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Dragon Ball FighterZ: Hands-On Impressions at Bandai Namco HQ

As well as looking bloody lovely, Dragon Ball FighterZ also plays bloody lovely. Here's what we thought from a quick play session.

Recently, we were invited to the offices of Bandai Namco to try out the latest builds of their upcoming line-up of games. First up is possibly one of the most anticipated fighting games in recent memory, Dragon Ball FighterZ.

There are many things to learn about Dragon Ball FighterZ; first of all being that it’s pronounced “Fighters”. I’d been wrong this entire time. The second thing I learnt was that “Boy, am I fucking terrible at this game, but I really want to learn more.”

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, Dragon Ball FighterZ is the 2.5D 3v3 anime fighter that’s taking the fighting game community by storm. Even the most devout Budokai Tenkaichi fans are losing their goddamn minds whenever a new trailer drops. After spending some time with game myself, I can confirm that we were absolutely right to do so.

From the animations and graphics, to the over the top super moves, the action is a picture perfect recreation of the anime and manga that millions have come to know and love. This is a beautiful game to behold, either as a player or a spectator. Even just the little things like the way Goku kicks up dust during his special attacks just help establish Arc System Works as the undisputed masters of fighting game graphics.

Those in the fighting game community have commented before on how Dragon Ball FighterZ is much more accessible than a lot of other fighting games, especially those in Arc System Works current stable of games like Guilty Gear and Blazblue, and they’re right. The barrier of entry for this game appears to be significantly less intimidating than most other fighters.

The main reason for this is the reliance on universal inputs. All characters have light, medium, heavy, projectile, dash and throw attacks, with special moves requiring you to perform a quarter circle forwards or backwards combined with any regular attack button. Level 1 and 3 supers can also be performed with quarter circle forwards or backwards and throw. When the movelist and execution is as simple as this, all that’s left is learning what those moves actually do.Spending a couple of hours in training mode will sort that out.

While I didn’t quite have those couple of hours, I did put enough time in to start figuring out strategies, and earning some wins for myself in some competitive matches. If you have any sort of competency with fighting games, it won’t be long before your wrecker soon becomes the wrecked.

The dash and throw buttons are where the meat of your combo opportunities lie. Dash can be activated from anywhere on the stage and will launch you headfirst at the enemy. Nailing your opponent with it allows you to carry on your combo. Whilst it’s a good way of closing distance between you and your opponent, and it’s an efficient means to punish an opponent who keeps throwing projectiles at you, spamming it will leave you on the receiving end of universal anti-air attacks quicker than you can say “Yamcha died again?”

Throw can also be activated from anywhere, even in midair, and will see your character lunge forwards. Hitting your opponent with this launches them into the air, and again will allow you to carry on your combo. The key is nailing down the distance of your throw, as it’s often not as far as you’d like it to be. It’s an effective tool for those who block well against those like to mash buttons, which naturally meant I was on the receiving end of it quite a bit.

Pressing throw and dash together activates burst, which essentially the same comeback mechanic as X-factor in Marvel vs Capcom 3. Activating burst actively recovers the potential health of your characters, and the effect increases when you have less members on your team. Popping burst when you’re down to your final character can provide you with enough healing to turn the tide in your favour, and the rush you feel when you are able to pull off that clutch comeback is unparalleled.

In the short time that I had with Dragon Ball FighterZ, I went from complete scrub to-do well to not the best, but at least somewhere approaching average. Because the difficulty curve isn’t insurmountable, you feel encouraged to learn more and more about the game. Being good at Dragon Ball FighterZ feels much more attainable than being good at most other fighting games, and that’s a great thing. Now if only there was a closed beta for me to test this thesis.

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