The year was 1997, and it was in this year that I played my first Dragon Ball video game. The title I’m referencing is no other than the PlayStation One title, Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout, and it blew my young mind. Upon reflection, the game was an abysmal fighter with shallow gameplay and some of the worst voice acting ever to grace a video game. There have been many Dragon Ball games since then, and they have gotten progressively better over the years. Now, in 2018, we have a Dragon Ball fighter that embraces the franchise, its characters, and the intense combat we love. Dragon Ball FighterZ is everything a Dragon Ball fan has wanted in a fighting game, and now the game is available for the Nintendo Switch.
The name of the game may sound familiar and that’s because it originally saw release earlier this year for the PS4 and Xbox One. After several months of waiting patiently, Goku and friends are ready to partake in some portable tag-team fighting competition as FighterZ for the Nintendo Switch performs admirably in both docked and undocked mode. If you waited for this game to instant transmission itself to the Switch or are curious about double-dipping, your wish has been granted because FighterZ is every bit as good on Switch as it is on the other platforms.
At its core, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a 3-on-3 tag-team fighting game. Sporting a starting roster of 21 fighters collected from Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Super, and several films – as well as a fighter that’s an original creation of the game, there is a lot of diversity offered in character selection. Each fighter has a skillset that represents their distinct fighting abilities and skills, just as you would see in the show.
While one character is fighting, the other two are relegated to the either wait for your first character to be defeated, to be swapped into battle, or to serve as an Assist. A fighter can be prompted to provide an Assist attack which will deliver a powerful attack that may throw your enemy off-balance and buy yourself time to recover or to extend a series of moves. Timing is critical when calling in an Assist as doing so too late or too soon may leave them vulnerable to a counter-attack or even receive substantial damage from your opponent.
With a tag-team setup in place, FighterZ wants the player to experiment with team combinations so that you can piece together a trio of fighters that best suit your style of play and will perform best to power your way to victory.
Compared to other fighting games, players will find that Dragon Ball FighterZ is highly adaptable as it welcomes in newcomers with its simplistic control design; yet is deep enough to attract a hardcore fighting fan. Regardless of skill level, all players will feel like a Super Saiyan while playing FighterZ because it is easy to perform flashy moves and exhilarating combos.
While some fighting games feel light in terms of single-player content, that isn’t the case with FighterZ. Offering Arcade and Story Modes, there is a ton of content to explore when playing solo. Arcade Mode challenges you to complete a series of battles and earn an S-ranking.
Story Mode, meanwhile, tells an original Dragon Ball story centered around Android 21. The narrative of this mode is entertaining enough to keep you interested to see it through to completion; however, it can feel like a chore to get through. Batting enemy clones repeatedly quickly become tedious as the entire experience feels padded in order to make the mode last longer than necessary. I commend the development team for not simply retelling the events of Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball Super.
Dragon Ball FighterZ shows its true power and final form in its multiplayer game modes. Offering local and online multiplayer, this is where you’ll spend the vast majority of your time. Online offers three styles of play: casual, ranked, and party; each offering its own distinct treat.
Casual is unranked and serves the main purpose of providing entertainment for when you aren’t seeking powerful opponents and just want to partake in no pressure matches.
Party puts you on a team with two other participants and you battle a team of three fighters. You only control one fighter in this mode and it can become quite competitive if your teammates fall in battle and you are left alone to defeat the opposition on your own.
Ranked matches are tallied and tracked by the game’s leaderboards. You gain experience by winning ranked matches and can view the leaderboards to see how you fare against other competitors from across the globe. Those seeking skilled opponents will find them in ranked mode.
With more than 15 hours committed to online matches, performance has generally been smooth. Having encountered only a handful of matches in which lag played a major factor, we can say that the online mode performs well on Switch and is more than serviceable.
Just as the online performs admirably, the offline modes also play well on Switch in both handheld and docked mode. There are moments of dropped frames during special moves, but the game recovers almost instantly and the drops don’t hinder the flow of the game. For the hardcore fighting game competitor, these minor drops may be a nuisance, but the majority of people will not be bothered by them or even notice their presence.
When one considers this release of Dragon Ball FighterZ came several months tardy, one would hope or think that the game would include some of the previously released DLC in its base game. Sadly, that isn’t the case. If you want to fight as Broly or base Goku, you will need to purchase the fighter packs or the Season Pass. It would have been nice to have a small selection of the DLC fighters added to this version for no extra charge due to its late release, but the base roster is varied and provides many elite fighters.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is the Nintendo Switch’s premier fighting game. It plays well in handheld and docked, has competitive online modes, and local multiplayer is a blast. If you own a Switch and are a fan of the Dragon Ball series, this is a must-own.