DRAGON BALL FIGHTERZ
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