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Review: Dragon Ball FighterZ

by onOctober 2, 2018
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Editor’s Note: A couple of month after the game’s original release, this review has been updated following the release of the game on Nintendo Switch as well as the patch updates and content drop to all customers which reflects on the overall score, and final verdict.

Eight months after its release on all major platforms, including our review of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 (which you can read below), Bandai Namco’s highly successful Dragon Ball FighterZ finally lands on the Switch after its reveal at E3 2018. But the question is simple in this case: is it worth investing in it? Or is it worth even for newcomers that don’t have it on the other consoles?

To start with, the content of Dragon Ball FighterZ on the Nintendo Switch is the same as the other platforms, whether it is story, arcade, versus, training and other modes. The only difference is that it is possible to compete locally with ad-hoc and several consoles! That’s great for instant small challenges with people you meet or friends on the go, but you got to consider something important and that’s extra content. Sadly, although it is usually the case with other games moving to the Nintendo Switch, Dragon Ball FighterZ will still require the purchase of the Season Pass to get access to all previously released characters, whether it is Broly, Vegeto Blue and all Goku clones to make a few. This obviously might push away people that already invested in the game on other platforms, and won’t want to repay to get the same full experience on the Nintendo Switch.

But, beyond the content, it is especially the handling on the console that intrigued me the most. I mean to be fair, the Nintendo Switch does lack the sturdiness of a dedicated controller the likes of the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 versions, and Joy-Cons are definitely not the way to go with this game. I’m not saying this out of no reason, but because I found it hard and close to Impossible to chain properly combos as I used to on other platforms (with or without arcade stick), on top of a slight issue with input lag as well. Instead, I heavily recommend getting a HORI Real Arcade Pro V or even simply the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller to counter that if you’re serious about playing fighting games in general on the machine.

In terms of the technicality of the Dragon Ball FighterZ, you should expect a slight downgrade from the previously released versions. Textures are not as clear and the aliasing is much more present especially with regard to characters and the background. You will mostly notice this during cinematics in story mode or pre-fight introductions. But there’s a solid performance for something that matters in fighting games and that’s the framerate levels. Dragon Ball FighterZ might look like it lacks sharpness, but the game is fluidly running at a locked 60 fps, whether docked at 1080p or in handheld mode at 720p.

So is it worth it? Well yes and no depending on what type of fighting game player you are. If you’re a semi-professional fighting game player then this might not be a viable investment even if performance is solid on that front. But for those of you that didn’t get the play the game yet, then definitely jump on Dragon Ball FighterZ on the Nintendo Switch, especially if you’re hoping to have fun and quick casual fights with friends on the go.

Dragon Ball FighterZ on the Nitendo Switch was reviewed by Nazih Fares using a downloadable code of the game provided by Bandai Namco. The game is also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC via digital and retail releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).


Dragon Ball FighterZ – The Original Review published on January 26th, 2018

2018 seems to be the year of fighting games, or at least the beginning, following the release of the new Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (which we reviewed recently) and the upcoming  Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and Under Night in-birth exe: late(st) coming in late January or early February, it’s time for me to check probably one of my most anticipated picks: Dragon Ball FighterZ. Pronounced as Fighters (with an S), this Dragon Ball fighting game is a true ode to the animated and the eponymous manga created by Akira Toriyama more than thirty years ago, mixing modern elements and nostalgic features. With mechanics we were promised innovative and a graphic style very respectful of the original work, Dragon Ball FighterZ (pronounced like the word Fighters) has a lot to prove, especially after so many weak games based on the franchise in the past years.

With Dragon ball being one of the biggest and oldest Japanese animated series that has touched several generations you are sure to cross someone at one point who has at least read, seen or heard about this beautiful series. Unfortunately, the hype that has been built up on numerous titles for this series was not met with the perfect game. Luckily, I believe Bandai Namco finally nailed it. The game was originally announced at E3 2017 and since then it has been the talk of the fighting game community with many big names jumping on board and waiting for the official release. Before going into more details, it is worth mentioning that there is no surprise behind the marketing success since they have partnered with Arc System Work who are famous for Guilty Gear and Blazblue series.

I must admit, I had no idea on how to test this game, there are so many aspects to it so the first week was dedicated to the offline modes. Sure, I am no professional player, so I put myself to the grind in offline mode. Started training, local combats with my wife, arcade mode and of course my ultimate favorite, the polished story mode. All these options where available to me at start through a small hub in which we control a miniature character. If anything, I wish they had collectible of real life figurines that looked like those characters. The way this hub works is more like a main city in big games such as destiny. There are divided in different key points from the original comic book. The tatami of the martial arts tournament, the house on Turtle Island, the Red army tower, everything you grew to love is there. The game also uses a currency called the Zeni. Everything you do in the hub and in the game, earns you Zenis which allows to purchase capsules with random cosmetics such as skins, etc.

