Republished on Wednesday, 11th January, 2023: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of January 2023's PS Plus line up. The original text follows.
Ever since Dragon Ball FighterZ was revealed, it feels like the hype train has never stopped rolling – and for good reason. A Dragon Ball fighting game crafted by genre specialists Arc System Works, using the same incredible looking Unreal Engine 4 tech as the Guilty Gear Xrd series? It's no wonder fans have been losing their minds over such a promising project.
Dragon Ball has been around for what feels like an eternity. It's an evergreen property that's spawned more video game adaptations than we're prepared to count, but only a small handful of them could be called great fighting games. For what it's worth, we still think PlayStation 2 title Dragon Ball Budokai 3 is the best of the bunch – although the much more recent Dragon Ball XenoVerse games are also very enjoyable.
On paper, Dragon Ball FighterZ has everything it needs to blow its predecessors out of the water. A team-based, three-on-three fighter, it's got the speed, the look, and the fan service to be something truly special. It also aims to walk that fine line between accessibility and depth, offering players of all skill levels a chance to have fun. Much like Gohan, the potential is gigantic.
Fortunately, that potential is realised. Arc System Works has created a brilliantly slick and stylish fighter that's simply a blast to play. Shockingly easy to pick up but agonisingly difficult to put down, Dragon Ball FighterZ takes anime adaptations to the next level, combining fantastic gameplay with a crystal clear passion for the source material.
The game excels in its ability to please both casual players and fighting game veterans. This is something that even the heaviest hitters of the genre can struggle with, but by keeping its button inputs simple and allowing newcomers to run riot with automatic combos, FighterZ is built to please at all levels of play.
Although the game may seem relatively basic on a surface level, there's still more than enough room for the competitive side of things to flourish. As with any fighter, spacing becomes increasingly important at an advanced level, especially since just about every character has access to some form of projectile attack. Mixups are also prevalent, as you can easily get caught out by an opponent who attacks low or throws out a surprise overhead technique.
On top of these traditional genre mechanics, you've got specific strategies to consider. Team composition is something that's worth exploring since certain super attacks chain together a lot better than others, and naturally, there are things like timing your character switches, combo cancelling, and parries to think about. FighterZ doesn't try to match the open-ended combo madness of Guilty Gear, but improvisation and on-the-fly adaptations are still hugely important. "Easy to learn, hard to master" is a cliche, but the phrase rings true here.
Meanwhile, the character roster may not be the biggest – especially when it comes to anime fighters – but each character is well realised, unique, and superbly animated. Forming your ultimate team takes time and practice as you slowly figure out what you like about each combatant, but the process is thoroughly enjoyable just because of how fast and fluid everything is – not to mention how satisfying. Smashing your opponent through a mountain with a heavy attack will never get old, and the title does an impeccable job of replicating the action that Dragon Ball is famous for.
So what is there to do in Dragon Ball FighterZ? Well, it's certainly not lacking in content – even when you're playing offline. The game's story mode takes a fair amount of hours to complete for starters, and it's fully fleshed out with loads of cutscenes that detail its own original narrative. As far as we're concerned, this is pretty much the best original story that we've seen in a Dragon Ball fighting game. It can seem a little convoluted at times, and those unfamiliar with the source material won't have a clue what's going on, but for fans, the whole thing will definitely strike a chord.
Split between moving across a map, fighting bad guys, watching cutscenes, and beating down bosses, the story mode's got a lot of meat on its bones. As you progress, you unlock more characters for your team, and you level them up through finding victory in battle. It's not your usual cinematic story mode and that's a good thing – we've sat through the various arcs of Dragon Ball Z countless times now, and FighterZ does a surprisingly great job of offering something different and ultimately quite addictive.
Elsewhere, arcade mode has you covered when it comes to testing you skills against some tough computer controlled competition. There are three courses to try and hard versions of each course to master. The more convincing your victories, the stronger your next opponents will be, but keep on winning and you'll attain a higher score and subsequent rank. Seeing just how far you can push is good old fashioned fun.
