De­vel­oper Arc Sys­tem Works Pub­lisher Bandai Namco For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Re­lease 2018


We’ve said it be­fore, and we’ll say it again: Arc Sys­tem Works makes playable anime. It was true for the as­ton­ish­ing Guilty Gear Xrd, but Dragon Ball FighterZ is the ul­ti­mate man­i­fes­ta­tion of the phrase. It’s built with the same stylish tool­kit: made in the Un­real En­gine, run­ning at 60fps but with char­ac­ter mod­els an­i­mated at 15fps to repli­cate the look of hand­drawn anime. But this time, it’s ac­tu­ally based on one.

Dragon Ball Z fans have been un­der­served by tie-in videogames for years. That streak has ended.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is spec­tac­u­lar. Clear, crisp and car­toon­ish, it is em­i­nently read­able de­spite the on­screen chaos. It’s a 3v3 fighter in the

Mar­vel Vs Cap­com style, where tac­ti­cal play re­volves around keep­ing a well-bal­anced team alive. The E3 build lets us try out six char­ac­ters, but they all feel dis­ap­point­ingly sim­i­lar to play at first – every­one shares the same set of gen­er­ous abil­i­ties, in­clud­ing a side-switch­ing tele­port, a Dragon Rush that will break an op­po­nent’s guard, and a Mar­vel-style ‘push-block’ to force ag­gres­sors away.

But as matches play out, con­cerns fade. For bet­ter and worse, it’s clear how far a char­ac­ter’s in­di­vid­ual playstyle can im­pact match-ups. We find suc­cess with ag­gres­sive rush­down fighter Go­han – the uni­ver­sal, fire­ball-ig­nor­ing su­per dash seems made for him, a squeeze of the right trig­ger in­stantly clos­ing the gap be­tween us and a want­away op­po­nent. It leaves us rel­a­tively ( and wor­ry­ingly) safe from coun­ter­at­tack when blocked, though. In­deed, when we switch to zon­ing-heavy char­ac­ter Frieza, the move doesn’t fit the game we’re look­ing to play – and we’re con­stantly pun­ished for it.

But with a 2018 re­lease date, and Arc stating that the game is only 20 per cent com­plete, nit­pick­ing is per­haps a lit­tle re­dun­dant. We only do so be­cause Arc’s at­ten­tion to de­tail is le­gendary – some­thing that Dragon Ball FighterZ more than con­firms. One stu­dio head told us how his an­i­ma­tion team, as­tounded by the an­nounce­ment trailer shown at Mi­crosoft’s con­fer­ence, went through it frame by frame to try and work out how Arc did it. They came away with the im­pres­sion that ei­ther Arc has in­di­vid­u­ally lit ev­ery sin­gle frame of an­i­ma­tion by hand, or worked out a way to make it look like it has. How­ever it’s been done, the re­sults are as­ton­ish­ing.

It’s clear that this is a fight­ing game aimed at both the ca­sual anime fan and the ob­ses­sive frame counter. From what we’ve seen so far, it’s set to pull off the bal­ance bet­ter than any other forth­com­ing fighter – we don’t doubt the fi­nal prod­uct will fea­ture Arc’s usual suite of varied sin­gle­player modes and clever tu­to­ri­als. By com­bin­ing Namco’s flair for ac­ces­si­bil­ity and Arc’s ob­ses­sion with the de­tails, Dragon Ball

FighterZ may well be playable anime’s fi­nal form.

Dragon Ball Z fans have been un­der­served by tie-in videogames for years. That streak has ended

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