So, it was Goku Day yesterday? I didn’t even know there was a day to celebrate the anime world’s worst dad, let alone that it coincided with Mother’s Day. There were a few things I thought about writing – Goku being the worst anime dad was one; I also thought about writing about the Goku-Frieza team up from the Dragon Ball Super finale. But I finally settled on something that’s a bit closer to my heart – Dragon Ball FighterZ.
A sentiment I’ve often come across for this game is that it’s not just a good Dragon Ball game, it’s a good game in general. That’s still an understatement. Dragon Ball FighterZ is the best way to experience the trademark fight sequences from the iconic franchise.
Let’s start off with the gameplay. Arc System Works is hands down one of the best fighting game studios around; there’s no one who could have possibly done it better. The light-medium-heavy auto combo attack system incorporated into the combat ensures that pros and noobs alike look cool no matter what they’re doing, and that’s symbolic of Dragon Ball fights. Even Radditz managed to look cool before Piccolo’s Special Beam Cannon ploughed a hole through his chest.
This system also allows for button mashers to actually stand a chance against seasoned gamers. Hence, it makes for a great party game when you have your anime loving friends over too. This is in contrast to a game like Mortal Kombat 11, where you need to learn a few basic combos to even stand a chance against someone who knows the game.
From the looks of it, the development team had two major mission statements when it came to FighterZ. The first one was to make a good fighting game, and the second was to fan service the hell out of the game, and by God they did! From a gameplay perspective, ArcSys did everything to make sure that each character gets their due. For example, I’m a big fan of Tien Shinhan; don’t ask me why, I think he’s the coolest franchise character after Trunks. You’d tend to think that a character like Tien wouldn’t get as much attention as some of the bigger characters or 872 Gokus on the roster.
But not only did the developer include his move set from the anime, but also integrated some of his major feats from the series into the game. For instance, you can use his Tri-Beam special attack multiple times, just like he does against Cell in DBZ. The game also uses Chaotzu perfectly, including a special attack that results in him latching onto the opponent and exploding, like he did against Nappa in the Saiyan saga. This attention to detail plays a big part when it comes to fan service. It’s way beyond just a nod to the source material like in the case of superhero movies.
This is also where the game stands apart from Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Bandai Namco’s game felt monotonous even if you changed characters; the special moves were the only major thing setting them apart from each other, and even that did little to stop me from dropping it like a used up Dragon Ball.
However, the true essence of honouring the source materials is in the cutscenes that take place around the battles. Yes, the pre-fight banter is nothing new – we’ve seen that in the Injustice games and countless others as well. But things like knocking each other into mountains (the real victims of the Dragon Ball universe), and the cinematic finishes that show Vegeta’s Galick Gun beam launching into space is where fans like myself thought, “That’s such a Dragon Ball thing!”
On top of that, the masterstroke for ArkSys are the Dramatic Finishes. If the right characters are fighting against each other on the right stage, FighterZ treats us to an ending cinematic right out of the anime. I knew about these when I first played the game, but watching the Dramatic Finish animation of when Goku defeats Frieza on Namek made me squeal like a teenager watching the scene for the first time.
And all of this is just when the game is in the hands of casuals like me. Dragon Ball FighterZ is the only game that has ever piqued my interest into the world of esports. The rivalry between Go1 and Sonicfox at EVO showcased how the game looks when the pros are at it. The movements were so fast and precise that I felt like young Gohan who couldn’t even see the battle because of the intense speed. There was one instance in particular where the two opponents teleported three times behind one another, finishing it off with a beam special. “That’s some real Dragon Ball shit right there,” I thought to myself.
Gameplay, fan service, and staying true to the source material was the tri-beam to success for Dragon Ball FighterZ, and why it’s the best way to experience the franchise’s beloved combat.
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