By: Johnny Big Fudge Marcondes
It’s no secret that every writer here on Pixelated Rampage absolutely loves Dragon Ball Z, in fact each of us have spent quite a fair amount of time talking about the game individually and who can blame us? When the game was initially announced and revealed the entire world started talking and FighterZ easily became the break away game of E3 this year. With every new bit of information released about the game both fans of the anime and the FGC (fighting game community) have both become infatuated with Arc System Works latest game. For the first time in quite some time an anime game is generating a lot of buzz from the industry and not just from the demographic or fans it’s geared towards. Throughout the years we’ve seen numerous anime based video games be released and a lot of them happen to be fighting games, however we’ve never quite had an anime fighter like this.
When familiarity feels new again.
Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t just your run of the mill fighting game or Dragon Ball Z game, it’s something entirely new. FighterZ is a game that can easily stand on its own, having so much going for it that both fans and new comers can get heavily into there’s instantly refreshing and intriguing charm to the game. In fact, FighterZ may be the first anime based game that’s so good mechanically and graphically that even if you’re not a fan of the series (which lets be real, who doesn’t love DBZ) you’re able to enjoy it and look past the series it’s based on without being asked or forced. Everything about FighterZ is done so perfectly that it hardly feels like an anime based game. While it may look very much like an anime, it handles like a traditional 2D/2.5D fighting game at it’s best.
Fighting games are my passion, it’s what I play most of the times I have a controller in my hands. Growing up it’s been the one genre that through thick and thin I’ve stuck by, I simply love everything about them. From the colorful characters, to the special attacks that are both flashy and devastating, to the music and backgrounds and everything in between, fighting games are my love when it comes to gaming. When it comes to anime, Dragon Ball Z is my favorite anime of all time. It’s the anime I grew up watching and spent the most time obsessing over. Who didn’t want to be Goku, Vegeta, Trunks or Gohan growing up? Having both fighting games and Dragon Ball Z being my two favorite genres of games and anime, you can imagine that I spent a lot of my childhood and adult life playing and buying nearly every DBZ video game.
While anime games are my guilty pleasure, the Dragon Ball Z games I’ve played growing up were fun but never quite felt like the show. Each game retells a familiar story with one or two new twists thrown in, while ultimately still fun games (Budokai Tenkaichi 3, Xenoverse 2, Burst Limit and Dragon Ball Revenge Of King Piccolo to name a few) there was always this nagging sense I had that something was missing. Dragon Ball Z has always been about these massive battles and compelling characters with moves that at a drop of hat could destroy planets. The fights were fast pace and hard hitting and while each DBZ game did a good job bringing the series to life it never felt as hectic as the anime. When Dragon Ball FighterZ was announced and gameplay footage was revealed it seemed like Arc System Works had cracked the code and creating the perfect Dragon Ball Z game.
As a fan of fighting games, seeing a studio like Arc System works take on a Dragon Ball game felt like a match made in heaven. Arc System works have been behind some of the best fighting games in the genre, Guilty Gear for example is one of the best fast paced fighting games around. Within each new version/sequel of the game Arc Systems have continuously progressed each characters story, visuals and balance giving familiar characters a sense of excitement again. The way Arc System handles their games is through sheer passion and love of what they do, Guilty Gear Rev 2 is one of the best fighting games around today and really shows how far they’ve come. When FighterZ was first shown off I couldn’t help but notice the game looked incredible but familiar. Once it was revealed that Arc System Works was behind it then it all made sense. I was hooked and sold.
Hitting harder than Nappa on Tien’s hand.
After getting my hands on the game and witnessing firsthand how it controls and performs at this years New York Comic Con, I can honestly say it’s one of the best fighting games I’ve ever played. For the first time I was playing a Dragon Ball Z game that actually felt like the show. From the opening intro of the characters to the second the fight started it was none stop hard hitting action. The way game presents itself is something that’s been missing in all other Dragon Ball Z games, there wasn’t this build up or fluff before a fight. There was no wiggle room to fly around and catch your breath, FighterZ is simply a straight up dedicated fighting game.
Looking past all the initial charm of FighterZ, it’s biggest strength is the easy to use and hard to master combat. FighterZ has the 3v3 battle system that’ll feel familiar to fans of MvC2 and the speed that’ll have you feeling even more nostalgic of MvC2 while adding some new features that help it stand out. With each character having somewhat simplified controls, FighterZ is the perfect game for anyone on any skill set to enjoy. New comers can easily pick up a controller and start pulling off combos and big moves while seasoned players will have a harder time learning some of the more in detailed combos and timing that’ll make each fight seem more hard fought. Honestly this is the type of fighting game fans have been waiting for.
Each character announced so far feels true to the source material all the while being incredibly fun and dynamic enough to have you constantly switching your team formation around. What makes Dragon Ball Fighter Z so much fun is that it doesn’t just feel like a fighting game, or an anime game it feels like a perfect mixture of the two mediums in one incredibly smooth game. From the characters chosen that range from fan favorites such as Frieza or teen Gohan to pretty random/bizarre picks like Nappa, there’s this incredible sense of fairness and excitment in the game. In a game based on some of the most overly powerful characters in anime, the rosters diversity is both justified and oddly balanced.
