On Jan. 26, the most anticipated fighting game since “Street Fighter V” released to the hands of fans everywhere. “Dragon Ball FighterZ” is the newest game to be based on the massively popular anime and media franchise “Dragon Ball.”
“Dragon Ball FighterZ” is a three-versus-three fighting game. Each player picks three characters from the “Dragon Ball” franchise and fights against each other in a high-speed brawl. This specific genre of fighting game has been most popularized by the “Marvel vs. Capcom” fighting game series. However, “Dragon Ball FighterZ” may be the pinnacle of the genre so far.
“FighterZ” was announced at the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3. While the game’s trailer was leaked the night before with little fanfare, once the game got its main stage showing the hype surrounding it, the game exploded. Once players were able to test the game at the game’s booth at E3, word quickly spread about how the game was amazing and how it was the ‘Marvel Killer.’
“Dragon Ball” is developed by Arc System Works, commonly abbreviated to ‘ArcSys.’ Arcsys is a Japanese development studio known for their superb expertise in making fighting games. Other games made by Arcsys include the “Guilty Gear” series and “Persona 4 Arena.” These games are known as ‘anime fighters.’ This specific genre involves very quick gameplay and lots of aerial combat and mechanics, including super dashes.
These anime fighter systems combined with the three-versus-three genre form a hyperspecific type of game that is almost exclusive to “Dragon Ball FighterZ.” A match of “FighterZ” can look exactly like any given episode of the “Dragon Ball” show with characters flying around, attacks shooting off into the background, and incredibly cinematic super moves.
The game’s true strength lies in its cinematic gameplay. How did an anime fighting game make its way to the top of the best-selling charts, breaking into mass appeal? Fighting games usually do not sell very well, as they are a specific genre with a hard learning curve. Within that, anime fighters usually sell even less, with typical western consumers viewing them as weird and moving on to a more westernized product such as “Injustice” or “Mortal Kombat.” However, “FighterZ” has sold over two million copies in western countries, becoming the fastest selling “Dragon Ball” title ever. Even more shocking is that the game has not yet launched in Asia and Japan, where “Dragon Ball” and fighting games are even more popular.
So, what leads to this hysteria and incredible sales? In a nutshell, nostalgia. Nearly every millennial in America has probably seen at least one episode of “Dragon Ball” as a kid, and just as many have a fond memory of the show. This nostalgia and fandom in western nations are what led “FighterZ” to be one of the most popular fighting games among casuals in years. Not only does the game lead to nostalgia, but it revels in it. The developers knew who the main audience of the game would be, and added heaps of fan service for players to enjoy. There is a system referred to as ‘dramatic scenes,’ meaning that if the player meets certain criteria, movies and scenes from the show will play out.
Along with this nostalgia, the game is straightforward to learn. Most fighting games such as “Street Fighter V” and “Marvel vs. Capcom” have a steep learning curve, along with difficult inputs to master. However, in “FighterZ,” every character has similar buttons to use, meaning the player is not required to learn how to make the moves for the entire roster. For other fighting games, to do a super attack, there is usually a complicated sequence of buttons required. In “FighterZ” however, every move is a quarter-circle on the joystick or arrow-pad. That’s right; every move in “FighterZ” has the same motion as the simplest move in “Street Fighter:” a fireball.
The games rivalry with “Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (MVC: I)” is important to note. “MVC: I” released in September 2017 to lukewarm reviews. It was previously the king of the 3 v. 3 fighting game genre, with many fans citing that “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” was their favorite game of all time. However, in “Infinite,” instead of three-versus-three, it was two-versus-two. This major change, along with a myriad of other problems, including graphical errors and a poor roster, leads to poor reception and awful sales. Many players cited their lukewarm feelings towards the game to be because “Dragon Ball” was coming in only four months, a more ‘pure’ three-versus-three experience. “Dragon Ball” has even stolen tournament stage spots from Marvel, leading to the online meme: “Dragon Ball” killed Marvel.
The game comes with the standard online fighting mode, as well as a story mode, arcade mode, and several other variations of the standard match. In the story mode, ArcSys created an original “Dragon Ball” story with help from series creator Akira Toriyama, with writers even creating a new character for the story, Android 21. Android 21 is perhaps one of the most well-received original characters of all time, with many players and critics calling her one of Toriyama’s best character designs in years.
For the last few years, members of the fighting game community have been saying that fighting games are dying as sales have been dwindling, tournament attendance has been low, and professional gamers have been turning to other games. However, with the launch of “Dragon Ball FighterZ,” the community truly feels alive again with newcomers and veterans alike.