He-Man. G.I. Joe. Transformers. Titans of the Saturday morning lineup while growing up. It’s with supreme fondness that I remember the 80’s cartoons. And of course the toys, but that’s another story. The animated adventures were my escape growing up, taking me on adventures that I’d never dreamed of. As I got older, the Disney Afternoon grew into prominence, peaking with one of the more “adult” cartoons, Gargoyles, that I can remember growing up. In my late teens, there was a show that occasionally showed up Saturday mornings that I had never seen before. It was something that I’d later learn was called anime, and was straight from Japan. Dragon Ball Z was the show, and it looked extremely similar to a few of the RPGs from my SNES.
I’d later come to truly appreciate the show during the run on Toonami (R.I.P.) on Cartoon Network. It was awesome to get to see the whole series in its entirety. It had pacing issues for sure, but the sheer spectacle of it all was awe inspiring. At this point I was in college and started to learn more about the medium and even about the games that were from the show. Due to the glorious world of emulation (and the college’s T1 internet) I was finally able to play some of the games from the SNES era. While the fighting games were good, they were at best an approximation of the show that inspired them.
Fast forward 20 years, and finally a game has been released that is quite literally the anime translated into gameplay. Dragon Ball FighterZ is the game I always pictured in my mind playing all those years.
After it was initially announced, I was a bit worried as the developer (Arc System Works) is known for extremely pretty but SUPER technical fighters with layer upon layer of systems to learn. Luckily, they seemed to realize that most people just want to look really cool while playing the game, and made a game that’s extremely fun to just pick up and play. With 3 different attack buttons (light, medium, heavy) and a dedicated fireball (special) button, and a few other commands, you’ll quickly be re-enacting all the best fight scenes from the show. They also took the liberty of making all the special moves use the same input(s), which means you don’t have to have an encyclopedia of moves in your head at any time.
Aside from making a game that’s superbly easy to pick up and play, the game itself looks absolutely gorgeous. The 3D models that look like 2D sprites are exceptional, and ripped straight from the best high res image you can think of for these characters. In addition, the effects that accompany the special moves and all the little flourishes are just as good. I particularly appreciate the super move animations and the effect they can have on the stages themselves.
I’ve mainly been focused on the Story Mode, which has had a sufficient amount of fan service as well as great nods to the events of the show. It even has a good sense of humor about the past character actions that plays out in the pre-fight cutscenes. As for the fights themselves, they’ve been pretty easy so far with a few somewhat challenging moments, but honestly I don’t care. All I want is to play the cool characters and have flashy, extravagant fights where I do a super move and send an opponent through a mountain. And then there’s online. Which is where my journey ends. To be fair, I’ve played a few matches and generally gotten my butt whooped. And as someone who get irrationally competitive, It’s the main reason I don’t generally play competitive games much these days (PUBG being the one exception).
Overall, the game executed exactly what I was hoping it would, and I’ll continue to plug away at the story mode to completion, but not sure I’ll ever actually take the online plunge again. And that’s JUST FINE with me.