It's been a number of months since this game came out, but unlike most people falling over themselves to praise this game, I did something outlandish -- I actually played it for a bit.
Because praising anything to do with Dragon Ball is like extolling the virtue of a glory hole. I like the franchise well enough, but let's be honest here: Dragon Ball is an adaptation of Chinese folklore with dick jokes that turned into a fight show with grunting and lasers. It's entertaining and beautifully rendered but it's not high art.
With that in mind, I am reviewing Dragon Ball FighterZ, the latest of many, many, Dragon Ball fighting games.
A Brief History of BallZ
I have been playing Dragon Ball video games since I was an edgy teenager who downloaded ROMs on his computer. I have played these games since Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden that was released on the Super Famicom.
The first in the series was hardly revolutionary. It had all the charm of Street Fighter. The first Street Fighter. The only addition to this game was the ability to fly and a huge arena space. Other than that, not a whole lot that's new. The games went from there, and got better enough but never stellar. It wasn't until all that impressive until Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension.
In the Playstation/XBox era, they had the Dragon Ball: Badoukin series, which was like Virtua Fighter, only you could fly.
One thing the series had going, especially in later years, was that it had a massive selection of characters. This was their strong point, a fighter with a large selection of characters makes it less redundant.
so here we are, Dragon Ball FighterZ; how does it stack up?
That's Almost a Story Mode...
Fighting games these days have story modes. I don't know why I need a lengthy cutscene to explain why I am beating the shit out of someone in a video game, but here we are. While Dragon Ball is a collection of vagina jokes and punching, it still had a story. The stories were simplistic, sure, but they were engaging enough to keep my attention. There was a progression between Yamucha fighting the invisible man and Master Roshi seeing Bulma's boobs and spraying blood all over the invisible man so he could be defeated and Goku learning he was a space alien.
Sadly the game doesn't even have this kind of depth. There is an android that eats people to gain ultimate power and it made an army of clones that look like all the fighters you can play. So you have a choice to fight a greyscale version of the character but it's not for reals unless they are in full color. Also, it has something to do with the Namekian Dragon Balls, but they don't go into it in much detail.
Also, they bring in the fact that the characters can only fight when they are "linked" with YOU. Yes, you are now magically part of the Dragon Ball franchise because reasons. Because a fan base NEEDS to be included. It's used as a flimsy excuse to have to level up your characters because apparently, suspension of disbelief and the need for inclusion are diametrically opposite.
This is all rounded with cutscenes where unlocked characters have to chime in about how weird it is that they are fighting clones and passive-aggressively mention past plot points. I get it, Frieza and Gohan have a past history. If you're not going to dazzle me with flashbacks, it's unnecessary filler.
Story mode has three chapters. Each chapter is basically the same story but told from different perspectives. The first is about the good guys, the second is the bad guys, the third is the android characters.
On top of the fact that it is basically the same plot, each chapter doesn't actually fit with the previous. They don't even address it with some bullshit explanation.
Lastly, there are moments when the characters address you personally, and you are given the choice of two different responses. If you think that dramatically changes the gameplay, you will be disappointed.
Then there's the big baddy, Android 21. She has the power to turn characters into snacks, eat them, and steal their powers. Kind of like Buu. So if you every wanted Buu on a body pillow but thought he was too manly, your wish has come true. Granted, Akira Toriyama started phoning it half way around the Cell Saga, but this character is just plain lazy.
The other thing I dislike is the fact that you have a limited amount of moves on the world map in story mode. It's such a useless limitation because it's impossible to use up all your moves unless you are really trying or you're a spastic idiot. Why is this even a thing?
Another down point of this game is the lack of unique characters. Even with the DLC characters you've got Android 16, 18, 21, Bardoc, Beerus, Broly, Ginyu, Cell, Freiza, Teen Gohan, Adult Gohan, Super Sayian Goku, SSGSS Goku, Goku Black, Gotenks, Hit, Kid Buu, Buu, Krilyn, Tien, Yamucha, Nappa, Piccolo, Future Trunks, Super Sayian Vegita, SSGSS Vegita, Vegito, and Zamasu.
That looks like a lot of characters, but a lot of them are the same character models with different skins. Hardly revolutionary.
Whereas past Dragon Ball fighters had your characters change forms during a battle, this game makes these different forms as separate characters. Also the lump other characters in as special attacks for playable characters. Android 18 can summon Android 19, Ginyu can call on the entire Ginyu force, Nappa can call a Seibaman, etc.
It just seems incredibly uninspired.
So not only do you have to fight an endless sea of monochrome clones in story mode, you have different versions of the same character to make this even more redundant in other aspects of the game.
This would be okay if characters had different mechanics to execute moves, but every character follows the same button sequence to perform a move. So if you master one characters moves, you've mastered everyone. Else.
One of the redeeming qualities is the gameplay. It looks like you're playing the cartoon. However, outside of that, there's not much else to comment on. It follows the same 3-on-3 fighting schematic that was pioneered by Capcom. In fact, this game plays just like any of the later Marvel vs. Capcom games.
Which if I were to pull for an analogy right now: If you had to kiss a pig, you can make it as pretty as you want, but you're still kissing a pig.
A Plethora of Dumb Nonsense
In my opinion, they focused more on cheap achievements than the actual game. You slog for hours just to win different avatars and greetings in the multiplayer menu. It's the illusion of personalization created for people with empty enough lives to want a Mister Satan avatar or be able to greet people with a SSGSS Goku giving the peace sign.
I think if focused on something more than goofy prizes they could have made a more well-rounded game. Maybe it's because I am a grown adult poo-pooing on a game meant for Anime nerds that I just don't get the appeal of this sort of avatar/emoji shit.
If you're a fan of the franchise, I don't need to sell you on this game. If you've got Pocky crumbs on your person and can sing Japanese theme songs perfectly, then I am not trying to sell this game to you. I am talking to the functional human beings.
If you are looking for a mindless button masher to relieve some stress, this game does the job. It's flashy, visually appealing, and doesn't require a whole lot of intricate button combos to do anything impressive.
It's a brain fart of a game. So don't put any more thought than I have in the game and you might enjoy it. Or do a lot of magic mushrooms beforehand, that's the only way I can enjoy Anime these days, at least until we can isolate how Anime fans constantly excrete psilocybin from their pituitary gland. But that's going to take a lot of future science and possibly some weird ass techno-necromancy.
This game suffers from the same problem of most fighting games that are released, there's a point where it just gets too repetitive to care about overly much. It gets old.
Also, if I haven't already made it clear, the reward system for shit that doesn't enhance gameplay is pointless.
This is a game for Anime nerds. If you can overlook the pointless lip service they pay to fans like that -- that of inclusiveness instead of meaningful content -- then this game will amuse you for a bit, before moving on to something a little more palatable.