Back in June 2017 one of the world’s biggest gaming conventions, E3 had Bandai Namco Entertainment unravel a pleasant surprise for those who enjoy fighters and maybe, at one point in their life, wondered what it was like to be a super saiyan. Dragon Ball FighterZ was probably the biggest reveal for this year’s E3 and it didn’t look like anyone from the corporate side was expecting such an explosive reception to the title.
It’s not the first time that the Dragon Ball series had received a game deal let alone one for the fighting game genre, the earliest I can immediately recall would be a title on the Super Nintendo. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if it had several games for every console that got released; it’s simply that big a name.
What makes this particular title, Dragon Ball FighterZ, huge is because of the forces that are behind it’s creation, and trust me, how it’s named is probably the subjectively negative we can point out from its reveal. Being developed by Arc System Works in cooperation with Bandai Namco Entertainment not only guarantees excellent polish for a beloved anime franchise but also ensures us that this will have the financial backing to get a good follow through, whether that be in the form of sequels or packaged DLC will be the real question.
Recently, we were allowed access into the closed beta of this title, where it had several windows upon when it can be played. This would be my first time getting any real play out of the title which is set to release early 2018, and I was generally happy with the experience.
How is it like, right now?
I was already expecting a gorgeous game as I’m all too familiar with how Arc System Works had handled Guilty Gear XRD and its following sequels. Suffice to say the game does not disappoint in terms of presentation. Animation is fluid and lively while taking advantage of its 3D nature. A mix of hand drawn effects and freely distorting models gives a convincing, snappy effect for the movement and animation of the game. If there was ever a way of showing how to make an anime come to life, Dragon Ball FighterZ has certainly nailed it to the last detail. You can also see how the team behind this game is very passionate about the series as it makes use of many references from the manga and anime series as well as some other pop-culture references (particulary with Krillin) to help flesh out their characters. They also make some pretty bad-ass finishes which they currently call ‘Destructive Finish’ and anyone planning to pick up this game should endeavour to always, always end the match with this because of simply how great it is.
While it’s possible to learn these things through online resources I pretty much prefer to learn everything within the game, but I suppose exceptions should be made for things like closed beta tests as the functions presented to be available at that point were serviceable at best. The only real thing to do is to walk up to the arena and either watch people fight or wait for people to fight you. But this is a beta test and that’s plenty. One thing I wish they did add was have some sort of training room to get some lab work in. I was completely clueless with how the game works any of its unique functions, and was doing guess work half the time I was fighting anyone at all.
How it Plays Out So Far
Those who are familiar with other titles from this developer will be more or less at home with the control convention with some shoulder buttons added into the mix. With face buttons similar to the ‘A-B-C-D’ configuration of BlazBlue, and added dash function on R2 and the usual tag call buttons on the left shoulder.
Being used to fighting games, I was able to inch out a few victories for myself and pull off some generic combos. Being able to figure out how some of the game works on the fly was pretty satisfying and a good sign of how well the game conveys its own mechanics without having to rely on text-heavy explanations. Something of note is how everyone has a projectile button but it functions differently depending on who you are using. In case your opponent gets trigger happy with the energy blasts, a homing dash sort of similar to Arcana Heart doubles as a way to quickly close the distance and break through most ki blasts. Other common functions are mapped by generally combining 2 buttons like throws or triggering supers or even ‘vanish’ teleports. Each of the three functions, in terms of how they work, have some clear inspirations from Guilty Gear, Naruto (the PS3/PS4 games), and even Marvel VS. Capcom 3. So generally, I find DBFZ as an amalgamation of many popular fighting games before it, and with the exception of what’s pretty much the ‘X Factor’ function, I am very happy with it as it is able to stand on its own and I look forward to see how this game develops further on.
The delay-based netcode for DBFZ during the beta test was stable to say the least, of course we have to take into account how our own internet interacts with the ISPs of other players, so there were matches that felt like it had no delay even at 3 frames of delay being indicated by the game. I also attempted to see how bad the connection can get by approving every match that came up regardless of connection quality, maxing out at 19 frames of delay, which was of course, atrocious. To be fair, the game either supplied a constantly laggy game or a constantly smooth game most of the time, so it’s pretty safe to assume that your connection quality is the biggest variable here.
Like Where This is Going?
At the moment, I’m a bit worried about how Dragon Ball FighterZ roster play out and feel. They seem to be playing on some level of restriction as to what kind of characters exactly they release, and a lot of them feel more or less like a slightly different version of the other at the moment. This observation can be attributed to the lack of lab time I had to get a real feel of each character, but generally more characters resemble each other than stand out from one another. Having similarly functioning normals and varying specials is a good start, but may need more specialization for characters rather than binding them to the Ki blast button.
Thankfully, the characters released after the initial announcements have been proving to expand the ways you can play the game. Originally the only real oddball was Picollo and his stretchy arm, now we have Krillin who not only has the strangest projectile set in the game, but also has some tricky ways to approach the opponent. Android 16 currently bears the title of the resident grappler and hopefully, we get a playable Android 21 who is a completely new character only revealed in this title.
Currently we’re also looking at Tien and Yamcha, two characters recently announced to be playable on the game’s release. As these two aren’t known to have achieved impossibly high power levels as the rest of the cast has, what they’ll be featuring in the game is certain to really make new strategies and play styles available for anyone willing to pick up the game. It also makes it possible for Yamcha to kick Vegeta’s ass, and that’s kind of hilarious.
Getting a Dragon Ball game that looks this great is a treat in itself, seeing that it’s being handled by a capable creator of fighting games is certainly reassuring. I have this inkling feeling that the executives behind this project wasn’t expecting to make the ridiculous buzz that it did during its reveal and has taken a step back to improve what they currently have. Dragon Ball game that’s created this much hype for a long time if any did at all, and wanting to make good on that hype is a wise move.
Oddly enough, I believe Dragon Ball FighterZ is going to be great not because it’s already showing a lot of what it can be, but because its developers are already taking steps to interact with its potential community like this closed beta test and answering issues that pop out, directly.
Can’t wait to check out this game’s power level by January next year.