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Video game review: 'Dragon Ball FighterZ' is a love letter to fighting games and anime
"Dragon Ball FighterZ" features a wide cast of "Dragon Ball" characters, like Goku, Vegeta, Cell and Majin Buu. - photo by Sam Bigelow
Dragon Ball FighterZ, PS4, PC, Xbox One, $59.99, ESRB Rating: T for cartoon violence, mild language and mild suggestive themes.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is both a love letter to the iconic Dragon Ball series and one of the best 2D fighting games ever made, thanks to its dedication to beginners and experts alike. The fighting game features a ton of excellent fan service, accessible fighting mechanics and a ton of content to keep players happy for long periods of time. While some elements of the games presentation and design fall short, the games personality and accessibility help make it an instant fighting game classic.

While most fighting games pride themselves on difficult-to-master combos and strict timing, Dragon Ball FighterZ swings the opposite direction, making it one of the easiest fighting games to learn. Arc System Works, maker of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear, smartly keeps the games input mechanics uniform across the games roster of characters, which immediately throws out the challenge of learning the games basics. The games combos generally rely on mashing one or two buttons to launch flashy combos, with a simple quarter-circle input used to launch special attacks. Since players need to manage a team of three characters in the middle of battle, the simple controls lower the games barrier to entry.

FighterZs other strong suits are its art style, as well as its portrayal of its characters. The roster is full of mainstays from anime, like Goku, Vegeta and Frieza, as well as a few newcomers from the recent Dragon Ball Super anime. Like the show, Dragon Ball FighterZ leans heavily on its clean, colorful visual style, as well as relationships between each character. The game features a handful of cool interactions that pay homage to classic moments from Dragon Ball Z. Additionally, each character is faithfully voiced by its original voice actors, who do a wonderful job bringing each character to life.

Dragon Ball FighterZ features a ton of content to keep players busy, both offline and online. It also features a meaty story mode, which tells an original story involving a new character, Android 21, facing off against Goku and friends. The story mode includes built-in tutorials, effectively giving beginners their bearings with both the gameplay mechanics and characters.

Arcade, practice and challenge modes are also available. These help players refine their skills and strategies for multiplayer, which are offered in ranked, casual and local matches, which pit players against fighters of similar skill level. By competing in the games various modes, players can earn Zeni, which can be exchanged for new costume colors, player avatars and stickers.

While Dragon Ball FighterZ does a great job handling gameplay and content, it falls a little short when it comes to matchmaking and presentation. The games lobbies, which also serve as a hub world and menu, are generally crowded, which makes selecting a game mode or lobby difficult.

Each mode is accessed by talking to attendants residing in the hub, but since every player is represented onscreen as a Dragon Ball character of their choice, its often hard to see the attendants through a wave of other players. Additionally, multiplayer matches tended to be difficult to connect to, and gameplay within fights generally suffered from slight lag. While many of these problems could boil down to connection issues, they were troublesome enough that playing online became a bit of a hassle.

Despite weird lobby menus and choppy multiplayer, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a compelling, beautiful 2D fighter with tons of content. Each character in the games roster is unique and well-realized, and the games homages to the original anime will be a big hit with fans. The gameplay is simple to learn and master, which makes it easy to recommend to anyone interested in fighting games. Whether or not youre a fan of the series, Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best 2D fighting games available.
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