Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) Review

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Dragon Ball FighterZ is the best Dragon Ball fighting game I ever played

Jokes on you, I never played any of the other games like Budokai or others. SO with that info you know what type of brawler I am. I love Dragon Ball the series, I watch all the latest episode sunday morning as early as possible to be up to date on the current Dragon Ball Super saga, BUT I never really cared for those fighting games before. Where I come from as a player is Tekken for the most part. I played some Street Fighter, but I never got the hang of that sadly and my last  real fun fighting game in my collection was Mortal Kombat X. SO, how dare I judge about Dragon Ball FighterZ? Well I hope I can give those who like 2D fighting games an outlook into what Arc System Works has delivered and if it is even interesting for the casual player.

A mixture of yellow and violett flashes on the screen
I can’t see what’s happening but it’s flashy and bright and exciting and woaaaah… – thoughts while playing Dragon Ball FighterZ

What Arc System Works does will be good

From the studio that does also the Guilty Gear series and other different fighting spin off games like Persona 4 Arena in 2012/2013, we now get Dragon Ball FighterZ on all modern consoles. Funny enough this isn’t their first Dragon Ball game. ASW also did Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors for the GBA in 2004, Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2 for the NDS in 2005 and Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butōden in 2015 for the 3DS. All, from what I heard from of one of my Twitter followers, apparently also quite good games. Have a look at the trailers and gameplay videos I collected in this handy playlist down below. What is also interesting is the way how preorders and ingame dlc work in Dragon Ball FighterZ, especially when we compare the method to the also upcoming by Arc System Works developed game “Blaz Blue: Cross Tag”, which will have two fighter tag teams, so one fighter less per side than Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Awesome combat without limits

This brings me straight into the gameplay of Dragon Ball FighterZ. The game is set around a tag team setup of three fighters, which can help each other out individually. On their own, each fighter has their light, medium and hard attacks plus a ki attack, you know, to throw some energy balls at enemies for example. The game introduces some combinations of those different attack styles in its tutorial, which is a fantastic way to start to learn the game’s basic mechanics. Sadly it does not reveal further useful character specific combinations besides the powerful attacks which need your Ki to be charged. Because of course the fighters have the ability to stand still and power up while screaming out loud, which causes a little meter on the bottom side of the screen to fill itself up to 7 times. Some special attacks costs only one Ki bar, while most so called meteor attacks need 3 Ki bars. Some fighters like young Gohan and the SSGSS versions of Goku and Vegeta also have the ability to go one step beyond their meteor attacks by using another Ki bar to deal some extra damage.

Goku hits his SSGSS meteor attack on Yamcha
Heavy meter attacks take the most out of your Ki bar, but also look amazing when they land!

Now link them together

As previously established, the fighters are not alone but fight together in a team of three. Some characters harmonize better together than others, while each of them also have a base set of collaboration. For example while Goku can use his Kamehameha, the other fighters on the team can tag along and switch out with him by adding their special move as well, leading up to all three characters unloading their one Ki bar using special moves onto the enemy. It is quite impressive when executed correctly and makes you as the player feel powerful as hell. In general, executing a load of landing hits and finishing them off with a special move alone is really satisfying, but what steals the cake is the destructive finishes and the rare dramatic finishes. Destructive finishes are those when you either deal the final blow with a hard attack, leading to the enemy being kicked agains the next building or mountain, or with a meteor attack, which will lead to ridiculous final shots of how basically a continent worth of space blows up or the final shot like a Kamehameha is being seen from outer space as massive beam of energy.

a destructed city with a bright blue beam in the background destroying even more
DESTRUCTIVE FINISH! – Dragon Ball FighterZ makes you feel awesome when playing well.

How Dragon Ball FighterZ fits into the Dragon Ball Super story

Dragon Ball FighterZ is set shortly after the Resurrection ‘F’ storyline as we can determine from Gohan just beginning training with Piccolo again and Bulma wearing the same outfit as seen in that part of the story arc. In general and without spoiling the story, the story overall deals with Android 21 reviving a lot of fighters from Dragon Ball Z, instead of super, in order to devour them as Android 21, just like Cell, is a mixed being of different cells, only this time it’s including the cells of Majin Buu, which means Android 21 has a hunger for powerful fighters in order to grow stronger. In the same movement, a lot of clones of all characters appear everywhere, leading to interesting interactions between the heroes, villains and androids. That’s the basic gist of it. We as the player actually get to play as a part of three different viewpoints. Each story arc is being started with you as the player being introduced as a foreign soul that all of a sudden is inside of one of the story arcs main characters. For the Super Warrior arc is begins with Goku, the Enemy Warrior arc has you start with Frieza and the Android 21 arc has you begin as Android 18. The three different story arcs unlock after beating the previous one, meaning you begin with the heroes, than the evil guys, than the android point of view.

