You might be seeing reviews of Dragon Ball FighterZ going up today. For our part, we’ve chosen to hold off for now, as we haven’t had a chance to play on the game’s final online servers. In a game where online play is a huge part of the experience, we’d like to test what FighterZ has to offer online before rendering our final judgement.
However, we’ve played a lot of the game already, and our impressions of FighterZ are pretty strong. The more I delve into training mode, the more I learn about FighterZ, which is great; before playing the full game, I was a little afraid Arc System Works was going to go a bit too simple to appeal to casual Dragon Ball fans, and I’m happy to be proven wrong. Despite the simple control scheme, there are plenty of ways you can approach your opponent, and I never felt completely helpless, or that any one option was overwhelmingly powerful. Complete novices will still have to do some genre learning, but the fundamentals are simple enough that it won’t be too much of a chore.
Transitioning from mashing out auto-combos to actual bread-and-butter ones is smooth, since the two intermingle seamlessly; some auto-combo strings transition into full combos, since auto-combos offer exclusive attacks; Beerus, for example, has an auto-combo that dashes him behind the opponent, which makes it useful in opening up defensive opponents, then following up with a full combo. These combos are incredibly fun to learn and pull off, too; they’re less about precise timing and more about putting together parts of a puzzle into a more powerful pummeling. But as you begin to integrate more tools into your combos, they do become more difficult, as they should, which gives players who want to improve at lot of room to grow, as well as a nice sense of satisfaction when they pull one off on a real opponent.
If you don’t want to spend time in training mode, matches play out at a furious-yet-manageable pace. Characters don’t die to single combos, so you’re devising your next approach as often as you’re pulling off or on the receiving end of a combo. I saw a lot seeing a lot of Super Dashes in last week’s open beta, and while they might be a bit too strong, that could also be because others simply haven’t figured out how to beat them consistently yet.
The character variety was my other big concern about FighterZ, and I’m surprised by how well each character distinguishes themselves. The basic skeleton of a character is more defined and simpler than in Street Fighter or Guilty Gear, but that makes it easier to learn the game as a whole, since once you learn some of the simpler combos, they act as a good starting point to learn any character. The ways each character deviates from that skeleton aren’t minor, either; From the way Captain Ginyu relies on summoning the members of the Ginyu Force to overwhelm his opponents to the way Kid Buu’s elastic limbs let him scoop up opponents from far away, many characters introduce their own twists that make it worthwhile to explore the entire cast before settling on a team.
The story mode is also a lot meatier than I was expecting, which is mostly good. My first run through it took me nearly 20 hours to finish, and that’s because it a lot more fighting than you might be used to from playing other fighting games. There’s a hearty amount of plot, to be sure, but between cutscenes you’re strategically taking on fights while moving a piece representing your character around a board, choosing which of your recruited allies you’ll take into the next fight as they level up, and equipping powerups. It’s not the deepest system and I wish the campaign encouraged me to experiment with these powerups more, but if you’re looking at FighterZ as mostly a single-player experience, there’s more here for you than in most fighting games.
Overall, I’m surprised at how well FighterZ manages to pull off most of its goals, and the way it melds accessible and deep without making either camp feel ostracized is truly impressive in a genre that usually makes onboarding an afterthought. We’ll have a full review later this week, after the game launches.