TGS 2017: Dragon Ball FighterZ Hands-on

I am a fighting game ignoramus. I don’t watch Evo, I don’t have a favourite Street Fighter character, and I don’t know if it’s pronounced “Blaze Blue” or “Blaz Blue”. I was convinced for many years that Dead or Alive was a volleyball game; I think that Mortal Kombat is for knobs and can’t imagine anything worse than having to play Smash Brothers. My mother-in-law once beat me at Street Fighter V.

I have minimal interest in fighting games, yet my 10 minutes with Dragon Ball FighterZ might’ve been the most fun I had at this year’s Tokyo Game Show. And I’m going to try to explain why, without using any fighting game parlance or researching any of the details about Bandai Namco’s latest brawler. This is me trying to share the reasons why I was so impressed by Dragon Ball Fighterz, without the aid of Google, Wikipedia, a press kit or spell check. Apologies in advance.

You start by choosing three characters from a roster of familiar faces. Goku, the other Goku, the guy who looks a bit like Goku but isn’t Goku, Majin Buu etc. They all seemed to handle similarly and there was no great advantage to choosing one character over another. Or at least not that I could decipher, which means that the differences could well be huge. Anyway, you pick your team and then fight another group of three, swapping characters in and out as required and occasionally pulling off a two-fighter combo. I played against my friend, best of three rounds over three bouts.

I can’t remember the last time I played a game so colourful. It is vibrant, stylish and perfectly captures the look and feel of the show. Looking at all those mad, bright colours, I couldn’t help but smile. I like my gritty shooters, grainy murder-sims and depressing post-apocalyptic nonsense, but I also like to be bowled over by vivid colours and striking art direction from time to time. Dragon Ball Fighterz absolutely did this, and it made me very happy.

Another reason why I enjoyed it so much was because I wasn’t awful at it. I won the second bout of our best-of-three tournament, and put up a decent fight in the two sets I lost. I kept pace with my friend, who is usually fairly handy at fighting games, in no small part because of how easy it was to grasp the basics. The special moves and combos came often, but never felt cheap. The camera was frantic, with fast cuts & edits that may bother more serious players, but worked wonders for establishing a sense of pace and helping to ramp up the action. That being said, it wasn’t overwhelmingly fast, and I felt like I was in control throughout – an unfamiliar experience for me and fighters.

Our first set went to the wire, before my friend snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, smacking my Piccolo dude back to the middle ages, or wherever the fuck he comes from. I won the second bout with an all-time performance in the third round. Seeing how much we were enjoying ourselves, and noting that we were all tied up, the booth attendant was kind enough to turn off the timer and let us play one final bout. By the final round, the balance had been readdressed and my friend beat me easily. DBF is very accessible, but it also appears to have enough depth to cater for players with a deeper understanding of fighters. This was apparent in the final minutes of our showdown, as my opponent started to better understand the intricacies of combat that were lost on me. Yet even in defeat, I was still having an absolute blast.

I was around the PlayStation booth quite a lot over the two industry days. I noticed that the attendees playing Dragon Ball FighterZ were among the most animated and loudest at any of the demo kiosks. People were laughing, shouting, cheering, gesturing wildly and just generally having a good time. But then you probably shouldn’t listen to me, as I know nothing about fighting games.

Be sure to check back over the coming days, as I'll continue to post lots of hands-on impressions from TGS. I'm also writing over at Critical Gamer


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