchise in the form of imported Super Famicom fighting games. These 2D brawlers were like nothing I’d seen stateside. Who were these characters with spiky blonde hair and how could throwing fireballs be as simple as pushing a button? 

Fast forward to now and everyone knows about Goku, his ragtag band of allies and the many eyebrow twitches they've all made throughout the years. New consoles emerged and trends changed, the Dragon Ball fighting games grew in popularity, went 3D and evolved into something new that didn’t derive from the Street Fighters and Mortal Kombats of the last era. While titles like the Dragon Ball Xenoverse series have done a great job in capturing the essence of the series, there hasn’t been a game that really scratched my itch for a fighter like those old Famicom games. That is until Dragon Ball FighterZ made the scene.

Raising Power Levels

Dragon Ball FighterZ feels like it draws from those classic games while also taking a lot of cues from modern fighting titles. Many features remind me specifically of the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise, like the straightforward combo system and tag team mechanics. Basic combos can be accomplished by tapping a button several times, meaning just about anyone can pick up a controller and pull off some impressive looking moves. Throwing down super and meteor attacks are the same for all characters as well.

There’s a learning curve to mastering the basics, but it’s the smallest, most approachable curve in a fighting game I’ve seen in awhile. Fans of any age should be able to jump in and get going in no time. That's not saying that Dragon Ball FighterZ is without nuance. Once the basics are mastered, there’s a deeper layer of countering, combo-ing and timing teammate support moves that advanced players will appreciate.

There are some nice little touches and one particularly unique modifier to some fights. Much like in the Injustice series, some levels have transitions or destructive finishes that can be activated by knocking out opponents with a power move. In some instances, if the right characters have been selected, players may also experience executions adapted straight out of the anime series, such as Kid Gohan taking out Cell with a one-handed kamehameha.

Depending on what mode is being played, there’s even a chance to collect all seven dragon balls and summon the dragon Shenron. Once summoned, Shenron grants one of four wishes like reviving a downed teammate or boosting health or power. It’s definitely a feature unique to FighterZ that can help even the playing. It feels like many of the game’s core mechanics are meant to keep that balance between casual and hardcore in check like that.

An Animation Sensation

Visually you could not ask for a better marriage of Ark System Work’s animation and cel shading. Characters and backgrounds look like they were taken straight out of the show and given an HD update. So many nice touches have been made to make Dragon Ball FighterZ look as good as it plays, like the way new fighters zoom onto the battlefield after an ally falls or the animations for each characters super moves. The added bonus of the original Japanese voice cast just adds to the enveloping nature of the game’s overall design.

Even though the animations for story mode specifically can be limited at times, they still look fantastic. Character models are expressive and though there are still some clipping moments like most cel-shaded titles, they’re much smaller and harder to notice than in many titles, including Xenoverse.

Gameplay modes are varied and scaled with my ability with very little punishment for not being at a certain level of adeptness. For instance, arcade mode has a system that bases the next opponent on what grade a team gets at the end of a match. Meaning “S” rank players will go on to face a more challenging AI opponent in the next round while lower grades take on a more approachable enemy.

Almost every Dragon Ball game I’ve ever played has done a great job of putting players into historical moments from throughout the series. But playing through the Super Saiyan saga for the umpteenth time just to get to the meat and potatoes of a game has definitely become laborious over the years. Refreshingly, Dragon Ball FighterZ doesn’t retell the same old story but rather integrates the player into a brand new tale that heavily references from canon.

Summoning The Dragon

If there is one glaring flaw to Dragon Ball FighterZ it would have to be the inclusion of capsule corp style loot crates over a more open in-game store. Capsules only contain items for the social hub area, like character avatars and character titles, and cost only a small amount of in-game currency to purchase, so it’s not like there’s a Battlefront 2 level of controversy here. Still, it would’ve been nice if I could’ve used the money I earned to buy the items I wanted over going in completely blind.

At the end of the day, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a game made for fans of the series. It does a great job of keeping itself accessible to a wide age range and scale of ability. Beyond the essential inclusion of Goku, Vegeta, and their respective progeny, the roster has a decent selection of friends and enemies from throughout the series, including newer characters like Beerus and Hit, without getting bloated down by overinclusion (did anyone really want to play as every member of the Ginyu force?).

This is truly the best Dragon Ball fighter I’ve played since the Super Famicom imports. It’s pure fighting bliss that makes you feel as OP as the characters on the show by adding so much style and flare. Longtime fans and newer fans who may just be familiar with Dragon Ball Super will find something to enjoy here if they’re fans of fighters.

One caveat to my review, online mode was not available since review code was supplied before the release date. I will be updating my review with online impressions as soon as they’re available and I’ve had enough time to go through its features thoroughly.

Events Coordinator

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

  • Approachable combat with depth
  • Fantastic animation
  • Returns DBZ to classic fighting genre
  • Lots of fan service
  • Some Cel-shading clipping
  • Loot Capsules instead of an open store
From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 23, 2018 4:30 PM

    Blake Morse posted a new article, Review: Dragon Ball FighterZ Goes Super Saiyan

    • reply
      January 23, 2018 5:16 PM

      I caved and bought this on PC over the weekend! So much positive reviews and the game is simply gorgeous.

      I am a closet DB fan. Can't wait!

    • reply
      January 23, 2018 5:17 PM

      Can you disable the Shenron thing? Seems like a gimmicky thing.

      • reply
        January 23, 2018 7:47 PM

        Some modes don't have it built in. But even when it's active it's not easy to pull off, you need to have your super meter maxed out and perform seven weak hit super combos to activate it. The only time it really seems to come into play is if someone is getting slaughtered or there's about to be one hell of an epic ending to a fight.

    • reply
      January 24, 2018 1:59 AM

      I'm pumped! This game is so damn fun and I know nothing about Dragon Ball Z. This game makes me want to know more.

    • reply
      January 24, 2018 3:10 AM

      Might pick this up next week when I have some extra funds. Until then going to listen to my friends play it all weekend and tell me how great it is. Lol

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