By: Johnny Big Fudge Marcondes
Looking back at E3, there weren’t many moments that has truly left me speechless. A lot of the announcements both at E3 and in gaming today tend to feel a little predictable or leak way ahead of the true reveal in online forums and various other means of social media. Even though Dragon Ball Fighter Z was leaked with screen shots before it’s proper reveal during the Microsoft E3 conference there still wasn’t much known about the project other than it was being created by Arc System Works. When Microsoft took the stage and fans were given a full fledged trailer including gameplay footage for Dragon Ball Fighter Z, I was in awe. Again, these type of reveals don’t always get me overly excited but Dragon Ball Fighter Z came out of the left field and boy did it swing hard for the fences.
Being a massive fighting game fan and heavily into anime, Dragon Ball as a series helped shape me as a person. Growing up Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z was THE anime to watch and to this day it’s still my favorite of all time. Year after year ever since I was a little kid I would buy every new DBZ game to come out. It’s become somewhat of my weakness, I can’t help my self even though throughout the years there have been some fairly bad Dragon Ball games like Ultimate Battle 22 for the PS1 and of course some great ones like the Budokai Tenkaichi 3. Nevertheless a lot of the Dragon Ball games typically followed the same formula which for an anime game does work, but for a fighting game can get a little dull and repetitive. Since each game feels the need to re-tell a story that fans know like the back of their hands, there was never this sense of growth or originality in the gaming series until the most recent releases with the Xenoverse games. Dragon Ball Z both as an anime and game series relies heavily on over the top fights and moves so powerful they could destroy planets. Arc System Works are game developers that truly knows fighting games. Being the studio behind the BlazBlue series as well as the Guilty Gear series the idea of them handling a Dragon Ball game alone is enough to excite any fighting game lover.
Arc System Works has one of the best fighting game mechanics/ engines around today, games like Guilty Gear and Blazblue are built to be played competitively due to their technical approach and speed. Guilty Gear XRD Rev 2 is arguably the best fighting game currently out today. Between the absolutely beautiful graphics that look as if they’re ripped straight from an anime and the complex characters, Guilty Gear is waves about others in the fighting genre. Games like Guilty Gear Xrd and Blazblue share this almost OCD like level of paying attention to small detail. Guilty Gear XRD especially as it not only has some of the best lighting in a fighter today but also one of if not the best tutorial mode in any fighting game today. Helping to break down their battle system but challenging even the most veteran of players at the same time, Arc System Works can be really creative with familiar aspects of fighters which one can only imagine what they could add to a popular franchise like the Dragon Ball series.
Graphically speaking alone, Guilty Gear looks like the best anime based video game that isn’t even an anime. Using this engine in the reveal trailer for DB Fighter Z we saw what these familiar characters would look like in game boy is it jaw dropping. Each character is beautifully rendered and looks the best they’ve ever looked in any previous game. Goku, Frieza, Perfect Cell, Teen Gohan and more looked incredible in their opening cinematic and performing their signature moves. When it comes to fighting games it’s all about the minor details that add up in the long run that matter the most and Arc System Works has perfected that. With their current line up of games under their belt I have no doubt that this game will be handled with as much care as any other under the dev team. Dragon Ball Z isn’t just about over the top explosive battles it’s also about the characters and Arc System Works have dug through numerous reference photos, videos and more to essentially give fans the best versions of each character. There were numerous sources online showing gameplay screen shots next to manga and anime screen shots for reference to give fans an insight at just how much Arc System Works did to nail each characters moves and personality.
From the lighting to the sounds, the way each character moves nothing feels synthetic and comes across just as it would in the show. Dragon Ball Z is one of the most beloved animated series to ever come out and to see it step into a new light with a company that knows how to treat fighting games like they should is so refreshing. There have been so many Dragon Ball Z games that utilize this 3D style which we’ve seen used over and over each year and while the series isn’t new to the 2D format they’ve never utilized quite like Fighter Z has. Fights are what the show popular and from what we’ve seen from the trailer as well as the gameplay footage that was released, fights take center stage as DB Fighter Z proves to be on par with any fighter out today. With the return to the 2D aspect the series has a a more grounded feel to it. The typical Dragon Ball game gives players a lot of freedom to fly around and essentially treat each fight with a cat and mouse mentality as you’re able to teleport or create distance. Dragon Ball Fighter Z on the other hand follows a more traditional gameplay format like the one found in MvC 2 where players are brought together in teams and can rely on assists to help pull back. Unlike the run of the mill DB games we’re used too, Fighter Z’s 2D aspect coupled with Arc System works mechanics is going to make this arguably the fastest paced DB game to date.