The game made sure to bring the best characters of the franchise with the new comer such as Android 21 and Beerus, the God of Destruction. The combat is always the same, a 3 vs 3 combat system. There’s over 25 characters to choose from and unlike Injustice 2, there are no perks to enhance your hero. All the skills required are your fingers and how you handle a controller. At first the game seems to simple in terms of execution, specials and combos which is great for newcomers however the more you play the more you can notice the depth of the game and its mechanics. There are countless of strategies and several ways to go on about the combos which could be the difference between a pro player and a casual. Despite the skill difference, everyone needs to go through the tutorial as they explain some fundamentals that are not to obvious by just being a fighting game expert.

The other mode that is interesting, the arcade mode. This is the best place to test your might as it is a succession of combats and works like the Mortal Kombat style ladder system where the next opponent gets stronger and stronger. Finish the arcade mode and unlock different difficulties. Pretty straight forward. Towards the end, you will be able to unlock Goku and Vegeta Super Saiyan Blue mode.

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On to my favorite part of the game, the story mode. In this universe, you live the story of Goku and his friends during a new threat that shadows the Dragon world. The story begins with someone linked to Goku’s body. That someone is us and throughout the duration of the campaign, we will be linking to the different characters, to justify the fact that we are in control of them. The narrative is developed through cut scenes and the movement is portrayed by a board like a monopoly board. You can move from one side to side and select different paths picking up new allies and new objects. Throughout your journey, each fight gives your character experience which grants you passive powers, more defense and many rewards. This adds a layer of evolution to the gameplay. Affinity in your team is also important. Obviously, to increase this affinity, you must play in the same team you originally picked and win. The only thing that I did not like in the story mode is the difficulty level. It was very easy to skim through it and sometimes became boring, but this might not be the case to casual players.

The story mode is split into three arcs, starting with the Super Warrior Arc with Goku as the main character, the Enemy Warrior Arc focused on Frieza, and finally the Android 21 Arc where both Android 18 and 21 are you core story “heroes”. If you want to understand all the narrative thread of this episode, you will have to finish all the arcs, especially as it will unlock C-21 as a playable character in the other modes. Nevertheless, the script imagined by Arc System Works’ teams is rather simple, located chronologically during the Dragon Ball Super period (the modern show that started in 2015). There’s numerous references throughout the adventure and allow to have a certain logic to the script, like the presence of Beerus and Whis, the power of some of the characters and more. Each one of them will take you on a 4 to 5-hour journey. Overall if you want to finish the entire story mode with the proper evolution, it could take up to 15 hours.

Moving onto the competitive side of things, there are countless of options to choose from. The local multiplayer side is simple combats, but the option menu is rich and allows you to even create tournaments. In the local multiplayer mode, you can explore interactions between each character until you reach your perfect team. I personally found a great synergy between Android 16, Android 17 and Cell. One thing that needs to be noticed is that this game and the fighting style is difference from almost everything on the market today. It brings back the old school style that we all loved to play.

From an audio and visual aesthetic, there is nothing that can be said about Arc System Works as I believe they perfected it. The game is always at 60 frames per second regardless of what is happening on the screen. In addition, we are looking at the closest thing to the actual Dragon Ball universe which makes it an anime on its own. The audio, presents a crazy soundtrack and brings back the original Japanese voices or the English dubbing for those who cannot get enough of Vegeta.

Finally, the online mode. The servers where open for a short period of time that allowed me to test it. Honestly, I had mixed feelings about the system at work here. At some points, there was almost no delays in the inputs and in other moments, it seemed like an eternity to find a match to fight with. This however did not stop me from getting hooked. Online comes with many perks. You can play friendly games, you can also watch other fighters play. The ranked system which is straightforward, and the removal of the microtransactions is also a great addition. This game is a trap. The more you play the greater it becomes and of course you end up noticing the different tiers in characters but that is the same case across all fighting games.

Dragon Ball FighterZ was reviewed and written by Luciano Rahal and Nazih Fares using an Xbox One and PlayStation 4 downloadable code of the game provided by Bandai Namco. The game is also available on PC via digital and retail releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).

What we liked

• Incredibly beautiful
• Character animations
• Ultra-efficient, ultra-dynamic gameplay that pays tribute to the manga and anime.
• Accessible and fun for beginners, and rich enough to hook fans of fighting games
• The many references to the manga and anime
• A limited but varied roster
• Runs at a locked 60FPS on all consoles including Switch

What is not fun

• Online matchmaking needs some work
• The difficulty level of the story mode
• Nintendo Switch version is a downgrade of the other releases
• Season pass mandatory for extra characters

Editor Rating
 
Concept
9.2

 
Graphics
9.3

 
Sound
8.5

 
Playability
9.5

 
Entertainment
9.0

 
Replay Value
9.0

Final Score
9.1


Our final verdict
 

Dragon Ball FighterZ is a great fighting game while paying homage to the original Akira Toriyama series lovers by fans. The combat system seems simple but do not get fooled. If you want to master the game, you might have to watch couple of top players videos as it really gets complicated once you must pull out different character synergies and combos. Couple of issues here and there such as the difficulty level being too easy in story mode, but this should not ruin the great work put together by Arc System Works.

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