Dragon Ball FighterZ review: Bandai Namco’s anime fighter is coming to Switch

Dragon Ball FighterZ is coming to Nintendo Switch at long last. After a lot of fan feedback stating a wish for the fantastic fighter to make its way to this generation’s best console, it looks as if Arc System Works has been working on it all along.

The news comes from Nintendo’s E3 Direct presentation and simply teased the arrival of Dragon Ball FighterZ on Switch. Unfortunately, no date has been given just yet, but you can remain safe in the knowledge that the Switch will be getting an excellent and accessible fighting game for you to play alongside Super Smash Bros Ultimate later this year.

Here’s a super-short trailer and then our original review of FighterZ on PS4.

Dragon Ball FighterZ Review:

Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t traditionally the sort of game you’d see us reviewing here at Alphr.com. It has no tech or sci-fi story hook like Get Even or Wipeout Omega Collection, nor is it a re-imagining of a cult hit on new hardware like L.A. Noire or Skyrim on Nintendo Switch. Heck, we’re not even reviewing Dragon Ball FighterZ because I’m a big fan of the Dragon Ball series.

Instead, Dragon Ball FighterZ presents itself as an interesting shakeup of the fighting genre. On the surface, it looks little more than an exercise in fan service, targeted at those waiting for the next instalment in the Dragon Ball Z series. However, developer Arc System Works, best known for the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear 2D fighting game series, has successfully achieved far more than that, transforming the franchise into a team-based fighting game that everyone needs to sit up and pay attention to.

Dragon Ball FighterZ review: Goku, exactly like you’ve seen him before

Arc System Works is no stranger to bringing game worlds to life through anime-styled visuals; both the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear series are clearly influenced by the genre. Here, though, Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t inspired by Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super anime; it’s basically the same.

The result is a gorgeous 2D fighting experience with visuals that rival Street Fighter V and with a fluidity that even Marvel Vs Capcom 3: Infinite can’t match.

During fights, energy blasts fill the screen, their bursts of coloured light briefly illuminating characters and the environment around them. Smash a foe into the ground and spots of the arena tear up and stay chewed up for the remainder of the match, while the screen-filling destructive finishes look for all the world like they’ve been pulled direct from the series. For fans of the TV show the visuals alone will be enough to sell this game.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ review: Absolutely Krillin it

Fighting game aficionados, on the other hand, want something else out of the games they play – complexity. Thankfully, Dragon Ball FighterZ offers that up, too, but don’t go in expecting something quite as deep as Arc System Works’ other games. To allow for newcomers to start and grasp the control systems easily, Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t as initially complex as some might like.

Without delving into the minute details of each and every attack and the counter systems available to you, Dragon Ball FighterZ utilises auto combos to seamlessly string attacks together. Tap the same button in rhythm, or mix it up with other moves without dropping your timing, and you’ll put together a nice combo that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something.

While you might think this would encourage button bashing your way to success, even a mildly competent player can overcome such hurdles with counter moves and smart use of Dragon Ball FighterZ’s clever  “Instant Transmission” teleportation feature.

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Fights are also always played out three-on-three, with team members tagging out so only two combatants are actively fighting at any given time. And knowing how to make the most of your team’s skills can be key in turning the tide of battle.

Beyond simply calling on them for support during Super Moves and powered-up attacks, creating a balanced team of fighters can help you square off against the many foes you’ll face online and in game’s Arcade and Story modes.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ review: Oh, Gohan then

When it comes to content, Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t short on things to do. Alongside two-player offline multiplayer brawls and six-player online face-offs, there are also eight-player lobbies for spectators to watch fights and huge online tournaments to take part in.

In single-player mode, you have a multi-branching Arcade mode to sink your teeth into and a huge Story mode spanning three separate plot lines. Interestingly, this Story mode is a completely original tale created by Toriyama for Dragon Ball FighterZ and it revolves around the creation of Android 21 by the Red Ribbon Army.

It’s clear Arc System Works has taken cues from the TV show as there’s an awful lot of filler and repetitive battling to be found here. However, each arc provides a different perspective on the story and, once you’ve played all three, the story pieces itself together rather nicely. You’ll also have a far better understanding of the characters and systems of Dragon Ball FigtherZ after sinking a few hours into Story mode. If you complete all three, in fact, you’ll end up putting in close to thirty hours in Story mode alone.

One thing fans of past Dragon Ball titles may want to note is that Arc System Works has pared back the roster of fighters. Here, you’ll only find around 20 fighters – maybe a few more – but that’s more than enough for anyone learning the ropes. Bandai Namco has also promised more will arrive via downloadable content, but I still wouldn’t expect the numbers found in past titles.

dragon_ball_fighterz_screenshot_3

Dragon Ball FighterZ review: Online play

As with every fighting game out there, Dragon Ball FighterZ will live and die by it’s online prowess. Thankfully, since the servers went live on 26 January, everything has seemed reasonably stable and straightforward.

During the beta phase there were genuine concerns around just how well Bandai Namco’s servers would cope with Dragon Ball FighterZ, but so far things seem to be going well. In a neat touch, Arc System Works has included a frame counter for the online component so you can see how many frames your dropping over your connection. A good connection should really only drop a frame or so, but slower ones could be as many as ten frames – which isn’t ideal. If a connection seems to be too sluggish, you can actually filter settings so you only ever pair with those using a strong connection.

For the most part, though, I found no issues in my online experience. However it’s worth noting that not happy with how Arc System Works has decided to run things, as this ResetEra post detials. Just bear that in mind if online is a major component in your purchase of Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Dragon Ball FighterZ review: Verdict

For the most part, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a wonderfully accomplished fighting game. And it’s different from most brawlers in that it’s accessible to newcomers while at the same time being complex enough that veterans have plenty to sink their teeth into. It’s still unclear if we’ll see it become a competitive title at fighting events like EVO, but there’s certainly potential.

The greatest compliment I can bestow on Dragon Ball FighterZ, though, is that every aspect of it feels like you’re playing through Dragon Ball itself. Its original story may fall flat and drag in places but the TV series is no better at avoiding filler. As a fan of the franchise, almost all its shortcomings can be forgiven because it creates an experience that’s quite unique. Punches have heft, super attacks truly feel super and that contributes to making this easily the best Dragon Ball game since the Budokai series on PS2.

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