Dragon Ball FighterZ Review — Should You Buy It?

When in doubt, button-mash your way to victory.
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Mashing buttons has, arguably, never been so satisfying. Dragon Ball fans across the world did a jig when “Dragon Ball FighterZ” was first announced, and, as the launch date drew closer, even those who didn’t know what a Kamehameha wave was started to pay attention.

The latest gaming entry in the Dragon Ball franchise was released on Jan. 26, and after spending some quality time with “Dragon Ball FighterZ,” it can be safely said that while some of the execution is a little cringeworthy, that portion is easily outweighed by the rest of the game.

Would you be wasting your money on “Dragon Ball FighterZ?” Let’s take a look.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ Gameplay

Dragon Ball FighterZ Gameplay

There’s no getting around the fact that “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is a fighting game through and through. Battles are played three-on-three and set on stages. Despite this, the game employs a range of ways for you to engage in these battles, which allows players a multi-faceted approach to enjoying everything “Dragon Ball FighterZ” has to offer.

If you want to walk before you run, start in the three-part Story Mode. This mode combines cutscenes and fighting stages with a board game-like set-up and an experience-leveling system. It’s a good introduction to the game and its mechanics, and you can enjoy some excellent Dragon Ball art along the way.

For hardcore fighting genre players, just delve deep into the online realm immediately. When you load up “Dragon Ball FighterZ,” you must select a lobby. Once you enter that lobby, there are a range of toys to play with. You can do an Arena Match, which will pit you against other players in your same lobby. A World Match, on the other hand, allows you to fight players from around the… world. You can either enter a Ranked Match or a Casual Match, depending on your level of confidence.

If you’re a diehard arcade-lover, try the Arcade Mode. It blends the Story Mode’s board game style with the standard fighting stages, and has interesting enemy combos that provide challenges far superior to what the Story Mode offers.

And, of course, you can revel in minor avatar customization throughout. Earn zeni, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” currency, by playing through the Story and Arcade Modes, doing quests, and other miscellaneous activities. Buy Z Capsules with zeni, and you’ll unlock new avatars, titles and character colors.

For Fans or Not for Fans?

Dragon Ball FighterZ Story Mode

If you’re a Dragon Ball fan, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is pure eye candy. The art is unmistakably one of the best things this game has to offer. It’s beautifully rendered, well crafted and utterly true to the Dragon Ball series. The 21 available characters all hearken back to the series itself (expect for the Story Mode antagonist, Android 21, who debuts in this game), and the 13 stages are exemplary for their detail and Dragon Ball-esque themes.

But we can’t talk about “Dragon Ball FighterZ” without talking about the Story Mode and the narrative that fuels it. The plot employs several tropes that feel, frankly, lazy and out of place in the Dragon Ball universe. Dragon Ball anime storytelling is known for its charm, character and excellence. The story in “Dragon Ball FighterZ,” on the other hand, is strange, rough and contrived.

The use of fourth-wall breaking is disenchanting, to say the least. Dragon Ball fans looking to get to play Goku in Story Mode -- the Goku they know and love so well -- will be disappointed. You play Goku, but you’re also somehow playing… yourself. Through Goku. Because of a link. And clones. Zombie-like clones. And an evil android. But not an evil android. Actually, an android that functions like Majin Buu, but is called android, but is causing the link, and… you catch my drift.

Furthermore, the references to actual Dragon Ball lore come off as stilted. If you’re not a Dragon Ball fan, Story Mode will do even less for you. You won’t understand any of the relationships between the characters, and you won’t have any nostalgia to make apologies for the surprisingly wacky writing.

Fortunately, Story Mode is completely optional, and you don’t have to immerse yourself in this new “Dragon Ball” story if you don’t want to. Unless you just want to go along for the tutorial ride and beautiful art, we suggest you avoid it.

Other than the Story Mode, there's one additional pain point that will irritate fans and non-fans alike: the lobby system. “Dragon Ball FighterZ” forces you to pick your own lobby when you start up the game, and most of those lobbies are jammed tight. You’ll probably be doing a good bit of scrolling through the servers before you can even start in on the game.

It seems like it would have been significantly easier for BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment to automate this process, even if only for a quality-of-life gift to their players. We wouldn’t be surprised to see this possibly change in the future.

The Verdict

Dragon Ball FighterZ Lobby

Ignore the Story Mode, and you’re in for a treat. “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is undeniably gorgeous in every visual aspect, and the gameplay itself has been universally applauded for being easy to learn. If you don’t already enjoy fighting games, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is a perfect entrance into the genre.

You’ll still probably get stomped if you enter the online fighting realm too early, but mastering the basic combos (many of which include mashing a single button over and over again) will come faster than you think. More complicated combos still take practice, but it’s not the sort of back-breaking muscle memory work that other fighting games put you through.

For Dragon Ball fans, this is a worthy entry. The stages and moves make you feel exactly like you’re inside a genuine Dragon Ball fight, from allowing you to perform Kamehameha waves to summoning other characters from the series that you recognize and love.

For non-Dragon Ball fans, it’s still a fun game, and might even convince you to give the anime series a whirl. If you like the fighting genre, give this one a go. The gameplay is solid and the graphics are stunning. It would make an excellent party game for people who are comfortable with, indeed, button-mashing their way to victory.

*****

What do you think? Did you love the "Dragon Ball FighterZ" Story Mode, and think we're crazy? Do you find the gameplay to be a little too easy? Let us know in the comments section below. And, if you're still waiting for that $60 price to drop before you buy, keep an eye the on Slickdeals Video Games page for the latest discounts, or set a Deal Alert.

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Featured image and screenshots courtesy of BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment and Taryn Ziegler


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About the Author
Taryn Ziegler Contributor

Taryn Ziegler is a localization writer working in the greater Seattle area. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell and harbors a deep love for all things related to literature and indie gaming. She is happily married and owns altogether too many pets for her own good.


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