Dragon Ball FighterZ (Closed Beta Impressions)
As far as fighting games in 2018 go, the centre of attention is undoubtedly on Dragon Ball FighterZ. Being one of the most pleasant surprise reveals at Microsoft’s E3 conference this year, Bandai Namco have been so far excellent in terms marketing their new fighter. Attendees of any big name games events these past few months would have likely gotten a chance to try out various builds of DBF–myself included, at Versus Fighting in Birmingham. While Bandai Namco are no slouch at developing fighting games themselves, the ever-reliable Arc Systems Works have been given the task here. This makes sense as DBF is a 3 vs. 3 tag team fighter of the very same ilk as Marvel Vs Capcom 3; mixing some mechanics from ArcSys fighting games, like the high-octane Guilty Gear series.
The closed beta that took place this weekend used an open lobby system. The interface is very similar to that of the Guilty Gear Xrd series, where your avatar (which can look like one of your favourite DBZ characters) walks around an arena and can join in while waiting to matched up to an opponent. The matchmaking process took a bit longer than really it should have, particularly during instances where you can see your only possible opponent’s avatar right next to you. Hopefully the option to host private lobbies and choose your own opponent to fight against will feature later on, if not then the full game. In the first session, the lobbies were prone to randomly crashing, as well as the whole server twice; but that’s what betas are for.
As for the core gameplay, DBF is easy enough to get to grips with, but has a variety of mechanics to master. Asides from the regular Light-Medium-Heavy attack buttons, all characters have a homogenous special button, which gives the projectile move that can be performed in a single input and a reflect button. L+M is the throw dash button, which is easy enough to break on reaction. There’s also the Super Dash, performed by H+S, which can go through projectile. While it initially seems very strong, the Super Dash can be reflected and with good enough reflexes anti-aired with the homogenous down+H launcher button. You also have your assist buttons, which can call in one of your two partners to attack briefly or will fully tag them in if you so desire. This will be useful when your previous point character needs to recover some health, amongst other reasons.
Of course, DBF has a meter gauge to play with, and this can be spent on a variety of attacks, such as Super Attacks, or the even stronger Meteor Attacks. You can spend extra to tag in a partner after a super attack with their own super. There’s also the Vanish attack, which will cause you to teleport behind the opponent at the expense of one bar. Sparking Blast is pretty much DBF’s equivalent of X-Factor from Marvel VS Capcom 3; this will cause your character to gain meter gauge at a much faster rate, and gain back their recoverable health while still being on point. The effect of Sparking Blast becomes stronger when you have less characters alive, so it’s generally best used as for your last character. There are more mechanics in DBF, but I’ve mentioned here is the general gist of it.
As far the character roster goes, in spite of the cast sharing some similar traits, Arc System should be given credit for making them unique enough in their own right. For most of the beta, I stuck to three of the more recently revealed characters. Trunks seems to be a popular choice as a point character, having very good range on his sword normals. Krillin is probably the most unorthodox of the current roster, having really short range on his normals due to his diminutive size. He has some odd special attacks, that include a doppelgänger feint, a senzu bean toss and other arcing projectiles. Not quite as unorthodox but still somewhat left-field is Picolo, having slow moving sphere projectiles, a parry/teleport move and stretchy limbs to boot. With the recent reveal of Yamcha, Tien and original character Android 21 as well, the roster seems to shaping pretty nicely.
There are some possible issues with the current meta of DBF that might have some negative later on in the full game’s competitive lifespan. There’s a noticeable lack of defensive mechanics here, particularly compared to ArcSys’ own Guilty Gear Xrd, which had a litany of ways to escape pressure: Just Guarding, Bursting, Faultless Defence, Blitz Shield etc. While I do still expect offence to take precedence in a fighting game of this particular style, I also don’t want to be blocking for ages, but there may be some mechanics I’ve missed in implementing. The fact that every character has also only one assist and not a selectable choice of three like in Marvel VS Capcom 3 could be a potential problem. Certain characters seem to have much better assist than others, with Goku have a very reliable beam assist and me left scratching my head as what to do with Krillin’s assist. The lack of variety here with assist choice may also stagnate DBF’s competitive meta later on as well.
That being said, I really enjoyed myself playing the closed beta of Dragon Ball FighterZ. Asides from the sometimes sketchy matchmaking and occasional crashes, the net code in the actual matches is great, with a lag frame counter shown in the matches to boot. There shouldn’t be a problem unless one player has a potato for a modem. Let’s not forget the gorgeous cel-shaded visuals and the riotous heavy metal soundtrack. Ultimately, DBF was fun, something that should be a given when there are aliens, androids and Super Saiyans fighting each other all at once.