In a world where the likes of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat dominate the fighting genre, it’s tough for any franchise to get a look-in. That didn’t stop developers Arc System Works from having a go on behalf of Bandai Namco though, with their 2.5D fighting game Dragon Ball FighterZ in 2018. Now, half a decade since its launch, let’s look at how Dragon Ball FighterZ became successful enough to still be talked about and how it is considered one of the best games of the franchise.
Arc System Works
Having Arc System Works at the helm was always going to give Dragon Ball FighterZ an edge from the outset. They’re a veteran Japanese video game company with immense experience as developers in this field, going all the way back to the late 1980s and a title you may have heard of called Double Dragon.
Arcade style 2D fighting games in particular are what they do best though, which is clear to see from the success they’ve had in regards to the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear series’ over the years. As no strangers to the Dragon Ball franchise either – see the handheld efforts of Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butōden and Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors – it was a no-brainer for Bandai Namco to let Arc System Works run with creating a fighting game for consoles.
And the rest is history.
Easy to grasp, difficult to master
It’s something that’s been done before, granted, but making sure the controls are simple enough for your gran to have fun is absolutely essential in appealing to the mass-market.
Back in the day, you might have had to learn a sixteen-button combination to trigger a flashy attack or special manoeuvre. In Dragon Ball FighterZ, you’ll just need the right amount of Ki to unleash Super Attacks and the absolutely devastating Meteor Attacks. Within moments of learning the ropes, pulling off moves synonymous with your favourite characters becomes second nature and it’s utterly thrilling. I’m talking about Kamehamehas, Tri-Beams, Special Beam Cannons and many more.
Despite being easy to launch a barrage of awesome looking attacks however, it’s trickier to actually get good and win matches. Timing it right and linking the moves together in a combo chain is the difference maker, alongside a healthy defensive strategy. Practice makes perfect, but the effort pays off when you’re decimating opponents in style and without breaking a sweat.
The balance between the two is excellent and considering the action is team-based, there’s real depth to be found in mastering everything your preferred trio can do.
Authentic original story
As someone who’s witnessed the events of the Frieza, Cell and Majin Buu sagas more times than I care to count, it’s a joy for an original story to be included for a change.
Essentially, the narrative is spread out across three separate arcs, but the general gist is that Android 21 has been up to no good. She’s resurrected certain super villains and set about making clones of the Super Warriors, rendering Earth’s finest unconscious. It enables the player to experience the goings on of the story from different perspectives and features a whole raft of familiar faces.
The cutscenes are such high quality, with characters voiced in both Japanese and English, you’d swear they were ripped straight from the anime. The fact that Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama actually designed the main antagonist for Dragon Ball FighterZ, just adds a little extra authenticity to what is a delightfully fresh story.
A deep and diverse roster
Possessing a roster diverse and large enough to appease the fans is crucial to garnering longevity in the fighting genre. After all, if you can’t find a character – or characters – to suit your playstyle then you aren’t likely to invest your time.
There are a total of 24 characters, including the unlockable ones and a handful of variants. Naturally, the likes of Goku, Vegeta and Piccolo are ready from the outset, which makes sense as they’re hugely popular. These are complemented by characters who haven’t really been overused in other games of the franchise, such as Beerus and Hit. Each character has their own set of super moves to perform, with fantastic animations in place for all – it’s a treat for the eyes.
The potential team-ups available here are the stuff of dreams and trying different combinations is rather exciting.
Post-launch support and DLC
Eventually, the excitement over a new game tends to wane and it’s only natural for the same to happen here. But Dragon Ball FighterZ didn’t suffer such a noticeable drop-off thanks to regular post-launch support from the developers.
I’m not just referring to patches to fix bugs and make tweaks to the gameplay either. Numerous free updates brought additional features and game modes into Dragon Ball FighterZ. The Party Battle offering encouraged cooperation with others in order to defeat some incredibly tough bosses. Meanwhile, the FighterZ Tournament rocked up with several new match rules to adhere to should you wish to compete. The special rules meant you were required to use a specific character or participate in a simple 1v1 battle.
That’s not all however, with paid DLC providing the opportunity to bolster the already strong roster by almost doubling it with twenty extras. Through various FighterZ Pass purchases, you could get your hands on a terrific range of new characters. There’s the Legendary Super Saiyan Broly, the evil demon Janemba, the wise Master Roshi, the heroic Videl, and more.
What else could you ask for?
A sure sign of success for any game is its ability to infiltrate the eSports scene; just look at the likes of Rocket League, Fortnite and FIFA. Despite the fighting area of eSports being pretty crowded, Dragon Ball FighterZ still managed to make a splash.
The Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour was created by Bandai Namco in 2018, with the aim of finding the best players and inviting them to participate in a finals event where a champion is crowned. So far, four seasons have been held and the inaugural winner received the handsome sum of $10,000.
Even outside of the realm of Bandai Namco, other events have been held such as the Evolution Championship Series. All this attention draws more eyes towards Dragon Ball FighterZ and that will surely help with establishing additional longevity for an already long-standing 2.5D fighter.
Those are just a selection of reasons as to why Dragon Ball FighterZ succeeded and is, surprisingly, still relevant five years after its release. Considering there are plans to release upgraded versions of it for Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 this year, I’d bet this game has plenty of fight left in it.
And that’s great news because Dragon Ball FighterZ is excellent fun, wouldn’t you agree? Feel free to leave your thoughts on it or share any memories you have from playing it over the years.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is available to play on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (from the Xbox Store), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch and PC.