Dragon Ball FighterZ- Review

Posted January 29, 2018 by Chris Berto in Video Games

Developer: Arc System Works

Publisher: Bandai Namco

Release Date: January 26th 2018

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC


The Dragon Ball universe is perhaps the most iconic and recognizable anime in existence. Even casual anime fans know the names of Goku, Krillin, Frieza, Cell, and countless others. Over the last 20 years there have been numerous games set in the world of Spirit Bombs and Destructo Discs, most of which fall into the category of arcade-fighter. Dragon Ball FighterZ is by far the most feature complete and faithful adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s classic series.

Right out of the box, the game’s developer Arc System Works has included a lengthy single-player story mode, a robust arcade mode, a training mode, and a slew of various multiplayer modes including local multiplayer, ranked and casual online lobbies, and a “king of the ring” mode called Ring Match, where groups of players can set up unique match stipulations and compete in a loser-walks battle royale.

I began my journey with the story mode, and even for a game set in the world of Dragon Ball where characters can be killed off and resurrected with regularity, the story being told in Dragon Ball FighterZ forces the player to suspend disbelief. The game begins with a catatonic Goku experiencing what is perceived to be a form of amnesia before the revelation that Goku’s body has been inhabited (linked) with yours, the player. Yes, the game explains itself by breaking the 4th wall and explaining how the player has taken control of Goku (and subsequently the rest of the roster) and uses this “link” as a canonical explanation as to why the 3v3 battle system only allows 1 combatant from each team to be present at a time.

Typical Dragon Ball humor

As the story progresses players will discover the origins of the seemingly endless amount of clones that have begun wreaking havoc on the Z fighters. We also get to meet a brand new character to the Dragon Ball universe, the mysterious Android 21, who we first meet as she’s on the run from the notorious Red Ribbon Army.

Android 21 is as powerful as she is mysterious

A unique mechanic only present while playing the story is the persistent health gauge. As each stage comes to a close, any damage your characters take persists on to the next stage. These HP deficits are offset in 2 ways; depending on the rating a match receives, your team will recover a certain amount of health back, and secondly, as you unlock characters you’re able to customize your team and swap out any characters you see fit to fill your 3 man fight roster.

HP will recover over time for any character not on the active roster, which leads to interesting character combinations as you progress through the story. In my time playing through the campaign I very rarely had to swap out any team members as the AI opponents, even those several levels above my own, rarely put up much of a fight and go down easier than Yamcha in a 3 on 1 handicap match.

Classic Yamcha

Once the 3 arc story mode has been completed, players can continue on to the classic arcade mode for more offline combat options. Arcade mode comes in 3 difficulty options; 3 matches, 5 matches, and 7 matches. Perhaps difficulty isn’t an accurate description of these differences. The difficulty comes in the form of your personal ability.

The better your ranking at the end of a match will determine the difficulty of your next set of opponents; the catch being once your difficulty rises, that becomes your baseline for the remainder of your ladder. What this means is if you roll through your first match and end with an “S” ranking, every set of matches you get afterwards will be set at the corresponding difficulty to give you an adequate challenge. It’s an interesting addition that makes the 5 and 7 match tiers very difficult towards the end of the climb.


The remaining modes are where most players will spend the bulk of their time, those being the Ring Match mode, and the main event, and the ranked/casual online play. The XX mode is nice if you have a group of friends all wanting to play together without having to pair off 2 at a time. Ranked and casual matches are the bread and butter of Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Getting into a PvP match took much longer than expected, especially for a hotly anticipated release. I would often wait as long as 5 minutes between rounds looking for my next opponent, in both ranked and casual matches. After a few matches of getting my head kicked in by players at a much higher skill cap, DBFZ’s smart matchmaking system aligned me with players of roughly equal skill. Once I started battling it out against players in my own skill bracket the game truly came to life. Computer opponents just can’t replicate the mind games and play styles of another human; couple that feeling with the utter chaos, beauty and fluidity of the moment to moment gameplay and Dragon Ball FighterZ  could easily become my go-to fight game for the foreseeable future… assuming the server and lobby issues correct themselves down the road.

A common sight during my review

During the early hours of my review period I would regularly get disconnected from whichever lobby I was in, and would be kicked all the way back to the “Region Select” screen. This didn’t only happen in the PvP modes either unfortunately. Even the single player modes like story, arcade, and even training require a rock solid internet connection. If another member of my household started using an internet-heavy application like Netflix or Hulu, I would start seeing more of the “Network Error” screen than I would the actual lobby.

I just wanted to train offline

From a visual standpoint Dragon Ball FighterZ is nothing short of astonishing. The art style, animation, and attention to detail in both the characters and the special effects are so immaculately well done one could easily mistake gameplay for an actual episode of Dragonball Super. Everything from simple ki blasts to an Earth-shattering Frieza Death Ball has been so faithfully recreated that Akira Toriyama himself would be proud.

What separates DBFZ from other competitive fighters is the removal of overly complicated button inputs for a standard set of inputs that stays the same for every character on the roster. Given the fact that every match involves 3 characters the decision to standardize special and super moves across the board gives novice and casual players a much easier time transitioning from character to character without having to spend hours memorizing multiple characters to remain effective.

Playing on PC brings with it an uncapped frame rate at resolutions as high as 3840×2160. On my personal rig which couples an aging AMD-FX 8350 and an nVidia GTX 970 I have been consistently playing at over 100 fps on my 1440p screen. The game is wonderfully optimized and Arc System Works should be applauded for their dedication to making PC players feels as welcomed as their console brethren.

My Final Form

Dragon Ball FighterZ is the best Dragon Ball game I’ve played and should be used as a measuring stick for licensed fighting games moving forward. The on-line requirement for single player content, and the server issues left a bitter taste in my mouth, though the latter will hopefully clear up in the coming weeks. The accessibility to newcomers and the 12-15 hour campaign make it hard not to recommend to even casual fans of the genre Overall, if you’re a fan of Dragon Ball or fighting games in general you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Dragon Ball FIghterZ.

About the Author

Chris Berto