When Dragon Ball FighterZ was announced at E3 2017, a very magical process began. From its announcement to tournaments at EVO a month later, to the beta and release of the game, there was nothing but hype. Arc Systems Works were (and still are) considered to be the premier developers of anime fighting games and to have them holding the reins on a Dragon Ball-themed fighting game was a match made in heaven.
The basis of this is that the Dragon Ball series hadn’t seen a proper fighting game in quite a while. Aside from the Budokai series in the PS2 era and Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden for the 3DS (which was also made by Arc System Works), the series saw a lot more arena-fighting games with over-the-shoulder cameras and a lot of flying around. Dragon Ball FighterZ comparatively is a prime example of a traditional 2D fighting game.
Challenging The Marvel vs Capcom Series With 3v3 Fighting
It was also announced at one of the best possible times. The game is very easily compared to the Marvel vs Capcom series, specifically the second and third games of the series which are two of the biggest games in competitive fighting game history. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, the fourth entry in the series, had a poorly-received demo released just a month prior to FighterZ’s announcement. It already had a bit of a negative reception towards it and the story-based single-player demo only made it worse.
Criticisms about the character models, gameplay changes, and roster selection created the perfect maelstrom for the desire of a traditional MvC game that FighterZ was capable of providing. The height of uncertainty and negativity towards Capcom’s new fighter grew in tandem with the hype for FighterZ.
This would seemingly all culminate as FighterZ’s beta took place the weekend before Infinite’s launch. 3v3 fighting, assists, and absolutely beautiful visuals brought the Dragon Ball world to life like never before and satiated the fighting game community at the same time. It was even announced that a new character designed by Akira Toriyama would be in the game’s story. The hype for FighterZ would stay with it until launch when it sold two million units within its first week and received high praise from critics.
Arguably One of The Best Fighting Games
To be perfectly honest, that game isn’t without its problems and I’ll get to that soon enough. First, you need to let me gush a little bit. Dragon Ball FighterZ is, in my opinion, one of the best fighting games. I know that’s a strong claim to make, but I say so because of the solid and fun gameplay that’s coupled with an incredible amount of respect and love for the franchise.
Starting off with the gameplay, it felt incredible when I first played it. Certainly it was on the casual side of fighting games and the presence of an auto combo system proved that, but the first year was marked with players discovering new tech all throughout. The skill ceiling would rise as the best players learned touch of death combos (a combo that can result in an opponent losing a character with full-health) and generally more useful techniques than the auto combos.
Even if you’re not the greatest at fighting games, you could still have a fun time watching and playing it. And Dragon Ball FighterZ can be a wonderful game just to watch, although a lot of that can be attributed to how the game looks.
The Manga and Anime Are Perfectly Replicated
The art style and beautiful use of shading is a big part of the game’s appeal. Character models, stages, and even attacks look gorgeous! Practically every character’s move set is derived from attacks they’ve used in the original series or previous games. Even the standard light attacks can be directly compared to panels in the manga that the team took inspiration from.
Aside from being a feast for the eyes, the game is wonderful when it comes to audio. Each punch, kick, and blast feels lifted from the show. Broly makes the same sound effect when he’s walking that he made in his now 30-year old debut movie! And all of this is supported by perfect little dialogues before, after, and sometimes during matches between characters.
I haven’t even gotten to the best audio in the game: the background music! The stages already have decent enough music, but the characters themselves have amazing and absolutely rocking themes. Trunks has music befitting a hero filled with hope, Broly brings the hard metal you’d expect from the self-proclaimed demon, and Vegeta has the shredding style you’d expect from the cocky Prince of Saiyans.
And that’s not to say the style is purely guitar and rock as Hit has jazz, Majin Buu comes with something best described as alien, and Bardock shows his older place in the timeline with a theme straight out of the 80s (which seems to make sense when you look at how he dresses). Merged Zamasu and his uppity god complex are wonderfully paired with a heavenly choir while Vegito brings a mix of Goku and Vegeta’s themes.
It’s rare that I enjoy so much of a soundtrack but how can I not when each track fits the characters of one of my favorite series so well.
The Unfortunate Issues
Gushing aside though, the game truly did launch with some problems and it’s not stain-free even now. There have always been complaints aimed at how easily auto combos beat other moves and the occasional inconsistency when it comes to super dashing. One huge issue early was the matchmaking. It was extremely common to get matched up with people with various skill levels and from seemingly all over the world even if you wanted someone nearby and similarly leveled.
Matchmaking doesn’t face as many complaints as it did thankfully, but it took a while. The absolute biggest issue however was the online itself. Massive frame-delays in online play provided a huge hurdle that was only compounded by the other issues. It’s better now, but it’s still far from perfect.
As important of an issue as that is, I’d still absolutely recommend the game to people. There’s been a lot of changes and improvements made to the game (especially in season 3) that have brought more life into the community than it’s had in a while. It’s definitely worth a look at least, and I’d like to go over what’s changed in the game since launch.
Rising Through the Ranks, Learning Meta, and Hating Bardock
Dragon Ball FighterZ’s launch of the game was like most fighting games: a time of discovery and an even playing field. Everybody learned how to play together and people learned the most optimal usage of each character. A meta would eventually grow with Android 16 and Vegeta near the top with their command grabs and assist properties respectively, but that would change a bit with balance patches and new characters.
