There have been a lot of Dragon Ball titles over the years, but only a handful of them can be considered truly good games. Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 immediately springs to mind, and the much more recent Dragon Ball XenoVerse series is no slouch, either. Again, good games, but then that opens the case on another question entirely: are they good fighting games?
To a competitive fighting game player, no, they're probably not. Licensed anime fighters have never really been able to break into the hardcore scene as we know it -- a scene where franchises like Street Fighter, Tekken, and Guilty Gear rule the roost. There are numerous reasons as to why you don't see the likes of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 being played on the big stage at tournaments like Evo, but it largely boils down to a lack of depth and mechanics or systems that aren't balanced for competitive play.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is primed to change all of this. Crafted by Arc System Works, the developer behind the aforementioned Guilty Gear as well as the BlazBlue series, FighterZ is obviously a licensed anime brawler, but it boasts the depth and the pedigree of a traditional competitive fighting game. They've finally gone and done it.
Potentially, anyway. After playing the Dragon Ball FighterZ beta on PlayStation 4 over the weekend, it's safe to say that for now, we're believers. The three-on-three fighter is poised to be something really special, whether you're a fan of Dragon Ball, a lover of fighting games, or both. It's been a long while since we played something for such a relatively short amount of time, but came away so thoroughly impressed.
We had seen plenty of footage prior to our participation in the beta, but that didn't stop our jaws from hitting the floor when we booted it up. The still in-development game looks stunning in motion. From the vibrant colours to the glorious animations, we dare say that it nails the look of Dragon Ball better than anything before it. Running on the same custom Unreal Engine that powers the similarly striking Guilty Gear Xrd games, this is essentially a 2D fighter that uses 3D character models, but the models are shaded so expertly that they almost look as though they're hand drawn. It's gorgeous to say the least.
As is the case with the insane visuals, we're tempted to suggest that no other game has captured the lightning fast action of Dragon Ball quite as well as this. Attacks connect with a satisfying crunch, combos come out of nowhere, and super moves look downright explosive. When the gameplay arguably looks better than the anime that it's based on, you know you're in for a good time.
The gameplay in general isn't something that we can judge based on just a few hours with the beta, but that in itself is a promising sign for a fighting game that's striving to attract a competitive audience. There's clearly a fair amount of depth here, from air combos to movement cancelling and guaranteed super attacks to the fully fleshed out tag system. What's more, team composition is going to be a factor since each character has their own unique move list and assist abilities. We can't wait to see how far all of this stuff goes in the full release.
The good news for more casual players is that it seems pretty easy to pick up and get to grips with. You can mash out a few combos with little difficulty thanks to how light, medium, and heavy attacks chain together as they connect with your target, and launching your opponent into the air is as simple as hitting two buttons at once. There's even an auto combo system that lets you hammer light or medium hits with the game stringing attacks together for you. Based on what we played, they're an effective way to ease newcomers into the pace of combat.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is looking incredibly promising, then -- and we've still got months to go until the finished game is ready for launch in early 2018. With the right character roster and a reasonable amount of game modes both offline and online, this could end up being one of the best anime fighters to ever grace PlayStation -- not to mention one of the greatest Dragon Ball titles of all time.
Did you enjoy the Dragon Ball FighterZ beta? Are you as hopeful as we are for the finished release? Select your ultimate team of fighters in the comments section below.