Arc System Works has always been the choice of the hardcore fighting game fan. Its Guilty Gear games have a reputation for being some of the most technical games in the genre, attracting a solid fanbase in the process, but never being in any danger of knocking a Street Fighter or Tekken off their perch.
It’s not hard to see why. Since their inception, Capcom and Bandai Namco Entertainment’s fighting games have managed to become part of the greater gaming landscape — hell, there’s even a fair argument they’ve become major parts of general pop culture full stop.
Now though, it looks like Bandai Namco has been given another shot at the big time. Thanks to its grip on the Dragon Ball license, the Japanese publisher has a real opportunity to push through to that next level and stand shoulder to shoulder with the Marvel VS Capcoms and the Street Fighters of this world. Sure, the Guilty Gear games have developed some memorable characters over the years, but its fair to say that they’re hardly Goku, Vegeta and their other perma-scrapping pals.
With Dragon Ball characters onside, it’s almost instant brand awareness. And although in a perfect world this stuff shouldn’t truly matter, it does, and having these characters front and centre will do wonders for Fighter’Z exposure.
But, it works both ways, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a game that is set to appeal to not only those seeking a top quality fighting game but fans of the anime too. As we’ve discussed before, not all Dragon Ball fans are after the kind of fighting game mechanics one normally associates with an Arc System Works game. Unsurprisingly then, it is clear after only a handful of matches that Dragon Ball FighterZ is a much more simplified game than what you’re set to expect from these developers, or at least on the surface, anyway.
Once the game is released and the community get a real chance to dive into the mechanics it will be known just how deep Dragon Ball FighterZ ‘s combat can get, but as fighting game fans will know, that’s only a part of what will decide its fate as a competitive eSport title.
Yes, the time when fighting games were purely designed for kicking the hell out of the AI to earn a couple of CGI endings is long, long gone and in 2018 there’s a strong focus on whether a game has legs as a title that people will want to watch and compete in. Look at the Capcom Pro Tour, or Bandai Namco’s own Tekken King of the Iron Fist tour. These tournaments are designed to offer the best players a chance at playing on the biggest stage possible, give the community something to really get behind and also, crucially, to attract new blood to the game.
After playing the game for several hours, through hands-on time with Bandai Namco and during the two beta tests it ran for the game pre-release, the signs are looking good.
First and foremost, Dragon Ball FighterZ is an astonishing game to look at. It may be, stylistically speaking, the best looking fighting game out of the lot. Sure, it may lack the realism of Injustice 2 or the OTT particle effects of Killer Instinct, but Dragon Ball FighterZ looks exactly like the cartoon. A fully interactive episode of a beloved series, playing out in front of you.
It’s surprisingly easy to follow, even though the action is at a considerable pace, and the lovingly recreated super moves are instant hype moments. It’s going to be very difficult not to get excited when someone hits a level 3 Meteor Smash with Goku, or Android 16’s dirty Self Destruct super in a heated tournament match.
You might not know exactly what it is you’re looking at, but when one of the characters roars in anger and then fires a spectacular, full-screen beam that blasts their opponent to bits, it’s quite clear that something brilliant has taken place.
Tekken 7, a game that is comparatively more low-key action-wise than DBFZ has these great slow-motion moments when there’s a close final hit situation taking place, or the brilliant freeze in the action when a character goes to perform their Rage Art.
It’s simple stuff, but it draws in people who may not be that clued up in regards to the more complex aspects of the combat and tells them ‘this is a cool thing that is about to happen’. A crucial part of the spectator sport aspect of fighting games.
For those who are much more au fait with all things fighting, the sheer pace of the combat is thrilling to watch. Every character has the traditional fighting game methods of opening an opponent up – throws, overhead/low mixups, for example – and then can convert them into damaging combos.
The more keen-eyed fan will see players using their chosen characters specific traits and special moves to force their own gameplan, with character like Piccolo, who has some sneaky left/right/overhead mixup moves and Android 18, who fights alongside a ‘puppet’ character – Android 17 – to pressure her opponent and allow her to plan her own separate attack. A nice variety in characters is another thing fighting games need to not only be fun to play, but to be entertaining in the competitive setting.
In fact, speaking as an outsider to all things Dragon Ball, perhaps the only real issue with DBZF is that all of the Saiyan characters – basically all the ones that look like Goku, the spiky-haired, orange gi wearing hero of the series – are a bit samey. There’s no doubt Dragon Ball fans reading this right now absolutely fuming at this statement, but how many anime looking lads with black hair and the same clothes is really necessary?
Of course, they all play differently, so for those actually into the game the difference is clear, but perhaps for those who hear about the game, check it out and see Goku, Goku Black, Yamcha, Gohan et all duking it out – it’s not as instantly recognizable as a bunch of quite different characters as say, the Street Fighter V roster.
Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2 is the second biggest game at the inaugural Evo Japan tournament, which takes place at the end of this month, just before the release of DBFZ. These numbers are impressive, behind – somewhat obviously – Street Fighter V but above Tekken 7, a game that is definitely more well known by the mainstream.
This shows that there’s a real appetite within the fighting game community for something that isn’t Capcom, that isn’t Street Fighter, and Dragon Ball FighterZ seems primed to take on that mantle.
With a beloved license like Dragon Ball attached to it and with the sheer bloody brilliance in the execution, there’s potential for a whole load of newcomers to join in with the Dragon Ball FighterZ community – not only playing the game casually, but watching and hell, even trying their hand at competing themselves.