Unless you’ve been locked in the Room of Spirit and Time for the past few weeks, you will have noticed that the FGC is quite excited for a little game called Dragon Ball FighterZ. Combining Dragon Ball characters, Marvel-esque 3v3 battles and the expertise of Arc System Works, many are heralding it as a gift summoned by the Dragon Balls themselves. While none of us at SRK were able to get to E3 to play DBFZ ourselves, we recently got the chance to go to Bandai Namco’s offices to spend several hours with the build shown off in LA. Despite it only being at 20% of its power, I can safely say that even at this early stage, the hype for Dragon Ball FighterZ is more than justified.
At its core, Dragon Ball FighterZ is what would happen if Marvel 3 did a fusion dance with Guilty Gear. You’ve Guilty Gear-esque movement with double jumping and air dashing, as well as the button layout, assists and Hyper Combos of Marvel 3. If you spent any amount of time with either game, you’ll pick up the basics of DBFZ very quickly. For those who aren’t as well versed in these franchises, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a six button fighter, with the build having two buttons reserved for shortcuts. Your basic buttons are Light, Medium and Heavy, along with a dedicated Ki Blast button and two Assist buttons. The basic combo structure of DBFZ is very similar to Marvel’s Magic Series, with players inputting Light, Medium and then Heavy to launch the opponent. From there, you can press Heavy again to chase the opponent into the air. Once airborne, you can then do a Light, a Medium, followed by a jump cancel, then another Medium and finally a Heavy to spike the opponent back down to the ground. You can also finish with a Super Move or a special, but that basic ground to air combo is what you should start with when you boot up DBFZ.
Don’t worry if that is a bit too challenging straight away; DBFZ has Persona 4 Arena-esque autocombos which can be performed by mashing any attack button. These autocombos will do less damage than the previously mentioned Magic Series, but it’ll get you started if you’re new to this style of fighter. They also each have a unique launcher, so experiment with each one to see how to maximize damage from these easy starters. As for specials, they can be performed with any of the basic attack buttons combined with either a Quarter Circle Forward, Quarter Circle Back or a Down, Down motion. Similar to MvC:I, there are currently no traditional SRK motions in DBFZ just yet, but keep in mind that the characters shown off in this build were deliberately chosen to be the easiest to pick up and play. If you perform a special with the Heavy attack button, you’ll do a powered-up version, which takes off one bar of your Super meter. These powered up specials usually add a second hit or increase the damage you deal, so use these when your combo needs a little more oomph.
If you want to throw out projectiles, the Ki Attack button has characters throwing basic Ki blasts. When combined with a Quarter Circle Forward, characters will either perform a basic Kamehameha or their equivalent long range projectile. Throws are a little bit different in DBFZ, being called Dragon Rushes. They have your characters dashing forward and grabbing their opponent, engaging them in a quick flurry of punches before kicking them into the air. You can also Dragon Rush in the air, meaning you go even further beyond when doing a basic aerial combo. To break out of a Dragon Rush, players need to hit an attack button as soon as they see their opponent glow with a red circle. When done correctly, you will fight back during the punch flurry and reset back to neutral.
There are also Vanish Attacks, which have players disappearing and then reappearing behind the opponent to perform a wall-bounce. It’s performed by pressing the Medium and Heavy buttons together and uses one bar. You mainly want to use this as a combo extender, or to catch someone off guard following an unsafe attack.
The other major mechanic in DBFZ is the Super Dash, which has a player flying towards their opponent. Mainly used to start an air combo or chase down a fleeing enemy, correct use of the Super Dash will be key in continuing offense in DBFZ. They aren’t that safe though, as every character can counter a Super Dash with their universal launcher, which is crouching Heavy. You can also Dragon Rush players out of a Super Dash, so don’t rely on this movement option too much if you are struggling to get in. If players Super Dash into each other, there is a small clash animation before you can move again. The best option here is to mash Light attack as fast as you can, in order to catch your opponent off-guard and start an air combo.
Let’s move onto Supers and Assists, which is where DBFZ really starts to shine. As opposed to Marvel’s five bars, there are a grand total of seven bars in DBFZ and trust me, you’ll be using them all. You gain a lot of meter while both performing and getting hit with a combo, but you can also fill up your meter by using your Ki Charge. It takes about two seconds for you to start filling up your Super bar, and there is quite a bit of cooldown so a bad Ki Charge can be punished easily. The main use of your bar will be on Supers, which can be performed by doing either a Quarter Circle Forward or Quarter Circle Back along with two attack buttons. Much like Marvel, you can perform an Ultimate Z Change—Marvel players will know this as a DHC—to bring in a fellow team to perform a select Super. You simply need to hold the Assist button during your Super to bring in a teammate, and the Ultimate Z Change window is fairly lenient. You can perform something like Goku’s Super Kamehameha in the air, let the opponent drop out of the sky and then Ultimate Z-Change to hit them with Vegeta’s Big Bang Attack as they reach the ground.
