One of the surprise announcements during Microsoft's E3 press conference was Dragon Ball FighterZ, an anime-inspired fighting game from Arc System Works and Bandai Namco. We played an early version of this beautiful fighter, and it's something that Dragon Ball Z fans are going to love.
Here's everything we learned by playing the game and talking to Bandai Namco at E3.
A 2.5D anime fighter
Dragon Ball FighterZ is, of course, based on the Dragon Ball Z anime that is popular across the world. There have been numerous Dragon Ball Z games over the years, including Dragon Ball Xenoverse 1 and 2 on Xbox One. But those titles are 3D fighting and role-playing hybrids, not traditional fighting games.
FighterZ will be the first Dragon Ball Z fighter to come along in quite a while to feature 2D fighting gameplay. To accomplish this and create a better-than-average fighting game, Bandai Namco teamed up with Arc System Works, makers of the Guilty Gear series and other anime-style 2D fighters.
Despite the 2D gameplay, FighterZ makes use of gorgeous 3D graphics that capture the style and spirit of creator Akira Toriyama's beloved character designs. Bandai Namco calls this mixture of 2D gameplay with 3D graphics "2.5D gameplay," a common term for the hybrid art and gameplay style. The game already runs beautifully on Xbox One (the hardware used to demo at E3), with 1080p and 60 frames per second (FPS) graphics. And when playing on the powerful Xbox One X, the resolution jumps up to native 4K. Bandai Namco couldn't confirm additional enhancements at this time, but they're certainly a possibility.
As for the voices, the E3 demo uses Japanese voice acting with the original anime voice actors. English voice acting will be present as well in the final game. FighterZ will support a great number of text translations as well, including Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, and Castilian Spanish.
Only six characters have been announced for Dragon Ball FighterZ so far, but more will be announced in the months to come. All six were playable in the E3 demo.
- Goku: The primary protagonist of the various Dragon Ball series, he's always looking for a good fight.
- Vegeta: Once Goku's deadly enemy, the Prince of all Saiyans now fights on the side of good.
- Gohan: Goku's son appears in his childhood form, back when he was a real whiner.
- Frieza: The first major enemy of Dragon Ball Z, Frieza destroyed the Planet Namek and threatened the earth as well.
- Cell: A powerful android created in the future by Dr. Gero, Cell was designed to be the perfect weapon.
- Buu: The innocent form of Majin Buu, this puffy pink warrior has a childish personality and loves to eat. One of his attacks involves eating his opponent, whom he spits out afterward.
Each character has distinctive moves and super moves that fans of the anime will instantly recognize. Some characters have multiple forms as well, such as Frieza's gold form (taken from a recent theatrical movie). That gold form also indicates that we might see more recent characters and transformations in FighterZ, as opposed to the game strictly relying on the original Dragon Ball Z TV series. Bandai Namco wouldn't confirm whether elements from Dragon Ball GT or Super will appear in the game.
The simplest way to describe Dragon Ball FighterZ's gameplay is a mixture of Guilty Gear and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The gameplay has a big emphasis on aerial combos, not to mention team moves and super moves. Characters can't actually fly, although they'll spend plenty of time in the air during combos and special moves.
Knowing what the buttons do in a fighting game can provide a good impression of the actual feel, so here are the basic Xbox One controls.
- X button: Light attack.
- Y button: Medium attack. Y + B to vanish, teleporting to a different location.
- Rapidly mash X or Y button: Super Combo.
- B button: Heavy attack.
- A button: Special attack. Hold A + X to charge Ki.
- Right Bumper: Dragon Rush.
- Right Trigger: Super Dash. RT plus RB for Sparkling Blast.
- Left Bumper or Trigger: Z Assist. Hold for Z Change. During an Ultimate Move, press for Ultimate Z Change.
Three key mechanics in FighterZ involve calling in partners for assists or to tag out.
- Z Assist: Call a teammate in mid-battle to attack and provide cover. Players can combo in and out of Z Assists from other moves.
- Z Change: Swap characters in and out during battle. Inactive characters can recover a portion of their life, just as in the Marvel vs. Capcom games.
- Ultimate Z Change: A Supermove executed by the entire team of three fighters.
As for special moves, all of the specials in the demo involve standard fireball motions (rolling from down to forward or back and pressing a button). Some moves require charges from the Ki meter.
This dragon is going to rock
There's a lot we don't know about Dragon Ball FighterZ yet, including the full character roster and what modes it will have. At any rate, it will offer single-player modes, local multiplayer, and online multiplayer for two players.
In my brief playtime at E3, I picked Gohan, Frieza, and Cell for my team – you can mix and match good and bad guys, thankfully. We battled on Planet Namek, which looked better than the actual anime in some ways. The skies feature moving clouds and atmospheric effects that really pop. And the characters speak for themselves – you'd almost think they were hand-drawn if not for the 3D effects whenever someone pulls off a powerful special move.
The mixture of 2D gameplay with occasional flashy 3D is not unlike the arena transitions and super moves of Injustice 2. The only element that didn't impress during our demo was the music, which was simplistic and unexciting.
Dragon Ball FighterZ already plays quite well, and I expect that anime and fighting game fans will love it. There's a good chance you'll get to play it before release, too, as Bandai Namco promises a closed beta before release. The timing and platforms are still to be determined, but hopefully it will be easy to get in and throw some kamehamehas in glorious 2.5D!
Dragon Ball FighterZ is expected to come to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in early 2018. It will cost $59.99.
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