When the trailer was first shown lot of fans instantly thought about the popular fan made MUGEN game Hyper DBZ. While the fan made game is a thing of beauty, to see a major studio create something similar to that kind of shows the impact that game as well the fans have had over the series. Arc System Works have created some really amazing fighting games that are a massive part of the fighting game community, when you look at DB Fighter Z it’s not hard to imagine that it could potentially find itself being played in multiple tournaments within the FGC(Fighting game community). Since E3 a lot more information on the game has come out and we’ve seen even more footage. DB Fighter Z has so much potential for a game that’s been said to be %20 completed upon E3. Think about that, this game was only %20 finished when it was being played by fans and shown off and it already looks incredible.
As of right now we don’t know much the game in terms of roster size or if it’s going to have a story mode. There are way more questions than answers of right now which once we find out more we will revise and update this article so as of right now it’s simply speculation on who will be included, what arcs are going to be followed and more. One thing we do know for sure is that the game will have a 3v3 battle system that’s very similar to the MvC series. Seeing three of your favorite characters go at it against three others is enough to win most fans over. Aside from the 3v3 aspect of the game, what really stood out to me was how familiar this game looked. Dragon Ball Fighter Z takes a lot of core mechanics found in Guilty Gear, Blazblue and Arcana Hearts essentially their best traits and implementing it in a MvC2 format for what’s going to be one of the most diverse anime based games to ever be officially released. The “Dragon Rush” and Super Dash seen in gameplay footage is essentially the Roman Cancel system found in almost all of the arc system games and the Dust attack found in Xrd. Those two mechanics are really going to help the game keep it’s increased speed and rush down like momentum going which will make every fight feel intense like the show. Running at 1080p and 60FPS on the Xbox One X I can’t begin to imagine the kind of crazy fights the game could be capable of with season players behind the controls, it’ll surely make tournament battles all the more exciting.
Nevertheless it’s pretty interesting that they decided to go to a 3v3 system as opposed to the more traditional 1v1 or even 2v2 tag system. Perhaps it’ll changeable within the menu or maybe it wont be, either way it does offer a new approach to use familiar characters. Now when battling online players will have to try and pick a team that compliments each other, perhaps some characters aren’t as fast, strong or versatile as others and require a give and take balance to the team. Any good fighting game needs those, balance between each character and enough difference in them to give each character a fighting chance. It’s going to be interesting to see how character balancing works with characters that could destroy planets with one attack. From what was shown it’s easy to tell that DB Fighter Z will be a combo heavy game, from what was shown it doesn’t look like the characters will be too difficult to control as each character essentially uses the same command layout as of right now. Perhaps it’ll change down the line when more characters are announced and the game is further into development, who knows we might see charge characters down the line. Personally speaking I could see say Bojack or Broly being a charge character, as of right now each character does follow this basic layout for controls (based on the Xbone controls from E3):
- X button: Light attack.
- Y button: Medium attack.
- Y + B: Teleport.
- Rapidly pressing X or Y button: Super Combo.
- B button: Heavy attack.
- A button: Special attack.
- Hold A + X : Charge Ki.
- Right Bumper: Dragon Rush.
- RT: Super Dash.
- RT + RB: Sparkling Blast.
- LT: Z Assist.
Over the next few months we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this game, Arc System Works puts a lot of effort into all their fighting games and the characters they put into them. It’s going to be really interesting to see which characters make the cut and if they’ll be any future DLC character packs or even pre-order exclusives like most modern fighting games do. While the roster size isn’t known yet it’ll be really cool to see them release future characters and to continue to support the game after release like they do with GG(Guilty Gear). PersonallyI’d like to see them add characters like Kale to follow the Dragon Ball Super Series or even SSJ 4 for GT. Dragon Ball Z games have always had this charm to them, the characters alone are so beloved by fans and the battles are always gorgeous to look at. From over the top explosive attacks to hard hitting punches and kicks each DBZ game in it’s own way was fun but never really felt like the battles you saw on the show. Arc System Works have two of the best fighting games under their belt in BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. Both those games, especially Guilty Gear are incredibly fast paced fighting games that pulls no punches.