The DLC characters added memorable characters such as Broly, Vegito, and Cooler. Many would find themselves placed in the meta pretty quick and some would rise or fall over time. There was one character in particular who would dominate the game though.
Bardock, the father of Goku, was the best character in the game. Undeniably. He had all the tools needed to place him above everybody else and some of the best synergy. His high presence in tournaments and his strong auto combo that was frequently encountered online made him a prime symbol of peoples’ issues with the game.
Fan Favorite Characters and Season 2’s Rise of Goku (GT)
Season 2 of the game would be confirmed alongside the announcement of the FighterZ Pass 2. Jiren, Videl, Goku (GT), Janemba, and the Dragon Ball Super (a.k.a. canon) versions of Gogeta and Broly would be released throughout the year. One of the biggest changes for the season was that there was only going to be one big balance patch for the entire year, and smaller patches with minor tweaks and bug fixes.
It seemed like a strange method, as the Bardock meta was pretty strong. Most took it that the development team was confident in their big balance update that nothing else would need to change. A meta would still exist of course, but it admittedly didn’t seem as bad as before.
That changed when Goku (GT) was released. He wasn’t necessarily as strong or even represent what people didn’t like in Bardock, but he certainly felt a bit better than everyone else. Goku (GT) was the poster boy of the meta for season 2 and the new face of what people hated.
FighterZ Pass 2 had six characters in comparison to the first pass’ eight, which meant there was more time between DLC characters. This only felt even longer because of constant leaks or early announcements of the characters, as well as the lack of updates in-between. It wouldn’t be strange to say that season 2 felt very slow and in need of some updates, which isn’t what you want in a fighting game.
Big Changes and Big Characters in Season 3
After a lengthy absence in season 2, season 3 was announced with big changes. A huge addition was giving each character three assists to choose from, allowing for more variety in who players use. Something else that was added was a comeback mechanic of sorts, which powers up the last remaining character on a team. The team also wasn’t going to follow the precedent they established in the previous season and would be open to more updates.
Thankfully, the meta isn’t as strong and stale as it was in past seasons! There are certainly strong characters and characters that could still use some love, but the changes have made it far less likely for you to see the same three characters over and over again. And that hasn’t changed much with the DLC characters either.
Kefla and Goku (Ultra Instinct)
When it came to DLC characters the list was brought down again to five characters. Kefla and Goku (Ultra Instinct) were the first to be announced and they’ve both been released. As two of the most popular characters from the Dragon Ball Super, they were of course followed with a lot of anticipation.
Kefla has been one of the most requested characters since launch. The cocky potara-fusion between the two female Saiyans introduced in Dragon Ball Super is one of the most well-received and she’s wonderfully represented in the game with quick flashy attacks to compliment her rush down playstyle.
Goku (Ultra Instinct) was similarly a highly requested character since the launch of the game. Which says a lot since some complained about the amount of Goku-related characters. His release more than met the hype with a great set of tools for dealing with most opponents alongside some fancy gimmicks. He’s not overpowered, but he’s arguably one of the flashiest and best-looking characters to watch in the entire game.
Is The Ultimate Edition The Best Way to Buy Everything?
With all the content and DLC added since launch, it’s normal for newcomers to seek out a complete package. I wouldn’t blame someone for assuming that the Ultimate edition would be the best way to buy the game with its DLCs. I mean, it must be called “Ultimate” for a reason, right? But the truth is that the Ultimate edition was simply a higher level allowed for purchase at launch.
The “standard” edition came with only the game. The “FighterZ” edition came with the game and the FighterZ Pass, which included the first eight DLC characters. The “Ultimate” edition came with the same content the “Fighterz” edition has plus an anime music pack to use as BGM and a commentator voice pack for use in replays.
Not even touching upon the fact that it doesn’t include FighterZ Pass 2 and 3, I’d still argue that the Ultimate edition is not worth it.
The anime music pack seems like an awesome idea on paper, but the tracks are mostly cut versions that don’t last for an entire match and fade out instead of looping. If you enjoy looking back at your replays often in fighting games then you’ll likely find enjoyment with the commentator packs, but it might not be worth the extra money otherwise.
Fortunately, the game and its DLCs have gone on sale here and there. I’d argue the most common and likely cheapest method to get everything is to buy the FighterZ Edition and then Fighterz Pass 2 and 3. Buying the base game and the first FighterZ Pass will save you a cent at best if we’re talking base prices.
If you’re not interested in getting everything, you can always buy the FighterZ Pass that has the most interesting characters to you or even buy the characters separately. Buying the FighterZ Pass will save you $5 compared to buying each character individually, but it’s all up to you and your own preferences.
You’re guaranteed to be getting an entertaining and fun game regardless of how you buy into it.
Season 3 has brought a lot of new players in and a lot of old players back. The more players there are the better the online experience will be. I can’t guarantee that it will be a perfect experience, but if you’re looking to play one of the best Dragon Ball games (certainly the best fighting game of the series) and itching to play a decently-balanced 3v3 fighter, there isn’t a better time.