Fighting games have become too complex.
When you look back at Street Fighter 2, it’s easy to see that the reason it was such a hit was because it was quite simple. You could move, block, perform various standard attacks and pull off a handful of special moves with straightforward button presses, yet scratching beneath its surface revealed enough depth to keep the action competitive and exciting. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, fighting games have grown increasingly more complicated, adding system after system to give players access to more ways to dish out damage to their enemies while also being able to skilfully get out of tight spots. It’s great if you’re a true fighting game aficionado, but those who don’t dream of being a part of the competitive circuit are often lost by the wayside. Thankfully, Dragon Ball FighterZ takes a step back towards simplicity.
For close to the past two weeks I’ve been beavering away at Dragon Ball FighterZ‘s single and multiplayer offerings, and pretty much every single minute of it has been glorious. I’ve completed all the tutorials, tried my hand at its combo challenges, beaten the majority of the game’s three story arcs, tackled most of the arcade mode courses, and fought in plenty of online battles — and at all times the action has been fun, fast-paced and excitingly intense. And this is all despite the fact that each of the game’s 20-odd characters only has a handful of unique moves.
Like the original Street Fighter 2, Dragon Ball FighterZ is very easy to pick up, yet beneath the surface there is a surprising amount of depth. By hammering any of the four face buttons on your controller you can pull off an easy string of attacks that are accompanied by eye-popping visuals. Special moves and super moves never really get more complicated to perform than just dialling in a quarter circle motion and one button. And while the game does feature a “sparking” system that gives you the opportunity to turn the tide of battle in desperate times, it’s pretty much free of anything that will have newcomers scratching their heads.
Anyone can pick up and play Dragon Ball FighterZ, and in a short amount of time even become quite competent at it, but those who put in time to master it will find their efforts rewarded. It’s easy to pull off the game’s moves and techniques, but combining them all to create extended combos is where practice and perseverance really pays off. And keeping up with the game’s breakneck pace is another matter; when two skilled fighters are going at it, the action is truly a spectacle to behold.
It’s likely that Dragon Ball FighterZ‘s online competition will really heat up now it has been released into the wild, though those who can’t keep up will find that there’s plenty to do offline to keep them busy. Story mode has you moving across maps, completing fights to level up your characters, unlocking new skills and rescuing fellow Dragon Ball characters to add to your team. Split into three arcs — each one offering a different viewpoint on the story — there’s roughly 10-25 hours’ worth of gameplay depending on how incessant you are about unlocking all of the available scenes.
Away from the game’s story mode, arcade mode is all the more interesting due to its dynamic difficulty. Three courses are available initially, offering three, five and seven fights. The path you take through each course differs depending on how you perform, with you being given an overall rank once you reach the end. It’s a welcome change to the usual difficulty select option, though by completing each course you can unlock a more difficult variant.
Rounding out Dragon Ball FighterZ‘s offline offerings is a local battle mode, which is notable in that it also allows you to create tournaments. Suffice to say, I don’t really see how anyone could feel let down by Dragon Ball FighterZ‘s features, and fuelling the desire to play is the game’s Z capsule system which allows you to unlock new character colours and such using in-game money.
When it comes to online play, Dragon Ball FighterZ has a sufficient number of options. You can test your mettle in both casual and ranked matches, take on and observe fellow lobby members in arena fights, and create your own Ring Matches. What it doesn’t allow you to do, however, is easily invite your friends into a private lobby. And many modes don’t allow you to quickly edit your team between rematches, either.
These two oversights might not pose too much of an issue for some players, but for others they’ll be the cause of some warranted frustration. It’s a shame, because otherwise, aside from occasionally slow matchmaking, Dragon Ball FighterZ‘s online functions and gameplay work exceedingly well. Hopefully they’re things that Arc System Works can improve post-launch.
Even with such issues though, Dragon Ball FighterZ might just be my new favourite fighting game. From its stunningly sharp and wonderfully animated visuals to its frenzied gameplay, there’s just something utterly charming about it. It’s a fighting game that remembers that not everyone is a pro and not everyone plays online, and I like that. But there’s still a level of complexity and depth that will have fighting game fans battling it out until the early hours of the morning, honing their skills for competition.
Whether you’re a Dragon Ball fan or not, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a fighting game that you need to add to your collection.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. We reviewed the Xbox One version.
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