While characters such as Nappa typically won’t stand a chance against say Android 18 or Goku, giving him a niche fighting style using Saibamen and mid range power attacks can quickly shift the playing field depending on a players skill set. FighterZ is just as much of a fighting game as it is a Dragon Ball Z game, there’s this great give and take dynamic to the game where one characters weakness could be balanced out by his/hers teammates strength. There’s so much more to FighterZ than meets the eye, there’s a genuine sense of strategy involved that hasn’t really been explored in previous Dragon Ball Z games before. Team selection is just as important as anything else and it’s elements like that which really give the FGC something much more than familiar characters to grasp.
After spending some time playing FighterZ and making numerous trips on that line to play even more, I can honestly say that this is the type of game the FGC scene needs right now. It’s fast, exciting, flashy, unique and extremely well put together. While I was online I spoke to a few people around me and we all had this gleeful agreement that FighterZ is everything we wanted out of MVC3 and Infinite. Having a 3v3 battle system is going to be tied to the MvC series no matter what, it’s become iconic within gaming and although FighterZ isn’t trying to be MvC there will be some comparisons thrown it’s way no matter what. MvC Infinite has been a disappointment to a lot of fans, it’s one of those series that every fighting game fan looks forward too but this time around Capcom failed to meet a lot of expectations. Fighter Z on the other hand doesn’t have anything to prove and comes out of the gates swinging like it has everything riding on it’s success.
Breaking the mold.
Breaking from the standard anime game mold FighterZ loses a lot of the tropes found in anime based games. Dragon Ball Fighter Z much like the Xenoverse games won’t rely on retelling a familiar story with one or two new additions to make it seem fresh. Fighter Z abandons that trope by going forward with an entirely new story that not only perfectly fits within the realm of Dragon Ball Z but has new elements and characters that help enhance an already established franchise without making you doubt it’s plausibility. The story behind FighterZ is something that feels very much like it belongs within that universe even if they introduce a new character who may not be canon (as 0f yet).
Following the newly introduced Android 21 as she resurrects Android 16 to help her summon a legion of “Super Androids” that mimic the Z fighters as they try to take over the world. It all sounds very much like a plausible arc within the anime and has this new character to help the unpredictability of the game’s narrative which is nice. While Goku and his friends try to overwhelm the new threat, the twist is that the game has this meta feel to it where you the player take over Goku’s body and it’s acknowledged. This gives the game a kind of new take on some familiar aspects of the series. While in control of Goku and various other characters throughout the story there’s going to be this RPG like element to the game where you have chances to pick different responses to characters. It’s something that hasn’t been done in a main DBZ game and even Xenoverse which is arguably the most creative DBZ game to date hasn’t really felt this exciting and different.
Arc System tends to put a lot of effort in their games and Dragon Ball Fighter Z is no different. With a single player narrative that’s giving fans a completely new take on familiar characters and a brand new story there’s something for everybody in FighterZ. It won’t matter if you play online or offline, the battle system in FighterZ is one of the best I’ve ever played and believe me, I’ve played a lot of fighting games. Having this sweet balance of MvC2 meets Guilty Gear Rev 2, Dragon Ball FighterZ is so incredibly fun and while the rounds won’t last very long it’ll be a consistently fun fight throughout. From fast rush downs and attacks to massive ki blasts that take up half of the screen this game feels and looks like how an ideal Dragon Ball Z game should. While still in development there have been numerous fan posts point out how in detail the game is, having anime and manga reference photos of character attacks being replicated in the game shows how seriously Arc System is taking this game. Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t just another fighting game or DBZ game it’s a love letter to fans.
Literally everything about this game feels like one massive love letter. From the story and character movements for die hard fans to the intricate and exciting 3v3 battle system geared at the FGC, FighterZ is easily one of the most well rounded games to be coming out for this generation of consoles. What makes me the most excited about it’s release is that it’s such an incredibly impressive game and solid fighting game that it could potentially break through the mainstream. Anyone who’s a part of the FGC or follows it closely knows that every year there are a handful of events where the FGC has some of the best players in the world compete. EVO for example is one of the biggest fighting game showcases around having a weekend long tournament consisting of numerous fighting games.
While EVO is seen as the fighting game tournament to watch there isn’t much of an anime based game influence there. Typically the bigger games being played are your Street Fighters, Injustice, MK, etc but given how well rounded and versatile FighterZ is I could honestly see it making an appearance at EVO. The FGC have been raving about FighterZ and having a first hand experience with it I can’t help but agree with them. Potentially FighterZ could help break ground in anime based games and help push them away from the typical formula they follow. Having a more in depth battle system and a new narrative is a step in the right direction for anime based games, FighterZ could be that one game that helps change things up in the genre to make it less of a niche and more of a viable presence in the fighting genre.