Dragon Ball FighterZ made a huge impression when it was first revealed at E3 in June, but it's currently undergoing the greatest test of all: Rigorous competition from some of the fighting game community's best players.
Bandai Namco Entertainment brought the early preview shown at E3 to Evo 2017, the world's largest fighting game tournament, and fans have been patiently waiting in long lines to play this highly anticipated title.
Over the course of the weekend, the Dragon Ball FighterZ held a number of single-elimination tournaments, streaming them for spectators who couldn't make it to the event themselves. Chris "Hellpockets" Fields, a competent King of Fighters player and commentator, was able to qualify for the finals bracket in one of these competitions, and was more than happy to share his thoughts with Compete.
"There's very little I hate about Dragon Ball FighterZ," said Fields. "It's bringing communities together that normally don't have an opportunity to interact. It's gonna bring people together."
While comparisons to Guilty Gear and Marvel vs. Capcom are apt, Fields sees a bit of King of Fighters in the formula as well. Unlike in Guilty Gear, where running is typically unsafe unless coupled with other mechanics due to its long recovery, characters in Dragon Ball FighterZ stop on a dime, much like the roster of King of Fighters XIV.
"Some people were having a hard time with it because you see someone running at you, they stop, you throw something out, and they're already able to react to it," said Fields.
When asked what characters he would like to see in the game, Fields was adamant that the developers need to add Akkuman, an obscure villain from the original Dragon Ball. Apparently, this demonic fighter (who is known as Spike the Devil Man in North American translations) can use the evil within his opponents against them, but that obviously didn't work too well on 100-per cent Good Boy Goku.
NetherRealm Studios competitor Carl "Perfect Legend" White also spent some time with the game after a friend gifted him a spot in one of the tournament brackets, which filled almost immediately when online sign-ups opened last month. He says the auto-combo system will be a great way for new players to jump into the game and immediately have fun, but doesn't think that simplicity will extend to high-level play.
"It seems like there's a healthy amount of pressure and defence," White explained. "You gotta have good spacing and movement. I don't think it will be that easy to dominate another player."
Perfect Legend plays a set at Evo. Image credit: Ian Walker
Steve "Lord Knight" Barthelemy, who excels at a number of games in the anime sub-genre,broke down Dragon Ball FighterZ in a much different way, expounding on the differences between the demo's limited roster. Majin Buu, he said, excels at space control, while Gohan occupies the same space as Zero in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, that of the quick-killing point character.
"The homing attack seems suspect, but it costs bar and it's really easy to hit people out of it," said Barthelemy. "The screen is very wide, but it makes sense because the characters have ki blasts, beams, and lasers that go full-screen at all sorts of angles. It's more horizontal than vertical."
A common theme throughout Evo weekend is players trying their best to align what Dragon Ball FighterZ brings to the table with mechanics in other games. Its homing attacks, for instance, recall similar options in Arcana Heart, while the Spark system functions like Guilty Gear's Gold Bursts or Marvel vs. Capcom 3's X-Factor by boosting a character's strength.
Of course, nothing is set in stone. Dragon Ball FighterZ is still early in development (estimates from the developers put it at about 20% complete), and players won't have it in their hands until sometime in 2018. In the interim, the fighting game community will continue to salivate at the thought of their next opportunity to play, theorising tactics in their minds as the game's core mechanics continue to be fleshed out.