Next up, you've got a versus mode where you can duel a friend or CPU opponents of your choosing. You can also set up 16 player tournaments both online or offline with the artificial intelligence filling any gaps. Last but not least, you've got practice mode, which features a full tutorial and free training as well as combo challenges. When it comes to single player stuff, Dragon Ball FighterZ simply can't be faulted.
Of course, online multiplayer is the other side of the coin, and it's an impressively robust offering. If you're connected to the internet, booting up the game will take you to an online lobby, where you'll be able to see other players running about as little Dragon Ball character avatars. You can send each other stickers (which are basically Dragon Ball-themed emojis), check out statistics, watch replays, spectate, and get into fights. It's a charming system, and one that, in a lot of ways, sets the bar for social interaction in fighting games.
Both casual and ranked matches are available when you want to get down to it, and we've thankfully found the netcode to be very reliable. Arc System Works has a great recent record when it comes to netcode — Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2 is rock solid — and Dragon Ball FighterZ appears to continue the trend.
Utterly stunning in motion and effortlessly capturing the essence of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a masterful video game adaptation. Its combat system is relentlessly entertaining, fusing anime sensibilities with traditional, competitive fighting game mechanics, and its accessible controls allow anyone to get in on the action. Meanwhile, the online portion of the release is robust, and really sets the bar for social interaction when it comes to fighting games. Dragon Ball FighterZ is pretty much the best anime fighting game ever made.
Happy to answer any questions!
Sounds absolutely amazing, and I'm not even a Dragon Ball fan. Great review, Robert — looking forward to hearing how the online holds up as well.
So this one has Microtransactions too damn will buy it on sale then.
"in-game currency – currency that the title's happy to dish out on a near constant basis"
As long as this isn't different in the retail release or "corrected in a day 1 patch" maybe wont be intrusive for some. Even so, I won't be buying with loot boxes in.
I'm happy for the game, the looks of it is what impresses me the most! Still thr Beta put me a bit less hyped and I can wait for a sale!
Still, surprised by this review!
Do the alternate skins consist only of different colors or are there any new outfits?
How does it compare to the other ASW fighters like Guilty Gear and Blazblue?
@ShogunRok Cool Cool will wait till finished review to see how everything is.
@AFCC Different colours only. Maybe DLC costumes are in the works? Wouldn't rule it out.
Great review. Can't wait until Friday.
@KappaBeta Definite similarities in terms of button layouts and combos — particularly wall combos — but FighterZ is much, much easier to learn and play (in terms of execution).
The trade off is that FighterZ isn't quite as complex or as deep, but like the review says there's still more than enough room for competitive play.
@ShogunRok Is there a playable character that hasn't been revealed? How many playable characters total? Great review!
@Tulio517 Not that I know of — every playable character has been revealed. In total I believe there are 24. Got a quick guide through here if you want to know exactly who's in: https://www.pushsquare.com/news/2018/01/guide_dragon_ball_fighterz_roster_-_all_playable_characters_at_launch
Very helpful, thanks!
Nice review, glad it’s a fun game.
But i remember clearly about a few days ago, when news spread that this game indeed had loot boxes, but that in no way these could be bought with real money.
Bamco apparently confirmed this.
Amy Hennig may say “poor” publishers have a hard time striking a balance with development costs.
Maybe, but i doubt that’s true for all of them.
I LOVE Overwatch, but curse Blizzard for legitimazing this crappy gambling.
Nice review. Question; are the playable characters all available right from the start? Or did they make it more fun, by requiring players to unlock (some of) them through ingame progression? 😙
@Aryx You start off with 21 characters unlocked — you have to unlock the other three through various means.
Very tempted to get this but with Monster Hunter out the same day.
Was kinda hoping that the cosmetic stuff were actually different costumes instead of just different color palettes.