Android 21 showing herself in the midst of an meteor attack
Android 21 – here in a the good version – is the center of the story mode in Dragon Ball FighterZ

Who are we again?

The explanation how we control these fighers is explained by the red ribbon army using a technology that for one let’s powerful fighters lose their abilities by being suppressed using energy waves. Then there’s another technology that allows souls being linked to different bodies and having them control each other. So we both start of as powerless and clueless as to why we are here and who we are. The game actually never explains who we as the player are, because it’s suggested that it’s simpy the person holding the controller. It’s actually quite neat for an idea, as the characters talk  to you directly and compliment you for your fighting abilities and mock you on the other side, especially by the villains, for daring to taking over control. Dragon Ball FighterZ actually dares to tell a new story and placing us inside of the universe next to all the heroes we learned to love and the villains we hate. In the Android 21 story arc, we even get to see the background behind the evil that is lurking inside of Android 21, leading to actually being the best story arc of the three, because of the fascinating change the character goes through and how we perceive her,  since the previous story arcs make her out to be just as an evil person, rather than a complex character. Kudos for pulling that off!

your team composition in the story mode is a bit different, fitting to the current story arc you're playing in
The story mode has a reduced character roster, fitting for the current story arc you are playing.

The flaws of the Dragon Ball FighterZ story

While many aspects of Dragon Ball FighterZ are great, such as the gameplay, combat and in package of the game, meaning the possibilities and game modes, there are still a lot of aspects that annoy me about the game. For starters, the story mode of Dragon Ball FighterZ actually is a bit boring, considering the fact that partially all we do is chain fights after fights only to unlock new fighters for our roster, having to re-explain the story so far (that’s being skipped thankfully) only to have them stand up and say: “alright let’s fight them all”. Meaningful plot events happen only at the beginning, in the middle and the end of the first two story arcs. All others are just regrouping and gathering fighter events, which I skipped in their dialogue after the fifth time nothing crucial was being shared with us. The only exception is the Android story  Arc, which has way fewer, but nontheless also some moments which are more filler than anything. So no, the story of Android 21  may not be the best executed, but in its essence it is still worth a shot and playthrough.

The meteor attack of Goku got blocked by Cell
Another great trick: blocking. Saves you even from the strongest of attacks!

A board game?

There’s one more aspect of the story mode that I want to point out here as being quite good although not necessarily fantastic. The way you complete the chapters is by traversing a game board where different nodes are either waypoints or encounters with enemies. It lets you pick how many fights you want to have on your way to the next boards boss fight and enables you, if you want, to fight extra enemies like Majin Buu for more experience points. Yes, fighters are also using experience points to level up. The explanation comes from the radiation waves that seal away the power of the fighters, so having an XP system makes logical sense. Enemies are growing in levels as well, meaning the higher your and their level is, the higher for example is their health meter. Only in the story mode you’ll actually see health bars with numbers attached to them. The game does not provide those numbers in any other mode. Why? Because next to the level system the story mode also introduces a mod mode, where our team can use up to 3 slots for mods which will either make our different kinds of attacks stronger, increase our health or even start healing automatically, giving more experience points after matches and so on.

the map on which you play on in the story mode features a simple grid
The story mode has you play chapters on a board laying out a grid for you to chose your path on.

An RPG game even?

There is quite a good variety of how you can set together those mods and it helps a lot to lower the difficulty at times. This is important because you’ll not get all your health back after a match, only when switching boards it does so. In the meantime you have to juggle between deciding which characters you want to keep around, as the others will not be able to keep up with the ever increasing level difference between them and the enemies. Also, where’s your focus? Getting more Xp or more health for the next fight? It all depends of course on how well you play the game and how you set your focus on fights. For me it peaked around: just replenish as much health as possible during fights.

The menu of the story mode in Dragon Ball FighterZ showing the mods and how many you can have.
Mods help you in the story mode to have faster progress on characters or stay alive for longer.

Conclusion

Dragon Ball FighterZ checks many points of my list for a good fighting game and game in general. It has a solid story mode with a mediocre interesting story, yet delivering fun gameplay and depth for those who like to exercise with ever increasing bot difficulties. The arcade stages are a true test of your abilities and the roster from the start is also big enough to offer a wide variety for everyone. The gameplay, the way we connect attacks and link character abilities together and the way the game makes us as the player feel powerful is excellent. Meanwhile there is also a robust online matchmaking system in the background with ranked and casual playlists, or if you rather prefer, a local duel mode for you and your friends on the couch.