Cartoons and TV can act as an important part of our lives as kids. They’re often one of the first major ways we engage with technology, so the media we view can have a big impact on our interests, personalities and even morals. While many of these shows were similar in concept and visuals, there was one show that stood out among the crowd. It has impacted kids since its debut and will continue to for many years to come, a show named “Dragon Ball Z.”
“Dragon Ball Z,” known colloquially as “DBZ,” is a Japanese fighting anime that chronicles the high-octane martial arts battles of Son Goku and friends, where clashes of good and evil uproot entire landscapes and defeat means certain doom for planet Earth — or even the entire universe. Given how drastically different the show was compared to other American programs due to its heavy emphasis on violence, “DBZ” took off as a hit, and its influence has spread worldwide from Japan ever since. Naturally, the anime’s popularity guaranteed different types of media to be created alongside it, with video games being one of the most popular forms among these mediums.
"'Dragon Ball FighterZ' is the first in the series to truly revolutionize the franchise’s 2D roots, breathing new life into the popular show’s video game adaptations."
Given the show’s martial arts nature, fighting games were the first type of game that developers went for with the “DBZ” license, with titles like “Super Butoden” paving the way for the series’ video game debut. With the recent “Dragon Ball FighterZ” releasing to excellent reviews, this format has seen a massive resurgence. Many “DBZ” games had been primarily arena fighters (utilizing movement within a 3D space), and few games in the series had implemented the traditional 2D fighting game format successfully. “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is the first in the series to truly revolutionize the franchise’s 2D roots, breathing new life into the popular show’s video game adaptations.
This accomplishment makes sense, as fortunately for “Dragon Ball FighterZ,” it was placed in good hands for its creation. Developer Arc System Works is renowned for their fighting game know-how and expertise, making them the perfect candidate to work out every detail of this title.
The entertaining core content of the game — the fighting itself — is what has helped its popularity to endure. Arc System Works is particularly well-known for the production of their complex anime fighters, and they’ve done a great job of making “Dragon Ball FighterZ” engaging for newcomers and veterans alike. The type of fighting game is that of a 3v3 team fighter, allowing the player to choose three of their favorite “Dragon Ball” characters to fight together as a team. However, you can only fight with one character at a time, with the other two acting as “Assist” characters when not in use, who can be summoned onto the field for a quick, automatic attack before teleporting away once more. These essentially act as combo extenders and tools to be used as offensive pressure. Compared to other fighting games like “Street Fighter,” “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is extremely fast-paced. It can even be a bit overwhelming for new players considering how much goes on at any one time. For example, the addition of “Super Dashes” and “Vanishing,” which quickly close the gap between players with a fast charge and strike, do a lot to keep players on their toes at all times. Simply put, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” effectively creates an addictive combat system that’s hard to put down.
The title’s visuals were the first aspects that caught the eyes of almost every convention goer and helped to claim the “Best Fighting Game” award upon its reveal at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) last year. Almost immediately, it’s easy to see that Arc System Work’s trademark style is present, with deeply shadowed 2.5D visuals that make the title look like it was taken directly from the anime. The small details of each character, effect and stage is represented here, with a plethora of small nods and references to the original series to deepen the experience even further. From a quick glance, it’s easy to see that this is a contender for the most visually engaging “DBZ” game ever.
Besides visuals, the sound design and soundtrack are likely the next aspects of a game that one experiences. Once again, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” delivers. In terms of sound effects, every old-school punch, kick and energy blast sound faithful to the series, which harbors even deeper immersion. The soundtrack is also very commendable. Every track in the game is originally produced and, with the exception of some downloadable content (DLC) music packs, there aren’t any songs from the original or current series. This can be a downside to some diehard fans of the series, and while I personally would love some of the show’s older themes to return, I do appreciate the work that has been put into the newer ones.
Delving more into the actual characters one can duke it out with, the series mainstays are all here, with Goku, Vegeta, Trunks and all the other Z-Fighters being represented. However, there are also a number of characters from the recent series “Dragon Ball Super,” contributing new variety to the cast. The base cast of characters totals 23, making for a good pool that players can explore and try out in order to find their ideal playstyle. Fortunately, Arc System Works has recently finished releasing their first season of DLC characters, totaling six in all, including characters like Goku’s father Bardock and the space tyrant Cooler. There are a few complaints — namely the lack of some fan-favorites from the roster and some “repeats” (several variations of Goku and Vegeta) — but overall, the character choice is spot-on, with all the major heroes and villains being represented.
"There is no better time than now to grab this new entry in the 'Dragon Ball Z' franchise."
There is no better time than now to grab this new entry in the “DBZ” franchise, what with all the Season 1 DLC (which includes new characters, modes and updates) being released and its popularity still remaining incredibly strong. Along with a heavily rumored second season of DLC, the title’s longevity looks incredibly promising. The game’s accolades also speak volumes, with a nomination for “Best Booth Award” at Gamescom 2017, another nomination for “Best Original Game” and recipient of “Best Fighting Game” at last year’s Game Critics Awards. It’s easy to see how far the game has already gone and how far it has yet to go.
Overall, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is an excellent fighting game. It gives the player plenty to do, with an engaging fighting system, set of characters and visual/sound design to boot. With the game being available on Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, there’s a good chance there lies some way for you to experience this title in all its glory. If you enjoy fighting games in any capacity, I have no doubt that “Dragon Ball FighterZ” will appeal to you.
Final Grade: A
Kyle Engels is a video games columnist for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.