Unlike team games such as Dota 2 and Overwatch where losing is always someone else’s fault, fighting games can make you specifically feel like crap. I’ve picked up and put down so many fighting games over the years rather than pile up losses with no one else to blame. But Dragon Ball FighterZ is somehow different.
First of all, the game has a tutorial system, which lays out its mechanics in a very plain see-then-do manner. The lessons include the basics such as punches and kicks, but also quarter-circles, levelled supers and, best of all, combo challenges.
Arc System Works, the developers of Dragon Ball FighterZ, are no strangers to good tutorials. In fact, FighterZ‘s own systems pale in comparison to some of their other games such as Guilty Gear. But having a set series of challenges meant it was easy for me to follow along, practise the motions, and eventually pull off some big, flashy combos like I’ve seen on streams.
Part of what makes it easy to feel competent is that FighterZ‘s actual inputs are beautifully simple. The most intensive joystick input for a special move is a quarter-circle – a fireball motion for the Street Fighter heads, or as I’ve learned in numpad notation, a 214 or 236. That’s it! That’s the most complicated move you have to memorise. Hell, the game even auto-combos for you if you just like spamming light or medium, though those combos aren’t always optimal or safe. But if you want to just hit buttons and make cool shit happen, then you can do that.
18 is my anchor, and it feels incredibly good to land a big combo to finish off the match as her.
That’s the beauty of FighterZ. Mechanically, it felt like there were no restrictions on what I could do – no charge characters or complicated inputs for supers. I once spent multiple afternoons trying to memorise Hibiki’s rave super in Capcom vs. SNK 2. Forget about chaining it out of a combo or optimising the best time to use it: It took hours and hours of gameplay just to nail down the actual motions to land it. Look at this shit!
Seriously, this was really tough for Young Eric to do.
In FighterZ, because my hands have the gameplay more or less down, my brain is free to read opponents’ tendencies and adjust my game to fit playstyles. It’s been one weekend and I already feel I have an intimate knowledge of my (for-now) team. There’s a lot more to learn, but it’s the fun things such as longer combos and more consistent play rather than learning how to work against my own hands.
It helps that Dragon Ball FighterZ is a new and popular game. That means that there’s a large group of players with little experience and a high demand for quality resources. As a community, folks have rallied around making FighterZ a newcomer-friendly experience. I’ve had rough experiences online trying to play games such as Injustice or Marvel vs. Capcom. But everyone in FighterZ seems to be on the same page: It’s better to grow together.
Over the weekend, I was locked in a dead-even match with an opponent that was frustratingly just on my level. After multiple rounds, we had learned each other’s strengths and weakness and knew exactly where to punish each other the worst. I lost after their last-second gambit with Android 16 paid off – but for once, I didn’t spike the controller. I took a breath, gathered my thoughts, and hit rematch; I wasn’t rage-quitting like I used to.
Defeat doesn’t feel like a wall any more. It’s just another hurdle.