“Dragon Ball FighterZ,” PS4, PC, Xbox One, $59.99, ESRB Rating: T for cartoon violence, mild language and mild suggestive themes.
“Dragon Ball FighterZ” is both a love letter to the iconic “Dragon Ball” series and one of the best 2D fighting games ever made, thanks to its dedication to beginners and experts alike. The fighting game features a ton of excellent fan service, accessible fighting mechanics and a ton of content to keep players happy for long periods of time. While some elements of the game’s presentation and design fall short, the game’s personality and accessibility help make it an instant fighting game classic.
While most fighting games pride themselves on difficult-to-master combos and strict timing, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” swings the opposite direction, making it one of the easiest fighting games to learn. Arc System Works, maker of “BlazBlue” and “Guilty Gear,” smartly keeps the game’s input mechanics uniform across the game’s roster of characters, which immediately throws out the challenge of learning the game’s basics. The game’s combos generally rely on mashing one or two buttons to launch flashy combos, with a simple quarter-circle input used to launch special attacks. Since players need to manage a team of three characters in the middle of battle, the simple controls lower the game’s barrier to entry.
“FighterZ’s” other strong suits are its art style, as well as its portrayal of its characters. The roster is full of mainstays from anime, like Goku, Vegeta and Frieza, as well as a few newcomers from the recent “Dragon Ball Super” anime. Like the show, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” leans heavily on its clean, colorful visual style, as well as relationships between each character. The game features a handful of cool interactions that pay homage to classic moments from “Dragon Ball Z.” Additionally, each character is faithfully voiced by its original voice actors, who do a wonderful job bringing each character to life.
“Dragon Ball FighterZ” features a ton of content to keep players busy, both offline and online. It also features a meaty story mode, which tells an original story involving a new character, Android 21, facing off against Goku and friends. The story mode includes built-in tutorials, effectively giving beginners their bearings with both the gameplay mechanics and characters.
Arcade, practice and challenge modes are also available. These help players refine their skills and strategies for multiplayer, which are offered in ranked, casual and local matches, which pit players against fighters of similar skill level. By competing in the game’s various modes, players can earn Zeni, which can be exchanged for new costume colors, player avatars and stickers.
While “Dragon Ball FighterZ” does a great job handling gameplay and content, it falls a little short when it comes to matchmaking and presentation. The game’s lobbies, which also serve as a hub world and menu, are generally crowded, which makes selecting a game mode or lobby difficult.
Each mode is accessed by talking to attendants residing in the hub, but since every player is represented onscreen as a “Dragon Ball” character of their choice, it’s often hard to see the attendants through a wave of other players. Additionally, multiplayer matches tended to be difficult to connect to, and gameplay within fights generally suffered from slight lag. While many of these problems could boil down to connection issues, they were troublesome enough that playing online became a bit of a hassle.
Despite weird lobby menus and choppy multiplayer, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is a compelling, beautiful 2D fighter with tons of content. Each character in the game’s roster is unique and well-realized, and the game’s homages to the original anime will be a big hit with fans. The gameplay is simple to learn and master, which makes it easy to recommend to anyone interested in fighting games. Whether or not you’re a fan of the series, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is one of the best 2D fighting games available.