Evo 2017: Dragon Ball FighterZ, an FGC Spirit Bomb

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Fighting game and Dragon Ball fans alike have been excited for this game — and Evo only stoked the fires.

LAS VEGAS — Ever since E3, fans have been chomping at the bit for any Dragon Ball FighterZ news they can get their hands on. It was no shock that once the game was announced to be available at Evo this weekend, fighting game players from all over lined up to finally experience it for themselves. Between the fan excitement and some interesting developer comments, Evo weekend was a great place for any DBFZ fan.

The booth

The Dragon Ball booth was jam-packed the entire weekend, with each of the 10 casual stations being occupied at all times, crowded by players waiting in the wings of each to get their chance to play. These players’ hype was palpable with excited talk of favorite characters, scenes from the anime that were recreated, and hopes for future content present all across the booth.

Bandai Namco producer Tomoko Hiroki talked a bit about this hype as well. She explained how Dragon Ball FighterZ was created to excite the fans, but that the sheer amount of hype around the game was a big surprise. She also expressed the desire to meet that excitement and provide fans a great game.

In addition to the gushing over Dragon Ball, many players noticed the Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite booth, which happened to be set up directly adjacent to Dragon Ball FighterZ. Both of these games are similar, being team games that carry themes from the Marvel vs. Capcom legacy. The proximity helped players who enjoyed either game easily get to experience the other.

Another standout aspect of the crowd was just how many players excited for DBFZ didn’t consider themselves a big part of the hardcore fighting game community. There were players who casually experienced fighters, but had never considered attending Evo before Dragon Ball FighterZ. Most players seemed to love to get the chance at playing, even when going up against much more skilled players.

The audience

These players that have never taken fighting games seriously are the primary audience for Dragon Ball FighterZ. Arc System Works is specifically building the game with these fans in mind, as can be seen in features like simplified special motions and the easy-to-learn basic combos.

Tomoko also talked about these new fighting game players, explaining that their goal is to teach these fans why serious fighting games are so exciting, especially the mind games involved in matches. She also teased at something being in the works to communicate these themes to players, but she could not reveal specifics. Arc System Works’ latest fighter, Guilty Gear XRD, had a very helpful tutorial, so we may be in store for more of that.

Additionally, Dragon Ball FighterZ director Junya Motomura explained that his ultimate goal was to make the title as visually clear as possible. “We want to make a game that is visually fair. When a beginner starts to play, if they lose to movesets they cannot see and cannot understand why they lost, it demotivates people. We want to make the moves as visually readable as possible so players know how they lost.”

While the goal is to make these fans happy with the game play, they’re also working very hard to make the game appealing to Dragon Ball fans in general. Many of these fans have been very impressed with how true-to-source the game is, going so far as to recreate attacks and poses directly from the manga and anime.

“In order to make the character, you really have to know how they fight, and there are two ways of making movesets,” explained Tomoko. “Goku, for example; he of course has his signature Kamehameha, so he’s going to have that move. For other moves, we take into account the character personality to build a moveset, then we go back to the manga and look for attacks that fit into that character.”

The game

As far as the game itself, it handles very well. Basic combos are easy and satisfying, while more complex combos can be done with simple understanding of game mechanics. This was done on purpose, as the game is primarily focusing on Dragon Ball fans who may have never gotten into fighters in the past.

While casual players are indeed the primary audience, this doesn’t mean that hardcore players will be forgotten. One aspect of the game that some worry about is the concern that the balance will be skewed towards characters who are stronger in the anime. This was mentioned offhand by the producer at E3, that characters who were weaker in the story may be balanced to be more supportive characters instead, so it’s been on fans’ minds since then.

Junya gave us a more nuanced explanation — and one that fans should be quite a bit more excited about. “We didn’t design it for certain characters to be support, exactly. It’s just that their assist moves have more situations that they can be useful than others. If you have a team filled with these characters, then you’d be able to use their strong assists to take down the stronger characters,” he said. “Also, in design, the stronger characters are designed to have longer cool downs on their assists, so their assists can be used less often.”

Interestingly, Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t the first Dragon Ball game Arc System Works has made. They previously made Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden for 3DS, a 2D versus-style game with assist characters. The similar nature of that game had some fans wondering whether or not the two were related in any way.

Tomoko explained that Extreme Butoden was made with a different audience in mind, but they learned some important things from the development of that game. “A big part of Extreme Butoden’s audience was children who enjoyed the anime, where as FighterZ’s audience will be people who enjoy a more serious fighting game,” she explained. “We learned that kids really like fireballs, and they were designed to be enjoyed in single play [of DBFZ]. However, with online play, we studied that and put in moves that could be counters against fireballs. In FighterZ, we don’t want it to be a fireball game, but also have close matchups, so we’re balancing for that.”

The future

While many players are excited, some are also wondering about where exactly the game will be going. Many Dragon Ball fans have grown tired of the standard Dragon Ball video game story of going from Raditz and fighting through the classic stories, especially after games like Dragon Ball Xenoverse that explored whole new possibilities for storylines.

Tomoko made a point to mention that the single player mode is one she hopes will be a unique experience. “We can’t give specifics, but we plan on taking another new approach to the story like Xenoverse did.”

World tournament saga

In addition to thoughts of future players of the game, more talk emerged about what tournament turnout would be like for Dragon Ball next year. The game’s online sign-up tournaments — two 128-man brackets — were filled minutes after they were announced. And at the rate this game is filling up everyone’s hype meters, it’s hard to imagine local, regional and global tournaments not filling up in the same way when the game releases.