Monday 13 August 2018

Dragon Ball FighterZ ★★★★★

Arc Systems, best known for the highly praised Guilty Gear and cult favourite Blazblue, take on the Dragon Ball series and they smash it with ease. The character rooster may be smaller in comparison to Budokai or Xenoverse, but I'm okay with not being every C list character, for the sake of padding out the character select screen. Dragon Ball FighterZ is an extremely good and faithful adaptation, of its source material, and I’m sure it helped that they had Akira Toriyama at hand, who also created a new character for the game.

Dragon Ball FighterZ Pronounced "Dragon Ball Fighters" uses Arc System's anime inspired, self modified, Unreal 4 engine. This allows 3D backgrounds and character models to appear like 2D animated sprites; giving the illusion that you're playing a frantic scene from the classic 90's anime. Visually, at times, the game looks far superior to the anime. It also uses a clever trick to match the shows use of (or lack of) frame animation, while running at a smooth locked 60 FPS. The clever use of the camera, whenever someone uses a special move or a transition of a character switch, helps make the game feel more frantic and keeps the action at a rapid pace. As a nice little touch, certain characters will have unique interactions with one another during the begin of a match. On specific stages, using a particular Special Move to finish off the opponent will trigger ends to the match that replicate scenes from the show. Which is enough fanservice to get any fan wet? The option to pick between the English and Japanese dub is also a nice, and welcomed addition.

Main Menus don't exist here, everything is selectable within a small online Lobby world, that you automatically join as the game starts up. Each Lobby is filled with up to 64 other players, a lot like the online Guilty Gear Lobby. Each player chooses a chibi version of a Dragon Ball character to visually represent themselves, online, and jauntily scamper around and send emotes to each other. While this is fine for those of us with the Internet, a standard Main Menu would have made more sense for those unable to play Online. If this is your first Arc Systems fighting game, I'd recommend going through Training Mode, early on. Their games tend to play a fair bit different than your regular Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. It'll cover everything from basics, Special moves, to advance Combos and techniques. 

A lot of these lessons are also taught during the Story Mode but doing them all there will just help slow down what is already a fairly mundane and repetitive slog. Story Mode is mostly pretty bad and only worth playing through to unlock Android 21. It consists of three story arcs, The Super Warriors Arc, Super Villains Arc and The Android Arc, but really it's basically the same story from three sides. The cut scenes also slow things down by forcing you to press a button at the end of each sentence, rather than have the scene play out. Probably to keep you interacting, so you don’t realise how boring the story actually is and just start playing on your phone.

There are a few choices for playing Online..., except, no one's really using Casual Match, so Ranked is about the best option to get beat up by strangers. There is also Ring Match, which is an overly complicated way of playing with your friends online and Arena, for playing with just the people from inside your chosen Lobby. Every good beat 'em up should also come with a decent Arcade Mode and Dragon Ball FighterZ doesn't disappoint. It uses multi tiered difficulties. The higher the difficulty the more people you fight, a bit like Mortal Kombats Tower system. Only these also branch off, getting harder or easier, depending on how well you do during each fight.

Mechanically, Dragon Ball FighterZ plays like a mix of BlazBlue or possibly closer to Persona 4 Arena and Marvel Vs Capcom 2. It carries over the simple combo system, of just mashing square, for people new to Arc System games or a younger audience, so it’s possible to pull off an impressive looking attack for a decent amount of damage. Just don’t go expecting this to get you very far. Like all Arc System games, the real fighting mechanics go way deeper than that. The 3v3 style gameplay, like Marvel Vs Capcom 2, adds another layer to the mayhem, calling in your partner for an assist or switching out when health is low. With the right team of three, it's possible to unleash some devastating multi-character combos, to the point of depleting 100% of a health bar.

Dragon Ball Z has always had a good cast of weird characters, daft humour, a crazy story (that's part Superman and part Journey to the West) and ridiculous over the top fighting. This is no exception. This game is over 9000.

Bry Wyatt

Dragon Ball FighterZ at CeX

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