Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

We've arrived at the first retail release review of April. It's for a recent fighting game inspired by Dragon Ball Super, it's Dragon Ball FighterZ from publisher Namco Bandai and developer Arc System Works. The following review is based off of the PlayStation 4 build.

HFIL hath no fury like a fighter scorned


How do you make a good, licensed fighter? Well, it's a much easier answer than you might think. You take one part good, licensed property--let's say... Dragon Ball Super--and throw in one part one of the most accomplished fighting game makers of all time. For this one, let's say... Arc System Works. What you get from this recipe is what some might consider one of the very best anime fighting games ever conceived: Dragon Ball FighterZ. Its combination of accessibility and depth make for one fighter that serious packs a punch.

One of the things that puts me off of so many fighting games out there is having to memorize an excessive, exhaustive list of button combos just to pull off moves, or having to use such complicated inputs that require a severe degree of finger-fu. This isn't so much the case with Dragon Ball FighterZ. Right from the get-go I was able to pull off powerful, flashy moves with the same, shared button inputs across all characters. The only hardcore memorization needed is in pulling off multi-hit combos that can juggle opponents in the air for a good while until the combo is complete. Considering Dragon Ball FighterZ is the type of fighting game where you can have up to three characters, it's nice that there isn't a lot of learning involved for each character. After all, it'd be ridiculous having to go through the process of learning not just one character in extreme depth, but also two others just to have a capable trio of fighters to work with.
 
Goku versus Frieza: a feud for the ages!
Because of the lack of overwrought move memorization skills and complex inputs (such as rotating the control stick 360 degrees), Dragon Ball FighterZ is a highly accessible fighting game and a good entry point for novices of the genre. The game uses four buttons for attacking: a light attack, a medium attack, a heavy attack, and a special move. Using these in combination produce some really cool and impressive-looking moves that will allow you to live out your fantasies of taking on Frieza as Goku while actually looking somewhat competent doing it. Of course, while the barrier of entry for Dragon Ball FighterZ is low, the skill ceiling is quite high. Yes, you can spam moves easily and probably win against a beginner, but if you try to pull off that kind of play against a seasoned player, you'll quickly find yourself on the receiving end of a virtual beat-down. 

Even with all that fat cushioning his stomach, that kick from Goku has got to hurt!
The ability to effortlessly slam your elbow into your opponent's face, follow them with a dash as they fall backwards, smack them up into the air, teleport behind them and then deliver a mighty Kamehameha blast to their surprised face is just tremendously satisfying to both pull off and to just plain see. The further ability to be able to perform all of this rather easily (while also being able to counter it just as easily) is why I love Dragon Ball FighterZ's level of accessibility.

Majin Buu losing to Goku this time around? That's a bit of a stretch.
Being a three-on-three fighter, there are a lot of strategies to think about mid-battle. Between thinking of when to call another fighter in to assist or to just take that character's place so they can rest, to considering whether to use most of your Ki energy gauge to unleash a massive attack that deals a lot of damage but has a higher probability of missing or hitting your opponent with weaker attacks that consume less Ki energy, battles can unfold myriad ways depending on your split-second decisions. This is the mark of a complex and deep fighter, and that's to be expected when Arc System Works is involved. 

Krillin powers up his signature move, the Destructo Disc.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is packed to the proverbial gills with modes. Those thirsting for a substantial single-player experience will be happy with both offerings from FighterZ. For one, there is a Story mode, which features an all-new character in Android 21 to take part in. While this mode eventually gets quite long in the tooth thanks to how it is organized (going around a map fighting the same clones over and over again for experience points, bonus abilities and Zenny isn't all it's cracked up to be), the unique, sometimes hidden interactions between Dragon Ball series characters is positively golden. Many put characters together that never interacted much in the actual series, or even at all. This makes for some really hysterical, sometimes awkward encounters that never fail to entertain. With the option to play with Japanese or English voices, you can tailor your trip through Dragon Ball FighterZ's Story mode to your liking.

Sometimes it feels like Cell comes back more times than Jason Voorhies.
Alongside the ten-hour or so Story mode is Arcade mode. While this mode is traditional in that you fight a series of opponents until the final bout, what makes Dragon Ball FighterZ's Arcade mode unique is that it is tailored to your skill level. If you handily defeat an opponent, your next battle will be more difficult. There are different routes to the goal in each Arcade difficulty setting, and depending on how well or how poorly you do, you move up or down different routes. The lower routes are the easiest while the higher routes are, of course, the hardest. Thus, replaying Arcade mode with varied teams of characters is much less repetitive than it otherwise would be.

Dragon Ball FighterZ asks upon startup each session whether you wish to play offline or online. Going online means you can go to one of hundreds of servers around the world, playing in a virtual hub world as a chibi avatar character. You can move to the various modes in the game this way, chat with the numerous players who inhabit the hub lobby, and participate in online matches. The online is hit or miss currently as of the writing of this review, with many more hits than misses. In my dozen hours fighting other players online, only a handful of battles were complete slideshow messes, and that was mostly due to my own mistake of playing against FighterZ players with low latency on their connection settings. 

Some characters call in special guest stars to assist them in battle such as Goku Black is doing here.
Outside of battling online or off, you can use Zenny earned throughout your FighterZ play history and spend it on random draws of prizes. These are all nothing that affect fights either aesthetically or worse off, gameplay-wise. Instead, you use Zenny to buy new avatars, stickers and titles to be placed on your online profile. Even by earning less than a million Zenny over my duration of time with Dragon Ball FighterZ, I was able to purchase most of what was on offer in the game, and I could have easily gone further if there was any real, tangible reason for doing so.

Like father...
Each fight in Dragon Ball FighterZ is essentially an interactive episode where you are at the controls. It's damn near impossible to tell the difference between the game and the actual series of shows when the more dynamic camera angles present themselves. This is all thanks to the painstakingly crafted character models, the gorgeous backgrounds, the highly articulated animations and the fast and fluid frame-rate that is smoother than the bottom of Baby Trunks. The voicework, whether the aforementioned original Japanese or English dub, is equally terrific (though I imagine every series fan will have their own preference), and the music is suitably rock-oriented and fitting for the intense action displayed during the high octane battles within FighterZ.

...Like son.
Dragon Ball FighterZ succeeds at being three things: an accessible game, a great Dragon Ball series game and just a superb fighting game in general. While the somewhat simplistic controls lend themselves to the ability to spam moves against less enlightened players, the level of depth within the mechanics breathe forth a fighter that can shine with the best of them. Dragon Ball FighterZ doesn't quite reach Super Saiyan God level, but it does impress all the same.

[SPC Says: B+]

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