I have been trying to write about this damn game for the past month. No, literally. Since this game has been out, I have been trying to write about it. However, fighting games have been pretty active. Though, I have to say that I’m glad that I had such a long pause in talking about Dragonball FighterZ. The opinion I have of it now is drastically different from the opinion I had of it a month ago. Now that I’ve had extensive time with it (100+ matches kind of extensive), I can really dig in and talk about this game…for better or for worse.
I’m going to get the suspense out the way: I like this game. Not love, not hate. Just…like. It’s alright. During the first couple of days, I would have said that this was my favorite fighting game to date. But we’ll get to why that changes a little later. For now, I’m going to focus on the good.
First of all, look at this game. It’s a visual marvel to behold. And to know that they are merely employing a little lighting to relatively simple models is actually amazing. They nailed the art and look of each character. They also nailed the way the characters fight. Their animations, their use of camera angles, the way the characters hit each other, the sound effects…it’s all just so gratifying and gives you the sense that you are playing the anime. They even got the English voice actors! That surprised me, as I thought ArcSys wouldn’t spring for the talent after how BlazBlue Centralfiction was localized. But perhaps we have Bandai Namco to thank for that. Yes, it’s the Kai cast and while I have contention with a couple voices, I was satisfied.
As far as playing the game? It’s the second best thing next to what I stated above. Gameplay feels good, heavy, responsive, and just all around good. The auto combos are flashy and all, but it becomes evident that the game wants you to learn the actual combos that are possible. It may not seem that way given the ease of entry, but compare the damage you do with auto combos to the damage you can do with a proper combo, and you’ll understand. The game has a little depth hidden beneath its very casual nature, so they don’t get completely bored playing this too soon. I emphasize “too soon” because…well, let’s discuss why.
I said a moment ago that there’s enough gameplay to make the game not too boring too soon, but the game does get boring. It takes a while to notice, but the gameplay will slowly creep its way into you and before you know it, you’re just pressing buttons out of routine instead of strategy. See a super dash? Use your anti-air, punish combo, rinse and repeat. While the character have gimmicks and all, they aren’t exactly…too different. The most unique characters are those like Kid Buu and Piccolo where their combo routes or extensions are different enough that they don’t feel like every other character. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that you’re playing 3 of them at a time. So these characters that aren’t too deep in a game that’s not too deep are being overplayed 3 at a time. Sure, you can come up with cool team combos and such, but it’ll wear thin after a while.
Part of the reason that is? Matches last too long. Which is strange given that combos do a LOT of damage in this game. So how does this game manage that? Easy. Blue health recovery is pretty fast. Sure, you can spend a bar to snap in a character, but other than that, blue health refills absurdly fast. On top of that is Sparking Blast, the game’s comeback mechanic. It also refills blue health. Except it refills health so fast that combos might as well be half power. Not to mention, it refills even if you’re in the middle of a combo. I could do a whole article on why Sparking Blast is the most busted comeback mechanic ever, but the health refill is probably the worst of it.
I could get into how horrible I think the story mode is, barring some entertaining interactions between some of the characters, but we’ll skip that for now. Just know that story mode is a slog to get through and the pay off is Android 21…kind of a rip off given the effort. Anyway, let’s instead talk about the part of the game that ArcSys didn’t seem to pay enough attention to…the rest of it. First, who thought this lobby shit was a good idea? Why get rid of something as simple as menus? This game is basically the BlazBlue arcade lobbies, except those worked. The lobby system they have not only makes no sense to have (seriously, who puts things like arcade mode in an online lobby?), but they’re a useless gesture. Some friends and I tested something. Whether or not you would fight people within the lobby you were in, because as you know, there is no way to directly connect to another player. Long story short, no. So then, what is the point? Why do they exist? This seemed like some stupid opportunity to give you avatars and such to strive for.
Which, by the way, is a whole other pain in the ass. I could take titles and avatars being locked behind capsules, but colors? Really? The only thing that makes it fine is that everything gives you zenny. Fun fact: playing versus mode with a friend in an online lobby will get you about 300 zenny a match. Pass it on. But imagine having your team and you want to color coordinate them only to have to sit and hope that you get their color in a capsule instead of earning it through the bad story mode or the meh arcade mode. Oh. Yeah. It has arcade mode. It’s…alright. But beyond arcade, story, and online…there isn’t a whole lot to do. I compare that to the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear content and…yeah, it’s very lacking.
But perhaps my biggest gripe of all has to be the online features and netcode. They barely work. Casual and ranked is plagued with server drops and rage quits that seem to go without repercussions. Ring Matches, the only way to fight with your friends, doesn’t work. At all. Not once have I had a successful ring match. It’s possible for them to work, I’ve seen them do so. But more often than not…nope. Arena Match? Barely works. Somehow there can only be 2 of you and it takes FOREVER for you to be matched with them. Matches can take anywhere from a few minutes to 20 to find a match, no matter what mode you use. The servers seemed fucked since the beta but my goodness. It’s been a month.
I can go on and on about my contention with Dragonball FighterZ. In the end though? I think it’s a good game if you are playing offline in tournaments or with friends. But if you’re looking for a robust game with lots of content, a game with a deep and involving battle system, or a functional online service, then this game is not for you right now. By now, most of those reading this will have their copies, but for those who don’t, I would say wait unless you are a major DragonBall Z junkie. Like me.