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Dragon Ball FighterZ

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: February 2018

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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Dragon Ball FighterZ'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 14, 2017 @ 2:15 a.m. PDT

Dragon Ball FighterZ is a dream collaboration and takes the anime-based fighting games in a bold new direction by combining classic 2D fighting game dynamics with the Dragon Ball universe.

Pre-order Dragon Ball FighterZ

Dragonball Z is probably the single most popular anime to exist. There's something about the franchise that attracts a following almost worldwide. The franchise is more popular than ever these days, thanks to the games, movies, and a brand-new animated sequel called "Dragonball Super." As fun as the Dragonball games are, they've always lacked the same punch as the series. It was hard to imagine 3D models managing to accurately convey the dynamic animation of Akira Toriyama's artwork — at least until the announcement of Dragon Ball FighterZ at E3 2017.

Let's be honest, the first thing anyone notices about Dragon Ball FighterZ is how it looks. Using a 2.5D cel-shaded art style, Dragonball Fighter Z looks as good, if not better, than the anime that inspired it. The 3D models look so close to hand-drawn sprites that the illusion is nearly perfect, much like the recent Guilty Gear games. At the same time, the use of 3D models allows them to move the camera around to create dynamic and exciting-looking attacks and animations that wouldn't be possible with hand-drawn sprites. The level of detail is absolutely staggering, and there are lots of subtle references to the anime that are sure to delight fans. Even the environments are packed with detail, actually showing signs of wear and damage as the dynamic fighters beat the living crud out of one another. The game will run at 60fps/1080p on all systems, though the developers weren't able to confirm 4K visuals on Xbox One X or PS4 Pro.

So far, only six characters have been announced for the game: Cell, Freeza, Gohan, Goku, Majin Buu and Vegeta. In the case of each character, they're represented by their "Dragonball Z" designs, with Gohan in particular being based on the Teen Gohan design used during the climactic battle against Cell in the middle of "Dragonball Z." The developers were not willing to confirm how far into the franchise the character roster would go, but there was one tantalizing hint. Freeza has access to his Golden Freeza form, a form only seen in the "Dragonball" movies and the new "Dragonball Super." At a minimum, fans can expect the franchise to go outside of the usual Dragonball Z favorites.

The gameplay in Dragon Ball FighterZ resembles nothing so much as Marvel vs. Capcom. It's a 2D fighter where players have teams of three fighters, though only one character is on the field at a time. It's a standard fighting game in this regard, though of course, it has lots of complex mechanics that will take ages to learn. Players must fight to wear down the health bars of their opponent while keeping themselves alive. The game uses a traditional fighting game super bar system that lets players stock up, and then use, bars of super meter to perform special attacks and defensive moves. Since this is Dragonball, this means tons of excessive over-the-top energy beam attacks and more unusual or esoteric moves, like Majin Buu's ability to turn enemies into cookies and candy.

As with Marvel, the 3v3 fights also allow for the use of assists and character-swapping. What we got to see made it all look very familiar. Allies can be called in for Z-Assists, which allows them to add their own attacks to combos, a critical move that lets attackers add extra pressure and defenders to recover while stunned. Allies can be called in to combine their super moves with the main fighter's super moves for massive damage. You can also swap between characters, each with their own individual health bar.

Any Dragonball fan knows that transformations are a major part of the series' appeal. The developers were mum on how transformations would play out in the final game, but they were willing to confirm that transformations would be part of regular combat and tied to certain special moves. In our demo, we saw two examples of this. One involved Goku transforming into the long-haired Super Saiyan 3 form during a powerful super-combo, though he seemed to transform back as soon as the animation finished. On the other hand, longtime series villain Freeza turned into his Golden Freeza form and remained that way for longer than the duration of a special move. It looks like transformations won't follow any one specific rule. All the Saiyan protagonists began in one of their Super Saiyan forms to boot, so don't expect to see much use of regular dark-haired Saiyans in the game.

What we got to see and play of Dragon Ball FighterZ was a boatload of fun. It's not just an amazing-looking game but also a fast, dynamic and exciting fighting game on its own merits. Combining the 3v3 action of something like Marvel vs. Capcom with the over-the-top excess of Dragonball genuinely feels like a match made in heaven. It's easily the best-looking Dragonball game that has existed, and if the final version matches up to the early version we played, it'll be the best Dragonball game to boot.


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