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Review: Dragon Ball FighterZ is great nostalgia shackled by repetitive battles

As a tribute to the anime TV it's brilliant, but the fights get familiar fast.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is described on its own website as the vehicle to bring classic 2D Dragon Ball Anime to current generation consoles – something it achieves with a flourish.

Following on from the popular Xenoverse games, FighterZ is a take on the Dragon Ball universe that is much more back to basics when it comes to looks and fighting style.

While Xenoverse was all about 3D, battles between the 24 characters in the game’s roster take place in 2D arenas, just like the classic arcade fighting games of years gone by.

This comes with a twist in the form of a tag system where players can swap in up to two other fighters to take on the fight – which offers huge potential for online play involving six players.

Elsewhere, there’s a three-pronged story mode as well as an arcade arena to test the strength of characters and earn XP as you go, providing plenty of ways to get your Dragon Ball fix.

What’s good about it?

Loyalty to the Anime looks of the Dragon Ball universe is a solid, nostalgic switch compared to the 3D settings of the Xenoverse games.

In battle sequences, too, this is a stunning looking game.

The depth of the game’s initial roster is also promising, with 24 heroes and villains from across the show’s eras in place – with more likely to be introduced via DLC in the months to come.

The game’s three-pronged story mode is also engaging enough to stoke the interest of any fan of the TV series as players can move through it from the perspective of the Z Fighters, then the Villains and finally the Androids.

This is complete with cameos and encounters with plenty of memorable faces from across the show’s universe, rolled up into a new central story involving the Red Ribbon Army.

(Bandai Namco)
(Bandai Namco)

The story mode itself is laid out almost as a strategy game map, with players given a set number of moves to reach key boss battles and rescue missions. There are other battles along the route they can choose to take on in order to up their character XP and strength, but running out of moves means game over.

Once in battle, the three-on-three tag and support system is also a welcome addition to the gameplay – with players able to select two more allies to join the fight with them before each battle.

You’re able to call for an assist from another member of your team to execute big moves or perform a full tag and switch out a Goku for a Vegeta, for example, should you be taking on a bit too much damage.

The cut scenes, too, feel true to the Dragon Ball style – the animation work done by Bandai Namco and Anime veterans Arc Systems Works shines most in the set pieces of signature battle moves and here in the dialogue sequences between characters.

The slightly corny humour synonymous with lighter moments of Dragon Ball’s TV shows is here in spades, meaning the sequences between battles don’t endlessly drag.

What’s not so good?

The reason other fighting games – including the Dragon Ball Xenoverse titles – have gone 3D is to try and combat the sense of repetitiveness constant 2D battles can sometimes evoke – and that is still evident here despite FighterZ’s best efforts.

Battles start to feel the same after too short a period of time – particularly those that involve the evil cloned versions of the game’s characters you fight in the earlier segments of the story.

(Bandai Namco)
(Bandai Namco)

Tagging in other team members helps to bring some variety, but after a time you might find yourself doing so with intentionally weaker characters to spice up certain battles.

The control system, too, has tried to bring a freshness to its approach but still makes it too easy to slip into classic button mashing like you used to do when playing Street Fighter as a child in the arcade.

Verdict

As a new gateway into the fun world of Dragon Ball, FighterZ does a fantastic job putting the universe’s heroes and villains at your fingertips.

There’s enough gameplay modes to dive into to suit whatever way you like to play such games, but whether it has the long-term appeal remains to be seen.

As with many a fighting game before it, the pay-off of winning similar-feeling battles over and over eventually begins to melt away.

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