Game Title: Dragon Ball FighterZ
Company: Arc System Works, Bandai Namco
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital Download
Battery Life: 2-3 hours
Download: 6.9 GB

Dragon Ball anything on handhelds and I am ALL OVER it. I love Dragon Ball and really wish I was a Dragon Ball Content Creator like Geekdom or Detective Q. But what I can do is do content on Dragon Ball content whenever a handheld game or two come out (or in Xenoverse 2’s case, every time new DLC drops).

Thankfully, things have come full circle for the Dragon Ball Nintendo Switch community. I remember when Xenoverse 2 was announced, and its launch was riddled with even reviewers that crapped on the game because “It isn’t FighterZ”. Well, now you’ve got it, so all of them can finally be happy.

Let’s finally get into this review. Labeled by even the famous Team Four Star as the greatest Dragon Ball fighting game of all time, here is my review of Dragon Ball FIGHTERZ for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

fighterz 2 - story

FighterZ takes place in the anime timeline during Dragon Ball Super between the Resurrection and Future story arcs. When strange energy waves appear around the world and suppress the Z Fighters’ power, an army of clones created by the Red Ribbon Army attack the world. Goku then became possessed by a soul that grants him the ability to regain his strength as he sets off to collect his allies and put an end to the clones and the strange energy waves.

The story I wouldn’t call bad, but parts of it are. My main problems are the fact that the story goes really far out of the way to make story aspects that explain the gameplay mechanics. A little tidbit to explain something isn’t a bad thing, but when you have significant amount of cutscenes just centered around “This is why you can play as multiple characters”, it’s really off-putting and takes away from the actual story.

The other is the antagonist. It’s great that we have an original villain in the game, but when the original villain is portrayed as a busty collection of about half a dozen fetishes that makes you feel like you’re watching a soft porn flick every time she’s on-screen. It really takes away from the story, especially since Dragon Ball has always been more tame in its sexual fanservice over the years.

However, not all is bad here. The game has a ton of character-to-character interactions that are hilarious and great to listen to. Even if you don’t like the overall story in FighterZ, the character reaction scenes when you have certain party combinations are a hoot to listen to for Dragon Ball fans.

Gameplay

fighterz 3 - gameplay

DBFZ is a 2d fighting game with some RPG elements thrown into the mix. Unlike Xenoverse, this game pits you in 2D arenas with 3-character teams fighting with one another, not unlike the Marvel vs Capcom games.

As far as feature differences, the Switch version has some bonuses the other versions don’t. For Pre-Order Purchases, a Switch port of Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden, the first Dragon Ball fighting game ever made, was given. You also have SSGSS Goku and SSGSS Vegeta unlocked for play from the get-go. The Switch port also includes some new local multiplayer options, like 6-player offline Party Matches.

Much like Xenoverse, you go into an Online or Offline Lobby when you start up the game, with the online lobbies having more features and game modes available to partake in. In the lobby, you can access different game modes, customize your teams and control styles, and use earned money to buy customization parts for your in-lobby avatar through an RNG-like Shop.

fighterz 4 - game modes

Game Modes are the biggest part of this game, though. For SIngle Player, you’ve got Story Mode, Local Battle, Arcade Mode, and the robust Practice Mode that contains in-depth tutorials not only for various gameplay mechanics but combo tutorials for every playable character. There’s also some smaller modes like Z Union to earn character-based rewards over time and the Replay Theater where you can watch previous multiplayer matches you were a part of.

Then, you have Multiplayer Modes, where things get a bit more mode-heavy. You have World Match, where you take your team to take on an opponent in PvP, Arena Matches where you can match up with others in the same lobby, and my personal favorite, Party Match. In that mode, you have 6 players in one match, each only controlling one character. I found this to be much more fun with the randomness of never knowing when you’ll start in the match and when your allies may tag you in to help them fight.