Much like MvC:I, you can also call in another character during a combo or while in blockstun, but this does take one bar. Otherwise, you can raw tag (or Z-Change) a partner in, which has them Super Dashing onto the battlefield. Like a normal Super Dash, incoming opponents are vulnerable to Dragon Rushes and crouching Heavies, so Z-Change at your own risk. While you don’t have to worry about incoming mixups when one of your team is knocked out and another one flies in, you can still ‘snap in’ enemy team members by pressing Dragon Rush and Assist at the same time. This costs one bar and allows you to create an incoming mixup, so be wary of Dragon Rushes when your anchor character is low on health.
Assist attacks work like they do in Marvel, with each character having their own unique attack which can be used to extend a combo or as a defensive maneuver. Using your Assists correctly will be the real meat of DBFZ, and I was already shown a handful of some filthy assist setups when playing Bandai Namco’s community manager. Vegeta’s Ki Barrage Assist was the best one in the build, as it forces players to block his energy blasts, giving you time to hit them with a low or surprise them with a Vanish. The combination of Cell/Freeza/Vegeta was particularly deadly, due to the synergy between Vegeta’s assist and both Cell and Freeza’s Supers. Cell could cancel into his Airburst Super from his light attack autocombo, which could in then be UZC’ed into Freeza’s Death Ball. There will be some super cheap stuff in DBFZ, so get looking for those unblockable setups when the beta launches.
As for defensive options, all characters have a universal deflect move, performed by pressing back and the Ki Attack button. This deflect knocks away basic Ki blasts, Super Dashes and standing normals. If someone gets too reliant on this deflect, hit them with a low attack and then begin a combo. You can also Super Dash through normal Ki blasts, so don’t rely on standard projectiles for effective zoning. While there is no Burst move like in Guilty Gear or BlazBlue at this time, everyone has access to the Sparking Blast—DBFZ’s version of X-Factor. When used in neutral, it emits a blast which knocks opponents back and it can be used mid-combo as an extension. It drastically increases damage dealt and your blue health regen and it levels up in strength based on the number of characters on your team, similar to X-Factor. It is best to save your Sparking Blast for the final character, as it only affects the fighter that activated it.
From rotating between the current six-person cast, Cell looks to be the best character in the build. With both a long-range command grab, great normals and specials, a versatile Level 1 Super and a devastating Level 3, expect loads of people running Cell as part of their team. Goku and Vegeta act as the Ryu and Ken of DBFZ, with Vegeta being better up close but lacking a Level 1 Beam Super. Freeza is the zoner of the group, with powerful projectiles like Death Ball and Death Saucer. Much like in the anime, Death Saucer does come back and can hurt Freeza, so don’t throw it out willy-nilly. You can also combine his Golden Freeza transformation with a Level 3 Sparking Blast to create one powerful anchor character. Gohan has the shortest range out of all six fighters, but he packs a huge punch if he manages to get in. His Kamehameha fires diagonally upwards, so it’s best used as an anti-air or following an air combo. Buu is probably the weakest of the group, due to his slow normals and relatively low damage. He can combo his command overhead into his Explosion super, and his jumping Medium has massive range on it, so abuse it whenever possible. Plus, it’s pretty funny to kill your opponent by turning them into a cookie and eating them.
Novril’s basic DBFZ tutorial is great if you want to prepare for the Evo side tournaments.
I do have a few quibbles with DBFZ, but they are fairly minor when you consider how fun the core fighting is. Due to the inability to remap buttons in this early build, you are stuck using pad if you get to have a go during Evo. For pad players like myself, this was no problem but dedicated stick users may need some time to adjust. The lack of any background music is quite disconcerting at first and if you aren’t used to seeing beams and explosions all over the screen, it is easy to lose track of your characters, especially if two people are using the same fighter. Outside of Buu and Freeza, the remaining four characters can all be played in roughly the same way, which may cause the combat to feel a little bit basic after a few hours’ play. Do keep in mind that Arc System Works purposely picked basic characters to show off DBFZ and the game is only 20% finished, so expect more advanced and diverse fighters in later builds.
When you’re in the thick of the combat though, DBFZ is some of the most fun I’ve had with a fighter in a long time. You do feel like you are acting out battles from the show, especially when many of the animations and poses are ripped straight from both the DBZ anime and manga. Seeing two Father/Son Kamehamehas clash on-screen is truly awesome, and the Destructive Finishes you get when you finish someone off with a Super are always satisfying. Even at this early stage, you can feel the love, care and attention that has gone in to making DBFZ not only a great fighting game, but a celebration of all things Dragon Ball. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Dragon Ball fan, a Marvel/anime player or someone who has never touched this style of fighter before, you will have fun playing Dragon Ball FighterZ. I only wish I actually had the Dragon Balls so I could wish for the game to come out now.
DBFZ will be playable on the Evo floor, so make sure to have a go in between your pools matches. While the smash.gg tournaments are all booked up, there will be side tournaments on the day which you can sign up for, so keep an eye out!
Additional source: novriltataki