This game certainly got quite a lot of hype back in the day and I put in the pre-order for it right away. Fighting games are typically excellent and this one was going to be by ArcSys so it already had the seal of quality on it. While we had the Dragon Ball Budokai games back in the day, we never had a really fast paced 2D fighter for the series until now. It lives up to the hype and I’d definitely say that the company put a lot of effort into this title. There are many easter eggs and the dialogue between the fighters for each match is perfect. There’s a lot to praise here so lets start the review.
The game has 3 Story Modes, which are all slight variations of each other. What differs is who Terry, the spirit of unimaginable power, inhabits to start the game. The main story has him go with Goku so I’ll mostly talk about that plot. The world has been overrun by dark copies of all Earth’s greatest fighters and unfortunately the heroes are unable to access their power. This is because someone has activated a machine which is disrupting their Ki. Until they can find a way to fix this problem, the heroes need Terry to possess them and fight on their behalf. Terry is glad to do it, but will he be strong enough to save the world? The mysterious Android 21 is on the loose and she won’t make it easy. Her abilities put her on a whole other level of power.
I enjoyed the story and it definitely had a lot of potential. I do think that adding Terry was unnecessary. I like having an original character that you play as when they actually appear like in Sonic Forces. When you never actually see them like in this game then it just feels a little tacked on. It’s not as if taking him out of the game would have actually changed anything. I also do have to criticize the fact that we effectively end up playing the same story 3 times. Each story has around 40 battles so they’re decently long and that could have given the title more time for What Ifs or maybe an adaption of the show. While each story has different details and the last one is implied to be the true story, they all contradict each other so I guess you can decide which story you want to be canon.
Whether there was potential lost there or not, it was a fun story to get through. I only have 2 other gripes with it and they’re relatively minor. One is that the cutscenes are constructed in an odd way where some will auto play and others you have to press X to move on. There’s no way to distinguish between most of them so you either have to wait a second to see if it keeps on going or just hit X and risk missing a line. It’s just a rather odd design choice. Especially since some cutscenes take away the X symbol so you know they’ll auto play. Others just keep it in. Finally, they get rid of the cool fighter quotes before each battle in Story Mode which is unfortunate since they’re so fun. I spent most of my time in Story Mode so I didn’t get to see the quotes until later.
The gameplay is naturally excellent as it pulls off the 3 on 3 team mechanics rather well. Like most team games, they make sure to scale the damage so you don’t have to worry about getting hit with an endless combo that takes away all your health. You can land combos that last for around 10-15 seconds, but the more hits you do in a row, the less damage they’ll do. An 80 hit combo can potentially deal less damage than a 10 hit one so you want to choose your moves carefully. It’s typically better to mix in a level 1 special attack after a combo than a level 3 as it will actually deal more damage. Of course, it’s always good to keep a Level 3 in the pocket since it grants you temporary invincibility and can be used to block an attack.
It’ll be tough for newcomers since there are a lot of cheesy tactics you can pull off like spamming the Kamehameha. It can be difficult to get around that, especially if the opponent knows what he’s doing. Still, there are numerous options and combos at your disposal so as long as you really practice and learn your character you will be fine. Unfortunately the online has been having significant problems so you’ll have too practice as lot against computers as they fix that up. The characters all feel rather unique in their playstyles. Due to the nature of the game a lot of the standard combos may feel the same, but the diversification happens once you start using the specials or learning advanced combos.
There is a training mode in the game which is pretty helpful. You can learn a lot of basic combos as well as advanced ones that will help you quite a lot. There is also the classic Arcade Mode which is useful for earning trophies and money. The replay value here is essentially infinite which goes without saying. Unfortunately the developers may have taken that literally as one trophy requires you to earn 20 million zenny. To put that in perspective, I haven’t even earned 1 million yet and I’m only close because of a lot of one time bonuses for beating the stories. Getting to 20 million can end up taking you around 180 hours. You’ll probably play that long in no time without getting bored, but you’ll probably want to be playing online, not grinding a specific story battle for that many times. I likely won’t be getting the Platinum here, but it’s not too crazy. It’s just more of a grind than anything else.
The graphics here are top notch. It really does look like an anime as you play through the game. You even adjust the graphics to make the game look like the retro Super Dragon Ball Z. I don’t think I could ever sacrifice the nice HD images though. The final smashes are especially satisfying and likewise with the intros. Goku Black’s is a nice homage to his original appearance in the anime and seeing Goku and Vegeta’s are always classic. This is certainly a game that the developers took a lot of time and patience with to get everything right. I can’t stress enough how every part of the game feels extremely polished. This takes the PS4’s graphics to the limits and will likely hold up well against PS5 games when that console ends up coming out.
I also enjoyed the soundtrack although I can’t offer it the same 10 star praise as the graphics. There are some catchy tunes here and they are memorable but overall the music selection isn’t all that large. I may be spoiled from how many themes are in Super Smash though and since the themes are good it’s not like I’ll mind listening to them too often. I’ll barely even hear the music when I’m in the middle of a really intense fight. I just won’t have time to think about it.
If I had to mention a small negative, it’s that the character roster is rather small. The size may have been necessary in order to have time to make the game without rushing it, but then I have to question some of the choices. Why is Nappa playable? There are many other villains that I would have gone with instead like Broly, Cooler, or even some of the newer characters like Jiren or Toppo? I’m assuming they added Nappa because they wanted more villains so that’s why I only listed villains here. For heroes I could make the same argument. I understand Krillin making it in and I suppose even Tien, but Yamcha absolutely could have been substituted for someone like Android 17. Android 17 is probably the biggest oversight from the heroes and he definitely deserves to be in the game considering his big role in the story. I may not be thrilled with the roster, but at the same time they have enough good characters to keep me happy. I was pleasantly surprised to have Hit and Goku Black in the game so that was really cool. There are some rumors about which characters will be DLC. Broly will definitely be super hype. I can’t be as hyped for base Goku and Vegeta, but then at least I can make a triple Vegeta team as well so that’ll be cool I suppose.
As for the new Android 21, she’s a pretty cool character. While I’m not crazy about her as a hero, her villain side is easily one of the cooler DBZ villains. She has a great design and her abilities are quite intense as well. The villain theme in the game works perfectly with all of her scenes. She’s deranged enough to make for some intense scenes while not going overboard and losing sight of her goals either. Based on how the game stories end you could make the case that she ends up being Hit or Goku Black level by the end but it depends on just how much you believe the heroes got their full power back. Since this arc likely takes place a little before the final arc of Super, everyone should be crazy strong here. If this game gets a sequel, I’d definitely want the evil 21 to show up again.
Overall, Dragon Ball FighterZ lives up to the hype and then some. The gameplay is absolutely phenomenal and this is one of the most polished games I have ever seen. I don’t know how long it was in development but it must have been quite a while to get it to play, sound, and look so good. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is definitely the best fighting game on the PS4 and now I’m even more hyped for the upcoming Cross Tag Battle game. FighterZ is one of those titles that will stay relevant for quite a long time and I look forward to taking on some online opponents at some point in the future. Time to bring out my Triple Goku team!