This weekend I spent hours playing Dragon Ball FighterZ in a closed beta on Kotaku’s Twitch channel. The game is gorgeous, but I’m more impressed with the number of tricks and tools it gives players to turn a match around.
I’m an intermediate fighting game player at best. There’s something about the fine motor control required for precise inputs that makes fighting games difficult for me to master. Leaping into Dragon Ball FighterZ, the upcoming anime fighter from Arc System Works, I expected to be left on my arse. Instead, I found a variety of speedy movement options and easy attack inputs that allowed me to hold my own.
Among the most important features was the Super Dash. FighterZ stages are fairly wide, and instead of bogging down the play with projectile spamming at distances, the Super Dash allows your character to not only fly straight at the opponents but will actually deflect basic projectiles. This gap closer keeps action up close and personal. It’s basically a faster version of Arcana Heart’s homing attack doubled with Marvel vs. Capcom’s advancing guard. Combined with a single button press teleport that allowed me to spend some of my power meter to zip behind an opponent, I always had options for escaping tricky situations or applying pressure.
FighterZ gets chaotic, but I never felt helpless. The game automatically creates simple four to five move combos if you are able to land an attack and continue to apply the pressure. While these undoubtedly lack the depth of professional combos and techniques, it gave me the confidence needed to play more aggressively than I might have otherwise. A “sparking” mode similar to Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s X Factor also contributed to this. It’s a trump card that boosts power and health regeneration for a time. If things got tough, sparking offered a chance to really bounce back and change the momentum of the match.
Among Dragon Ball Z’s most memorable aspects are the flashy and spellbinding special attacks characters perform. I remember losing my mind when Vegeta used Final Flash for the first time and will vehemently argue that Piccolo’s Hellzone Grenade is cooler than the Special Beam Cannon. FighterZ makes these attacks easy to perform, with reliable quarter circle ‘hadouken’ movements sending out some serious firepower. Super Moves are just as easy, and if you time them right you can completely annihilate an enemy.
There are some touches for fans of the series as well. During a tense match, I used Gohan’s super move against Cell while I was at low health only to find that my character pushed for a little extra energy to finish off the villain, just like in the anime. A crafty opponent once grabbed me with Android 16 and performed a desperate suicide attack that blew my character up for an instant knock out. FighterZ’s nods towards the source material help craft interesting matches just as exciting as anything you’d watch on your old VHS tapes.
We’re months away from FighterZ’s release in February. When that time comes, I’m sure a robust competitive community will develop advanced techniques. But for those of us who aren’t fighting game goddesses, FighterZ’s auto combos and blasty beam attacks will help us live out our anime dreams.