I had my ass handed to me, but never has that been just as fun as winning. (Well, maybe not as
fun, but definitely not deflating.)
Dragon Ball FighterZ held an open beta over the weekend and into yesterday and if I can take anything away from it beyond those incredible anime-perfect visuals, it’s that this fighting game makes you feel very powerful, all the time. It’s fast and responsive -- it has a relatively easy point-of-entry but features a lot of depth the more you play and learn to string together the hyper, hyper, hyper combos. And there’s also clearly a lot planned for the final release beyond straight up Versus.
I spent a lot of time in the Tutorial portion of the game -- an area you physically need to walk to with your cute Chibi DBZ avatar because the game’s ‘menu’ is basically a little 3D village. If you’ve played Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, it’s a lot like that, only Chibi in its own right. Within the ‘menu’ hub, there were five locked out areas, with the aforementioned Tutorial section, a Replay area, Versus and a Ranking area. The Tutorial, thankfully, is lengthy and eases you into the game’s actual complexity slowly enough that by the time you’re attempting to summon Shenron, you don’t realise just how far you’ve come.
Controls and attacks are more Street Fighter-like than any other fighting games, but there are specific DBZ mechanics that work super well and helps give the game its own flavour and strategy. The aforementioned summoning of Shenron, for example, requires seven Dragon Balls collected throughout a fight based on combo numbers and a few other variables. Once you’ve collected them, you just need to land a perfect X or Square Super (basically just hitting X or Square and landing enough consecutive hits to pull off the Super), and the famous dragon appears to give you an over-the-top hand -- you can revive an ally, restore your health, gain the ultimate power of even become immortal (for a limited time).
You also control much of your moves through Ki -- classic DBZ character power build-up, only here it happens in seconds by holding down X and A or Square and X, instead of over several episodes of the classic anime. Your Ki level limit is seven, and certain moves require a certain level to be able to perform. The thing is, this leaves you open and vulnerable, and your build-up is instantly cancelled as soon as you’re hit. It does build up passively (kind of) throughout the course of battle by fighting or being hit, but it takes much longer creating a unique risk-reward system for players looking to unleash devastating attacks earlier rather than later.
The game is also team-based, with a roster of three a side, and you can switch characters in and out as you choose. You can also combine sideline characters with a well-timed switch after starting a super which creates an all-new, even more powerful attack. All of this -- and more -- looks poised to set the fighting game world on fire through 2018 as combos and fighting meta creep in through professional players and there’s no question this is going to be a major part of the eSports scene.
Playing against humans proved more of a waiting game than I’d have liked, but a beta like this is usually done for backend network testing, and often (not always *cough* SFIV *cough*), come launch day connection is sorted, or being worked on frantically. Awesomely, the game allows you to select your acceptable level of connection. It means the higher connection you want, the longer you may have to wait to get into a game, but you’ll likely have a much better experience than on a lower connection (obviously). In-match, you also see a frame delay count just so you know how to (hopefully) deal with being a few frames behind.
As an early taste test of what’s to come later this month, Dragon Ball FighterZ’s open beta showed glimpses of a game that will shake up the fighting game genre and the potential to really deliver as a game with a lot of content. Visually, it’s flawless. This is
the Dragon Ball anime series come to life in glorious HD fashion, only unlike the anime, fights between characters won’t last weeks.