I wasn’t originally planning on playing the Dragonball FighterZ beta this soon. The rollout plan allowed PSN users with a digital preorder to begin playing on January 13th, with the beta opening up to all users the next day. That being said, I wasn’t planning on drowning in fighting games in January either. With Dissidia NT and Dragonball FighterZ releasing so close to one another, I ultimately decided that Dissidia’s strategic team battling might be something I bounce off when the full game’s available for everybody, so for now I’ll be checking out the more accessible gameplay of DB FighterZ. Pre-order placed, I downloaded the client and began play.
Your introduction to the Dragonball FighterZ beta
Upon starting the Dragonball FighterZ beta you’re immediately placed in the lobby if the game automatically finds one with spaces – if not, you’re taken to a menu where you select your region and are given a list of lobbies to choose from. The lobby itself has players represented as 3D avatars of Dragonball characters, and from here you can change your avatar, select the characters in your team, view a list of players in the lobby, and visit special characters in the lobby who can show you news, rankings and replays. You can also use a “Z Stamp” to submit one of several preset chat messages (think Everybody’s Golf) and – when you’re done with the pleasantries – head to the World Match area to begin a fight. Here, you can check your team again before entering a casual or ranked battle, whilst match settings allow you to bias searches in favour of certain connection qualities, opponent skill or matches won.
After picking the game type and choosing your saved team, matchmaking begins. Matches themselves are reminiscent of Marvel vs Capcom and recent ArcSys games – you have your 3v3 team setups, Ultimax-style auto combos (executed by repeating a neutral normal attack), big flashy supers pulled off with a motion and buttons, and cinematic camera moments that are pure anime in their styling and reminiscent of the camera tricks used in modern Guilty Gear. Like Marvel, you have to ensure that all characters on a team are knocked out to secure a win, and it can be tricky to regain momentum if your opponent has settled into a groove and is pummeling each of your fighters with ease. Most characters have sufficient specials or enders that help to keep characters airborne and allow for follow-ups, and so it’s easy to use the special moves in conjunction with auto combos and supers for satisfying results.
Training and online play in the Dragonball FighterZ beta
If you’re not keen on immediately getting in amongst the online masses, there’s also an area in the lobby where you can go through an extensive tutorial. It starts with the basics of movements, normal attacks, chains of attacks, and special moves. It goes on to cover things like guard breaks, autocombos, super combos and assists, and there’s a lot to help out new players. My only criticism is that the guide about the seven dragon balls was misleading – you gain dragon balls during matches and when you have seven you can summon Shenron for a selection of powerful perks. However, whilst it mentions that you receive dragon balls “based on the number of consecutive hits you land” (which I interpreted as a requirement to land increasingly long combos), I didn’t immediately realise that the autocombo will grant the player a random missing ball if you can’t land those consecutive hits with conventional combos. Also, it mentions that after obtaining all seven balls you must then “land the (square) version super combo” – but it isn’t immediately clear about the fact that you also need to have the full seven meters (easily obtained by charging to maximum power), or that what it’s actually looking for is an autocombo with square after gaining the meter (rather than my embarrassing attempts to do super motions with the square attack as a command), which will allow you to meet the tutorial conditions.
As for online matches… my own performance so far has been riddled with fun back-and forths, the aforementioned demolition moments where an opponent finds their rhythm and destroys my team, and at least one satisfying match intro where, after being pummelled with fullscreen projectile spam, I double-jumped into an air-dash and ate an assist but was able to get in before the projectiles could continue. (And yes, I went on to take the match.) You really have to make the most of your movement options and be prepared for any surprises, and recovery windows mean that sometimes it’s worth trying to squeak out supers when it feels like the attacks won’t stop coming. Most importantly, it’s easy to do damaging combos if you catch your opponent unawares, and so it rarely feels like a match is over before it has even begun.
The Dragonball FighterZ beta – a promising start?
Out of all of the games that have formed this “new wave” of fighters – this, SFV, MvC Infinite, Rising Thunder, Fighting EX Layer, Dissidia – it’s the Dragonball FighterZ beta that feels the most immediately rewarding. Rising Thunder is very accessible but still looks a little bit too much like a proof-of-concept, Marvel and Dissidia are quite polished but also slightly intimidating, and Fighting EX Layer perhaps needed to reveal more in its beta to be more convincing immediately. The Dragonball FighterZ beta seems to satisfy in terms of delivering a polished beta experience, some accessible but tactical fighting action and a decent variety of characters and movesets. The only concern I have is whether or not the netcode will be good enough – there have been a few lag pauses and lost connections as I’ve been trying the Dragonball FighterZ beta, although that might simply be because it’s a beta. Before trying the beta, this was perhaps the most exciting fighter I had seen since Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, and now that I’ve played the beta I feel like there will be enough depth to keep me busy for months. If the connection issues in the beta are ironed out and the netcode has minimal lag issues, this could be a contender.
Dragonball FighterZ is out on January 26th for PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. You can find the game’s official page at the Bandai Namco website