Bandai Namco and Arc System Works have been in fighting fans’ good graces since Dragon Ball FighterZ was announced at E3 2017. With the unpolished and unremarkable Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite failing to make much of an impact, Goku and friends were there to save the day with a blistering-fast fighting game that looked like it was ripped straight out of an episode of Dragon Ball Z. A cast of characters spread across not just Dragon Ball Z’s timeline, but also Dragon Ball Super, and an easy-to-learn control scheme had FighterZ ready to be the fighting game of 2018. With any luck, it will earn that title when it releases later in January, but if the open beta is anything to go by, players should be concerned.
First impressions are everything
Upon starting up the Dragon Ball FighterZ beta for the first time, I was met with a ripping guitar solo – this was the game I had been waiting for since I was a kid, and I didn’t even need to play it to realize that. But then I made my profile and tried to connect to a multiplayer lobby, only to be hit with a generic “networking error” message. After manually choosing a new region – why we still have to choose that ourselves in 2018 is beyond me – I did manage to make it into a multiplayer lobby, surrounded by cute chibi versions of classic Dragon Ball characters. All seemed to be working as designed, and I headed over to the training area to learn the basics of the game before challenging other players.
Given Arc System Works’ reputation for complex and occasionally inaccessible fighting games, I was surprised just how easy I was able to pick up the basics. Using Goku, Vegeta, and Krillin, I was quickly able to rack up large combos containing light, medium, heavy, and ranged attacks, and even launching high-level special moves like the Kamehameha and Destructo Disc was a breeze – just a quarter-circle movement and a button press is all you need to feel like a Super Saiyan, yourself.
“If the open beta is anything to go by, players should be concerned.”
Even with an art style meant to emulate the look of the anime series and manga, I found Dragon Ball FighterZ to be one of the smoothest-playing fighting games I’ve ever tried. The feeling of momentum behind each attack, particularly when chaining together several punches in a row, is incredibly satisfying, and there’s a cadence to fights that can alternate between blistering-fast and methodical in just a few seconds.
If you’ve ever watched the show, you’ll appreciate the attention to detail Arc System Works gave FighterZ. When Gohan launches his high-power Kamehameha attack, Goku can be seen behind him as he was at the conclusion of the Cell Saga, while Krillin’s Split Energy Wave is pulled upward to follow its target. Giant oaf Nappa can even freeze mid-air to cancel one of his attacks, referencing a fairly trivial moment in the show. And depending on the stage as well as the characters you and your opponent select, there are even a few extra scenes depicting key moments in the show. You’ll have (get) watch Krillin blown to bits like Frieza, but you’ll also see the moment when Goku is transformed into a Super Saiyan for the first time.
Arc System Doesn’t Work
Unfortunately, these fan service moments and attention to detail matter very little when the game doesn’t work. I attempted to join a multiplayer match, selecting the “casual” option so I’d be matched with less-serious players, and I sat back and waited to fight. And I waited some more. By the time I finally entered a fight, it must have been more than 10 minutes. For subsequent matches, things didn’t get any better, even when I selected the more competitive “ranked” mode, and I had to completely exit and restart the game on multiple occasions after being randomly disconnected from the lobby or when I was stuck waiting for too long. Even this didn’t work as intended, with the game not going to the title screen when I selected it from a menu.
“These fan service moments and attention to detail matter very little when the game doesn’t work.”
Bandai Namco promised to extend the open beta, which it did with an additional 24 hours of play this week, but it also stated it had improved network connectivity after troubleshooting – in my experience, this wasn’t true at all. Throughout the duration of the first open beta, connection times didn’t improve in the slightest. Once I did eventually get into a match, there was very little lag and I was only disconnected from one game, but there are a lot better things you can be doing with your time than waiting around for the game’s archaic system to connect you with another player.
These issues aren’t necessarily indicative of the final release. Dragon Ball FighterZ could launch on January 26 with an impeccably stable matchmaking system that connects players instantly, but it seems unlikely. The primary purpose of this beta was to stress-test the servers and ensure they would be prepared for the game’s official release. A week’s time isn’t enough to make any substantial changes to network infrastructure or to implement the simpler matchmaking system found in games like Injustice 2 – we are just going to have to cross our fingers and hope that Bandai Namco and Arc System Works can quickly figure out where it went wrong.
If Dragon Ball FighterZ connectivity issues are resolved, the game has a chance to attract both hardcore fighting players and longtime Dragon Ball Z fans. Its foundation is absolutely incredible, and the art style Arc System Works chose is the closest we’ve ever seen to getting to play the show instead of watching it. But let its open beta be a lesson to other game companies. This is the first time your most dedicated fans are going to get to play the game, and failing to deliver could alienate them before the game is even on store shelves. Should the added player-load actually give you the information required to prepare the game for launch, it might be worth the risk, but in the case of FighterZ, they’re going to have to win me back.
Disclaimer: The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.