Dragon Ball FighterZ Early Impressions
I had some time with the Dragon Ball FighterZ closed beta this weekend. The short version? February can’t get here fast enough. Arc System Works has crafted a lightning-fast monstrosity that will wrench your adrenaline to near-fatal levels. The battles I fought had me roaring like a Saiyan, gripping my controller so tight I thought it might crack apart. I was only given access to a tiny slice of the finished product, but what I played was more than enough to hook me good.
Previous entries in the Dragon Ball game franchise have leaned towards 3D models, to better simulate your movement through massive destructible arenas. FighterZ uses characters with a more hand-drawn look. When combined with the crazy high speeds that fights can reach, the end result closely resembles an episode of the anime cranked up to the red line. Even after plugging hours into the beta, I’m still not certain how the characters move with such fluidity and grace.
This feels like a heady blend of Arc System’s usual fighting fare and the super-powered style that is Dragon Ball. The moves are fairly simple, you can execute them crazy fast and the general pace of the matches is pretty blistering. For the closed beta, we were given access to six characters. Most of them played in a similar fashion, a decision which let you pick up and play with very little time required to get your sea-legs, so to speak. I had a tough time keeping the moves straight at first, mostly due to the default button layout having a bit of overlap. Even so, it didn’t take long for me to find my ideal team for surviving matches. I even won a few of them! Like any good fighting game, the more difficult the character is to learn, the more devastating they are in combat. Majin Buu turned out to be an absolute menace in the right hands. Conversely, a character like Vegeta is easy to both play as and play against. No matter who you’re playing as, the battles move almost too fast to follow. Arc System Works has managed to replicate the breathless, superhuman pace of the anime in a format you control.
Holy crap, some of those moves are amazing. Once you get the hang of the special system, you’re able to unleash absolute hell against your opponents. On top of that, some specials are cheap enough in terms of power consumption that you can unleash them repeatedly. All you have to do is build up enough charges on your special meter and you can lay down four or five in a row. Or you could swap between your three different specials for a more exciting battle. There’s an entire team battle aspect I hardly scratched the surface of, wherein one of your secondary characters can pop in and unleash a special move. You can also swap between your fighters, depending on whether or not they have any health remaining.
“Arc System Works has managed to replicate the breathless, superhuman pace of the anime in a format you control.”
As much fun as the online arena battles were, there appeared to be a whole game that was blocked off for the closed beta. I’m psyched to see what else is in store, although what I played was enough to justify buying the game when it’s released. The previous entries in the Dragon Ball fighting game franchise were fast, but none of them felt as fast as this. The 2D arena restricts combat just enough that you’re able to cram a ton of moves and counters into a very short time frame. There’s still a lot of flying around if you’re into it, but the combat really shines when you stick to those basic 2D fight spaces. I have less fighting game experience than some, but I’m savvy enough to realize just how technical this game can get. Once the full roster of characters is available, the potential combat depth is only going to grow. Absolutely keep an eye on Dragon Ball FighterZ, this is going to be a game-changer when it comes out.
***A closed beta code was provided by the publisher***