I thought: combining one of the most iconic anime of all time with one of the best game developers in the industry will surely be a good idea

Dragon Ball FighterZ, from developer Arc System Works, successfully adapts the fast and exciting pace of a Dragon Ball-style fight in a three-on-three 2D fighting game built around a combo system for beginners and some of the most beautiful and loyal to source cel with shaded artistic styles to surround.

Despite the visual chaos, the Dragon Ball Fighter Z mechanics are actually deceptively simple and easy to learn. There are only four attack buttons: light, medium, heavy and a special attack button typically mapped to a bullet. There are no complicated special move input commands, like Dragon Punch, charge or movement in 360. If you can throw a fireball in Street Fighter, you can perform virtually every single move and technique in Fighter Z. It’s great, especially since you have to manage three characters simultaneously.

The only point where its simplicity goes too far is that each character has two highly damaging automatic combos that you can perform simply by pressing the light or medium attack buttons. Add to that the ability to use a secure homing attack on a block that can quickly close the distance and allow those automatic combos to hit 100%, plus you have a system where low-skill tactics are very effective. An experienced player will probably continue to prevail because a heavier timely attack can punish those homing attacks. But it can be complicated to time those, especially if a delay is involved, which makes it frustrating when your opponent decides to fight to the sound of spam. More importantly, it’s not just a very fun fight.

Fighter Z is fast, fluid and cerebral

But, when you’re paired with another player with the same skill level, Fighter Z is fast, fluid and cerebral. It affects that sweet point of being easy to learn, but also difficult to master, but above all, it looks like Dragon Ball. There is something so satisfying, and so singularly Dragon Ball in bringing someone into the air, hurling him at high speed, teleporting behind them, throwing him back, and then ending up with a huge burst of energy.

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The Rooster of 24 characters is quite exceptional. Weirdness like Ginyu earns their place on the roster with unique mechanics, like summoning individual members of the Ginyu Force to perform an attack instead of having a traditional bullet, or Nappa’s ability to plant Saibamen that eventually grow and fight. Arc System Works has found a great balance between making each character similar enough to make it easy to learn and also to add enough depth and nuances to give them their own distinctive feel.

In the single player campaign, FighterZ’s long original story involves an invasion of mysterious clones and the mysterious aspect of a new character in Android 21. It starts well, but lasts 10-12 hours from slow motion. Eliminating the weaker clone fighters among the major fights seems to fill this void. Of course, you level up and gain new skills, but their benefits, like slight health gains, defense or special attacks, are barely perceptible once you’re in a real game.

The real reason why it is worth playing for Dragon Ball fans is the special conversations before a game. The association of Gotenks and Ginyu makes them put themselves in a sudden situation of mutual resonance; another conversation between Piccolo and Tien states how Piccolo is a better grandfather than Goku; and it’s worth finding any scene with Yamcha because of how painfully aware he is of being by far the weakest fighter in Fighter Z. Canonically, at least. Looking for moments like these was by far the best part of the Story mode.

If you want to test yourself against AI, FighterZ’s unique approach to Arcade mode is definitely the way to go. While fighting through teams of special themed fighters, you are evaluated after each battle and that rank determines the path you follow: high, medium or low. There is no real difference between the routes outside of their difficulty and the specific characters you fight, but it can be extremely difficult to stay on the high path all the way, which gives you something to fight for as you play. The downside is that there is no way to start a game again and sometimes, the difficulty peaks can be huge from one game to the next.

The most fascinating parts of FighterZ are found in the lobbies

The most fascinating parts of FighterZ are found in the lobby, where your chibi avatar can communicate with other players through emotes and funny stickers that use the show screens. While the booties are almost always terrible, in reality they are not so bad. FighterZ is very generous with the game currency, and when I completed the Story mode, some Arcade modes and some combo challenges, I had unlocked a lot of stickers, more titles than I ever wanted to choose and all avatars except 7, all without spending a penny.

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As for the online game (in the beta, which Namco Bandai representatives claim is representative of the final version), my experience was around 50/50. There were times when it was so fluid that I could play against someone right next to me. Other times, it was an exasperating holiday delay that usually ended with a disconnection. It is something we should hope for Arc System Works to stabilize soon.

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Dragon Ball Fighter Z Review
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Dragon Ball Fighter Z Review
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I thought: combining one of the most iconic anime of all time with one of the best game developers in the industry will surely be a good idea
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GT magazine
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