From what we’ve seen and were told in interviews, DB Fighter Z looks to be as fast paced and hard hitting as the show and is arguably going to be the most intense DBZ game we’ve ever seen. Chaining combos together, building up meter and playing keep away with assists adds this newly found complexity to series as a game that fans haven’t really experienced before and it’s really adding a breath of fresh air to the familiarity of anime based games. As both a fan of the series and fan of fighting games I am beyond hyped for this game, everything about it reminds me of why I loved the series growing up and continue to love it today. It’s fast, it’s cool, it’s explosive and filled with some great characters. The level designs alone in DB Fighter Z looked to be ripped straight from the show, Arc System Works really captured everything that made the show great in that one trailer. The level designs and the exchanges before battles both in dialogue and rushing into each other after one of your characters loses health feels so genuine to the series it’s beyond amazing to see how much fan fare is being put in to the game.
Anime influence aside, DB Fighter Z is a true fighting through and through. Watching gameplay footage online of this 3v3 fighter brings me back the MvC2 days of trying to construct the perfect team (Cyclops, Captain Comando and Guile for life). Anti-Air assists and support assists are going to be incredibly odd in a DBZ game, imagine calling upon Tien for a support assist and he uses a Solar Flare attack to stun your opponent allowing you enough time to rush him down or if say Yajirobe (please be in the game) makes the cut he can toss you a senzu bean to heal you. There are so many possibilities for this game in the long term, I honestly hope this isn’t just a one off title and we see follow up games that expand the cast and more. Honestly, DB Fighter Z has so many people and rightfully so. This isn’t just another fighting game it’s something completely new to this popular brand and feels like a gift to those who grew up with the series. Like popular fighting games (Street Fighter, MvC and more) Fighter Z uses meters to build up your gauge for special attacks. At the time the game was revealed and able to be played a lot of the special attacks did look pretty similar. There were a lot of larger than life big Ki based attacks and we got to see Teen Gohan’s level 5 special the glorious father son Kamehameha which had it’s own mini cinematic. It looked awesome. Hopefully when the game is officially released we’ll have more of those type of special attacks where a little cinematic action really makes building your meter feel worth it.
Every DBZ game that has come out has been a hit or miss and while enjoyable to me at least, critically they’ve has bounced around and left a lot of people in doubt. Each game does it’s best to capture the shows likeness but none have every had the heart that DB Fighter Z has shown. Anime games in general always get this backhanded treatment by devs or are handled pretty poorly with the exception of a few titles. DB Fighter Z doesn’t look rushed, generic or like a quick cash grab. This game looks polished and made to be taken seriously, it’s something that could easily be seen played in tournaments along side other big name fighters today and since there’s still so much more to find out about the game the sky’s the limit. You know Arc System Works has a great game on their hands when everyone in the FGC is losing their minds over it, there are even those who don’t like or know much about the anime getting excited over it. It’s crazy to think that we may soon be seeing a Dragon Ball Z game appear at EVO, it’s definitely possible and if Arc System Works continues to support it then Fighter Z could be in the forefront of the tournament scene giving anime based games a new found respect among players.
I can honestly spend all day talking about Dragon Ball Z, believe me that’s not an exaggeration it’s the truth. This is my all time favorite anime series and after playing every game with the series name on it I can honestly say that Fighter Z is the going to be the best one yet. There aren’t many moments in gaming these days that leave me speechless or with look of sheer excitement on my face quite like how DB Fighter Z left me. The trailer, the gameplay the roster so far everything about this game looks absolutely gorgeous and smooth. Fighter Z isn’t even half way done yet and already it sold me on the game. While there isn’t an official release date as of right now other than “early 2018”, fans are going to have to wait but hopefully not too long as Bandai Namco has stated there will be a closed beta test before release. Even though it was first shown at the Microsoft stage at E3 DB Fighter Z will be available on the PS4 and PC (imagine the mods) and if enough demand is met for it even the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo should seriously pursue this title as they not only need 3rd party support for their new console, but they also need a solid line up of fighting games especially since they already announced a Fight stick is soon to be available for the Switch.