If you’ve ever played a traditional fighting game, you know that things aren’t exactly as fun as pro players make it out to be. Any beginner is stuck trying to learn quarter-circling, holding back to block, special moves, combos, tech-grabs, and every advanced technique in existence — just to be average at best. With an insane learning-curve requirement for entry players, the Super Smash Brothers series was the answer to the problem. No longer was the goal to diminish the opponent’s health bars, but to knock them off the stage. All moves activated at the click of a button (as they should), and certain characters reward the player for doing both well and badly. Dragon Ball FighterZ decides that, if Smash can do it, so can they, and with Goku in an easy to play, 2-D fighter, it feels as if Goku is in Smash. It’s like a dream come true.
For an anime fighting game, I’ve never seen such a mix of advanced techniques and beginner commands, allowing the most basic of players to walk in and give it a go. You play the game using a total of six buttons: your standard four buttons (shapes or letters, depending on the system) and the two left triggers. Light, medium and heavy attacks are standard for any game, although a designated projectile button allows you to apply pressure from the, well, click of a button. These functions as two hits and then a launcher, allowing you to attack your opponent and then follow-up mid-air. All characters have quarter-circle-based moves for all of their buttons, resulting in everyone’s anticipated Kamehamehas and the like. The triggers are used to activate assists and switch out to other characters, switching activated with both holding down L or pressing L and forward.
Still, the game has caught bad press due to its auto-combo mechanics, activated by rapidly pressing the light and medium attack buttons. That said, unlike nearly every other “auto-combo” game, there is an actual purpose to the auto-combo function. High ranking and intelligent players have been using auto-combos to their advantage, using these combos in order to extend normal combos. I know that doesn’t really mean anything to most people, but the fact that auto combos can be functional and add more to the experience says volumes about this game more than any other.
That said, while the game itself has high functionality, the small details take away from the experience. It’s annoying to have to log in to a lobby, usually full of people, just to face your friend sitting next to you. Why can’t offline mode be a default option from the main menu? I didn’t buy a fighting game to not play with the two friends I have. Additionally, where is the option to turn the announcer off when watching ranked battles? This “auto-commentary” option is the single most distracting and least helpful thing in the entire game. You need to watch other good players in order to get better. That’s pretty difficult when you can’t freaking pay attention to the audio due to a screaming man in sunglasses while the screen is covered in stamps posted constantly on screen by players every half-second.
The story is abhorrent, four hours of crappy cutscenes spells a bad time for all. It’s surprising how charming the story can be when characters interact, but this barely ever happens; it’s all about that plot with my original character Android 21! Considering how easy it is to beat computers and how rare it is for characters to enter poorly animated cutscenes, it’s not worth it. Original waifu 21 is over-sexualized with no personality, while every other character on the roster arrives from hell for no good reason other than “clones exist.” That’s not how clones work. If I make a clone of my great-grandma, that’s not going to bring them back with all of their memories and personality quirks intact. I would just have a baby grandma. Actually, somebody note this down, this is grade-A sitcom material. Baby Grandma premiering on CBS. I like it.
For an anime fighter, it’s very accessible, yet it seems that you can’t outrun old tropes in the end. The story was never made to be perfect, yet it’s this same meticulous, sloppy charm that makes the fighting game what it is. Flashy, outstanding anime visuals complement a game that will no doubt nail its place in fighting game history. A 2-D fighter for fans of Dragon Ball and beyond, the coolest moves are here for you. Charge up, charge in, and scream at the top of your lungs while shooting lasers. Millions of other players will join you in a community where it’s fun to kick ass, regardless of your power level. Rest in pieces, Marvel vs Capcom.