Out of all of these, though, Story Mode is where the bulk of the game will take place until you start working up the online ranks. The Story has 3 different story arcs, which are centered around different groups of characters to give different versions of the game’s events. The actual story mode gameplay has you in a Budokai 2-inspired grid, where you move from point to point, fighting off enemy parties until you find bosses and advance the story.

fighterz 5 - story mode

This is also where the RPG elements come in. Unlike the other modes, your characters level as you fight and you earn special skills that help in battle, like giving you regenerating health or more experience for each battle victory. This helps keep things fresh and different, outside of doing different party combinations for the special comical scenes I mentioned in the story section.

Now, let’s get out of Game Modes and into Gameplay. This is a 2D fighting game that I consider to be similar to the Marvel vs Capcom games. You are put in a 2D plane with 2 other characters in your party as assist characters. You can fly at your opponent and get them into combos and summon or switch out with your other characters at any time to make pretty extensive combo -> switch/assist attack chains.

The system is surprisingly simple, despite how technical it looks, though. You basically just have a four different attacks and can pull off different skills with some light D-Pad / Arrow Button inputs with each button. It’s pretty easy to learn the system and even easier if you enable “Simple” controls, where super attacks require Trigger holding with action buttons instead of the D-Pad gestures.

fighterz 6 - combat

The real beauty is how it -looks-, though. The devs put a ton of work into this, as every single move every character does is a recreation of a scene from the Dragon Ball Z and Super anime shows. Even the more cinematic Super Attacks change camera angles and make it look like you are just watching an anime play out instead of playing a game. It really is a spectacle and showing of how hard Arc System Works worked on this. Everything is incredibly faithful to the source material.

Now, let’s get into how much time you’ll get out of this, which a lot of folks were worried about. This is, after all, a $60 game and isn’t a dozens of hours RPG like Xenoverse 2 was. Over the course of the tutorial mode, a few arcade runs, and my first completions of the 3 story arcs, I’d spent around 18 hours on the game. You could certainly get a few more hours into repeating Story Mode in Hard Mode to unlock more skills as well as getting 100% completion for story events, but you’ll be lucky to get 20 hours out of the game’s single player content.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t terribly hard (though it’s far easier with the Pro Controller to pull off Super Attacks with the default control scheme), and it’s set up pretty well. There aren’t any motion gestures or touch screen controls.

You move around the arenas with the Left Analog Stick or the D-Pad / Arrow Buttons. The trigger buttons are used for the Air Dash and Super Attacks/Guard Break Attacks. Finally, the Face / Action buttons are used for your 4 attack types, most of the time combined with directional input for special or variation attacks.

Presentation

fighterz 7 - presentation

Graphically, this game is the definition of beauty. When you see the introduction cutscenes and even gameplay in docked mode, there are very few if any flaws in the graphics engine. The Cell-Shading of this game is so in-depth that it looks like you’re watching an anime. You do see some jaggies here and there in Handheld Mode, but it doesn’t take a lot from the game.

In terms of performance, Single Player battles run at a perfect 60 frames per second. The game does lag in multiplayer, though. I have yet to be in a single MP match where there weren’t any frame dips or drops. Although this is due to the P2P nature of the game’s online, it is still pretty frustrating to get into a match and see even the intro cinematics freezing in and out before you even get to gameplay.

Battery Life

This is a bit of a weird one. I did Battery Tests when the DBFZ Beta came out and, for some reason, it has more Battery TIme than the full game does. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 10 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 18 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 52 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-FI – 3 hours, 02 minutes

This still isn’t terrible, but it’s not super-great either.

In conclusion, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a great 2D fighter filled with fun gameplay, beautiful visuals, and lots of fanservice for series fans. The only parts that bring it down is the overly-fetishy villain and the story trying too hard to justify gameplay mechanics rather than just letting the story flow on its own. If you want a fun 2D fighter for multiplayer, this is a great choice, but those wanting a ton of single player content would be better off looking towards Xenoverse 2.

Final Score: 9/10