Does the game have daily missions and can you pick any character for the story mode?
@WanderingBullet No idea unfortunately — one of those things we can't check until the servers are live. This is the kind of stuff that dissuaded us from giving it a score. The game seems very online-focused, so don't think we could assign a score without playing any of it.
Looking forward to this, glad to see they actually put some time and effort into the SP campaign. It would've been a shame to beautifully animate all of those fighters and not give them some dialog!
@WanderingBullet Oh and you unlock characters to use in the story mode as you play through it, who you can then add to your team.
@ShogunRok I see... Thanks.
I'm terrible at 2D fighting games, but after dropping near £90 on the super dupper ultimate saibaman edition I've promised myself to 'get good' at this game.
It looks absolutely incredible.
@ShogunRok Oh, are there reasons to play through the story multiple times?
.. after playing the beta, I couldn't fault the presentation, etc.... but playing it, it felt wayyyy too similar to MvC3 for my liking... (the auto juggle up, one button combo, etc.) ultimately more satisfying but possibly a bit too shallow in the actual combo long-term / gameplay department...
Sounds great to me! I really wish I was able to get this right now.
@WanderingBullet The story's actually split up into three separate arcs, so it's definitely worth playing each of them to get the full story.
As for replaying them, you can jump back in and level up your characters and stuff like that. There are some kind-of-secret challenges to try, and if you level up a character enough, you'll unlock bonus conversations with them in the gallery, which is a nice touch.
If you want to see absolutely everything, it's probably worth going back in.
@ShogunRok Gotcha. Thanks again.
@ShogunRok Hope so! It sure adds another incentive to keep playing!
Single player story mode, arcade, and practice mode? oh my, I think I'm going to buy this game
Now there needs to be a Naruto game with this type of anime graphic style and game play
Collector's Edition unboxing videos:
@VotesForCows There's only one woman in the initial roster, and that's Android 18. Android 21 is also a woman, but she needs to be unlocked before you can use her.
There just aren't many female characters in Dragon Ball who fight — most are secondary members of the cast.
Updated with a couple of paragraphs about the online portion of the game and added a final score.
Like NnKII, I think this title will succeed at least partially on its ability to deliver pure spectacle. Not a huge fighting or DBZ fan, but I might pick this up in a sale at some point.
It may just not be for me, but I wasn't a fan during the Beta. I love Arc System Works' other Fighting Game titles...But this one, I wasn't a fan of.
I never found Guilty Gear that complicated, but it was still a fighting game. You had to learn things, like the relatively simple combos. But the way DBFZ is designed, with these Easy combo moves...I was not impressed. Perhaps locally the game would be more fun with friends, but the online was just full of garbage casual spammers in the Beta (Casual or Tournament).
It is DB, so let's be honest here...I'll definitely be getting the game at some point, but my suspicion over the easy move set prior to the beta was high; regardless, so was my enthusiasm/excitement. It fell so hard after the Open Beta (which was a real shame).
Luckily for now, there are still plenty of games to play in the mean time...So, for the time being, I shelve my interest for DBFZ into Monster Hunter: World. As for everyone else, do enjoy the game. ASW is one of the best fighting game devs out there, so they definitely deserve respect for what they've done with DBFZ. It truly is a well made game, but it's not 1st and foremost for me.
Thanks for the honest review! Looking forward to playing down the line when it's on sale.
@ShogunRok Is there any way to turn off the tutorials in story mode? It's really starting to bug me.
@Fight_Teza_Fight Get far enough into the story and you don't get them anymore. It's annoying though, I agree. Guess they just wanted to hammer the basics into newcomers.
@ShogunRok Guess I'll endure it. Already played the game for near 15 hours and cleared the tutorials in the practice area. I think I'm good enough, game😂.
@Fight_Teza_Fight I did the same! I started to wonder whether it was a bug or something.
How is this for some one whos not great at fighting games and not interested online?
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