The immensely popular Dragon Ball FighterZ may have changed the future of Dragon Ball Z games. The original one-on-one 2D fighters for the PlayStation progressed to the traditional 3D fighter Dragon Ball Z Budokai for the PlayStation 2, and with further technological development, Dragon Ball games have featured more characters on screen, translating the spirit of the anime in-game.  However, the depth of combat has dwindled at the same time. The trends were going in a way that had the games developed to replicate more of the high octane action of the shows, with the movement and focus on special Ki Attacks until Arc System Works came out with Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Arc System Works has gone back to the basics of the 2D fighting genre, along with the reduction of flying in the air. In recent games, players can ascend and descend at will, but in Dragon Ball FighterZ the only way to go into the air is to jump or start a combo on an opponent. This exclusion has brought the game back to the old style of juggling and combos that have been around since the early titles. Another back to basics move is how assists work in the game: like old Marvel vs. Capcom games, the character’s partner comes in and performs an attack to then jump off screen. Another missing aspect is the iconic transformations; being able to take Goku from basic to Super Saiyan and above, for example, is no longer a mechanic but a decision when selecting the character.

Many of the iconic features that made a Dragon Ball game feel like the anime have been taken away to make a more traditional style fighting game. While being more traditional, the game still feels like a fight from the anime; fast frantic action, mixed with the ability to shoot off Ki attacks at will, along with rushing someone in the air all help to make the gameplay feel as if it is at home with the property. The depth of combat has increased, with additional free-form combos and more varied character playstyles.

These new changes, with the anime-like art style and characters, have made many people come flocking to the game, not just because of the property but because of the amount of depth the game has. The fighting is a fresh take with enough depth to garner a presence at EVO and to hold its own tournaments. With the sudden newfound fandom, have the ideas of games such as Dragon Ball Xenoverse become part of the past?

Gameplay of Xenoverse 2. Basic attack combo in the air.

Xenoverse lacked depth in the combat but made up for in flavour and action while maintaining a sizeable amount of characters. However, the developer must now consider if it needs to change how it develops Dragon Ball games, with a bigger focus on combat depth or retaining the type of action in the anime. The show-style fighting has acquired many fans, but none like FighterZ has. If a Xenoverse 3 is announced, the game may not receive much attention due to the drastic difference in play styles, and one way to try and attract new players would be to increase the depth of combat. Creating a more traditional style 3D fighter along the lines of Dragon Ball Budokai 3 would be effective. A sudden change to return to the 3D anime style game will not go over well for those who seek depth and many may fall back to FighterZ.

Xenoverse may now be at an end and a new style of Dragon Ball games may now flourish; main developer Bandai Namco now has the opportunity to create a 2D Dragon Ball fighter in the future to continue riding the wave of fanfare. Fans of Xenoverse may have to say goodbye to the series for a while as gamers get their fill of the 2D fighting style of possible upcoming games.

Another aspect to look at is the change in the show Dragon Ball Super, which has a larger focus on the martial arts instead of transformations and special attacks, meaning future games may need to work harder at the hand-to-hand combat over the special abilities. Fans also seem happy with this kind of change and have picked up FighterZ because of it, but will they be willing to go back to the full 3D anime style combat, or is Arc System Works’s new game just a pleasant break to the previous trend of games? FighterZ has already won over the immensely popular tag-team series Marvel vs. Capcom; the fact that Arc System Works made a well-performing fighter is undeniable. The impact of the game may bleed into future titles with the Dragon Ball property, as fans expect to pull off bigger and better free-form combos ending with special attacks or using them in the process.

FighterZ just finished the first season of characters and fans assume a new season will be announced in the foreseeable future, which will most definitely keep the title in the minds of fans. With FighterZ being such a success, Bandai Namco may shelve further development until the dust settles as to not compete with the already successful title. After much success, Arc System Works may become the sole creator of Dragon Ball fighting games for the foreseeable future.

The franchise may change in the future in terms of gameplay. The next iteration may hold more depth to the combat, focusing closer to a more traditional fighter, and this may be because Arc System Works will have access to the rights for the property. Either way, the franchise goes, to a more mainstream style fighting game or the anime style, Dragon Ball is making a competitive state to take a part of the main stage for fighting games. A change may have to come as FighterZ blasts a new path for the property.

Chris Hepburn
Chris is a born and raised Canadian, Eh. He has a passion for game design and the community behind games, what they can teach and the subtle points games can make. He is a college graduate of Game Development with a specialization in Animation. Always looking to learn something new with passions in all things nerdy and human nature.

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