Title: Dragon Ball FighterZ
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: September 28, 2018
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Since playing Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 it has been a staggering 12 years since I’ve actively played a game based on the Dragon Ball series. I’ve missed a lot aside from waiting for the Dragon Ball Super anime to be dubbed but with Dragon Ball FighterZ I felt like I reconnected with an old friend and laughed like we never missed a day.
Dragon Ball FighterZ accomplishes that feeling by bringing all the characters I’ve come to know into a new fighting game that mimics the action from the anime. And in this review, we will be talking about the Nintendo Switch version so my experience will be based on that platform.
I wouldn’t consider myself a technical fighting game fan, but I had no problem jumping right in with the control scheme that Arc System Works’ put together for this game. I found that most special attacks are triggered by the same quarter circle action akin to other popular fighting games. This recognizable motion makes it easy to remember combinations, which puts the real strategy into knowing when to launch a certain character’s attacks. Within an hour I was pulling off what I considered to be intermediate level combos and having fun.
I felt that the Switch’s Joy-cons didn’t hinder my ability to pull off combos, even with the small button layout, but that’s nothing to do with the game. This was a surprise for me since I usually prefer using a gamepad when playing fighting games. So what was more surprising is that I went a whole day using the Switch in handheld mode and found that I was still having fun and winning fights. This simple button layout made it easy to find my bearings during Dragon Ball FighterZ’s story mode. A combination of both the new combat system and the original storyline do a good job of introducing players to this whole new world, which goes as far as to introduce a new character.
The story opens with our main hero Goku being woken up by Bulma, Goku’s longtime friend. As Bulma tries to make Goku understand the grave situation surrounding them, she becomes aware that Goku is actually possessed by an unnamed spirit due to Goku and the other Z fighters being weakened by untraceable waves. So together, Earth’s mightiest heroes and the spirit must figure out who is causing the waves and put a stop to it. If that all sounds convoluted to you, that’s because the story may as well be written exclusively to make sense of the tag team fighting mechanic. However, I feel that never takes away from the fun to be had slamming enemies into cliffsides in epic Dragon Ball fashion.
I really enjoyed how the game introduces Android 21, another bionic being created by Dr. Gero with plans of absorbing the strongest fighters in the universe. Her inclusion fits well in the Dragon Ball universe due to the merged cells giving her the mixed personality and appearance of Frezia, Cell, and Buu. Lastly, her unfolding background was one of the only things keeping me in the story mode.
Like previous entries in the series that I have experienced, Dragon Ball FighterZ has an optional feel to its story mode. While all the side battles do reward you with money, experience points, and the occasional power-up, these extras never had me feeling like it was truly beneficial to the progression of the game. When it comes to multiplayer options, local matches are just as fun as the single-player battles. However, the real test for me was taking my newly acquired skills online. Thankfully, the fights were seamless and responsive to the fast nature of FighterZ. The online set up is really the only thing hindering the experience with layers of menus for every prompt selection and the loading times before and after every fight.
Though it is impressive to know that during my time with Dragon Ball FighterZ, I have noticed very little issues with framerates and jitters in either handheld or TV mode. That, along with high-quality visuals with real-time lighting and I would think that this game was a battery hog like I’ve experienced in other titles, which makes me happy to report that players will be able to compete in a handful of fights and some online matches with battery life to spare.
That is if you’re willing to wait for it all. While plenty of optimization went to FighterZ’s gameplay. I would have liked the same treatment for the game’s loading times. Two rounds of screens that first display the fighter line-up before the rotating circle over completely darkness had me putting down the console, firing off a text or two with plenty of time to pick it back up and start the match. It’s just disappointing when a quick one on one battle is shorter than both the loading screens before and after.
In the end, as a long time fan of the anime, Dragon Ball FighterZ was a great re-entrance into the fighting game series. The game is like all the stunningly rapid action I want from the show without any of the filler episodes. Pair that with the Arc System Works’ smooth Nintendo Switch port and it seems like playing this game on a console is a downgrade thanks to the handheld’s portability. My only hope is that the loading times can be shortened with update patches. So Dragon Ball FighterZ for the Switch is definitely a great pickup for any action anime fan on the go.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.