Pokemon wasn’t the only show of a morning that’d have kids waking up too early and slurping down cereal in front of the morning aerobics. Dragon Ball Z was, and still is to some degree, a powerhouse of anime that was as ballistic as it was campy and feel-good. The series offered up so many incredible moments that you couldn’t wait to talk to friends about around the drinking fountains. But unlike Pokemon, it’s a franchise that hasn’t fared too well translating to the video game medium. Of course, a select few of the Budokai games have their admirers and the second Legacy of Goku on Gameboy Advance is God tier. But on the whole, Dragon Ball hasn’t ever gone beyond the so-so.
Arc System Works, who are primarily renown for the Guilty Gear and Blazblue series, goes beyond the so-so with Fighterz. It’s an incredible feat to balance and tool a game in such a way that it could be picked up by either a greenhorn or a seasoned expert and they’ll be able to have a rewarding experience. The simplicity with which a lot of the game’s combos can be executed did, at first, lull me into a pattern of spam and button-mashing behaviour but as you get a better grasp on the game’s systems, even a slight mastery of the trickier assists, counters and, of course, tagging are the gateway to some big-time combos that separate the wheat from the chaff. I do love that a kid — who has no aspiration or capacity to learn finicky combos — could pick this game up and, with little effort, pull off any given fighter’s super. It’s that ease of access that lets everyone play with a flourish but not necessarily precise finesse, which is pleasing.It’s fair to say the story mode in FighterZ is very much one long tutorial, designed to drip-feed all of the knowledge required to go forth and do battle online or in the hard as nails arcade mode. The story itself is what you’d call typical Dragon Ball. It’s not art by a long chalk, but it’s some dumb fun with a boatload of filler. Arc System Works tries to break the mould for campaigns in fighting games, giving the player a little bit of freedom when it comes to some actions. At the beginning of each chapter, you’re dropped onto a map which you must, while taking into consideration your limited moves, navigate and reach the boss. Getting there often sees you take down a few sets of evil clones — typical Dragon Ball — which after a few map clears becomes about as dull as dishwater.
It’s like one long monotonous tutorial that doesn’t ever want to end. Though it’s not exactly one of Dragon Ball’s best told stories, at least it is original, which can’t be said for a lot of the past Dragon Ball games which tended to treat us like amnesiacs, trotting out the same done-to-death sagas time and time again. In terms of quality, it ain’t no Android saga, but it’s got a quirky villain and that zany sense of humour that is likely to warm the hearts of the die-hards.The single biggest challenge for lone wolves in FighterZ is its arcade mode, a brutal affair with a difficulty that scales to your performance. If you’re good, they’re great. If you’re great, they’re bloody unstoppable. It’s a shame there are only a few stages to choose from, but unless you’re a monster at fighting games there’ll be replayability for you as a couple of the game’s roster are locked away behind some demanding, gnarly conditions.