A closer look at Dragon Ball FighterZ mechanics from EVO 2017
EVO has come to a close and professional fighting game players from all around the world are weighing in with their thoughts and impressions of Bandai Namco and Arc System Works’ newest game, Dragon Ball FighterZ. The combined efforts of the greater fighting game community have given us a much clearer picture of how the game works, especially in how it controls.
We’ve gathered all these impressions together to bring you this system run-down, and while many of these impressions have come from all corners of the FGC, we want to give a special shout-out to DaiAndOh, winner of the 4th DBFZ EVO Tournament, whose incredible notes provided a ton of information and put a lot of other impressions into context.
Basic Movement and Controls
So far, every character in the game has a jump, double jump, high jump, dash, and air dash. Character movement speed varies, and the way you approach your opponent will depend on what character you are playing. Frieza and Buu’s air dashes, for example, are not nearly as good as the rest of the cast, while Gohan is easily the fastest moving character in the current roster.
The game operates on four main attack buttons: light attack, medium attack, heavy attack, and ki attack. As you might expect, light, medium, and heavy attacks chain into each other, while the ki attack button chains into itself, firing a barrage of small ki blasts.
Generic Ki Blasts
The ki blast button does, essentially, give every character in the game a fast projectile, though generic ki blasts appear to have quite a bit of recovery and are easily punishable. Ki blasts are best used to punish whiffs and lock your opponent into hit-stun in order to let one of your assists to connect. Then, while your assist is on screen, super dash into the opponent in order to start an offense. Yes, this means every character essentially has a full screen punish provided that they have an assist ready, so mashing buttons is very risky.
Assists are called with assist buttons, similar to Marvel 2. You can call them at any point, as long as you are not getting hit or blocking. This includes during supers, specials, high-jumps, and you can even call them both out at once. Assists have a lot of recovery, however, making them hard to spam. This makes defensive assists a little bit harder to use.
The Super Dash is easily the most important universal attack in the game. This is the homing attack we saw at E3. It is safe on block and cuts through generic ki blasts (in fact any physical move that puts an aura around your character cuts through generic ki blasts). However, it is easily interrupted by most normal attacks. If you cover it with an assist, it’s a good way to close full screen distance relatively safely.
Neutral heavy attack is a universal knockback, useful if you want distance between you and the enemy. However, it is usually followed up with a super dash to create combos.
Crouching heavy attack is a universal anti-air and it actually appears to have invulnerability to aerial attacks. Since the super dash counts as an aerial attack this is an easy way to counter it. Several other attacks take your opponent’s feet off the ground and crouching heavy beats all of them.
Forward and medium is a universal overhead. It cannot be canceled into supers or specials nor can it be chained out of. However, using assists will allow you to transition into a combo afterward. It’s relatively safe on block so it’s not a horrible idea to throw it out in the middle of block strings.
The deflect is kind of a combination of Marvel-style pushblocks and Third Strike-style parries. Successfully deflecting attacks puts space between you and your opponents and gives you a tiny bit of frame advantage. It also knocks projectiles away from you harmlessly, pushing them into the background.
The dragon rush is this game’s replacement for throw. Activating it causes a long startup animation, followed by a flurry of punches and kicks, which are unblockable. It can be “teched” by the opponent during startup like classic throws, however, unlike throws it can be used in the middle of combos. While performing a successful dragon rush you can press an assist button to snapback the opponent, forcing one of his teammates to come in, otherwise you get a launch into an immediate air-combo follow-up.
Every character can “vanish” by using one peter. This makes them teleport behind the opponent and immediately attack. It can be used to cut down the recovery time of existing moves, or it can be used raw as a crossup, however, it actually has quite a bit of start-up time and can be very easily beaten by a crouching heavy attack, if not covered by an assist.
Sparking Blast is a combination of X-Factor and a Burst. While you cannot use it while in hit-stun, you can cancel block-stun on the recovery of any move. If the blast hits an opponent it knocks them high into the air and then bounces them, allowing for an easy combo pickup. It also constantly regenerates your health and gives you an attack bonus depending on how many characters have died so far.
Meter builds very quickly. Just moving around builds meter. Successfully blocking builds a lot of meter and blocking a super gives you most of a bar. You can also charge your meter manually, but it appears as if most people agree that this is useless since meter builds so fast anyway. You can build a maximum of seven levels.
You spend meter on certain techniques and supers. Level 1 supers don’t do a whole lot of damage and are used mostly as combo enders. Level 3 supers do quite a bit of damage and much of the game revolves around trying to find a way to successfully land one. All of this changes during sparkling burst, however, where nearly any super deals enough damage to be a threat. Finally, you can spend meter on EX versions of moves, which usually don’t do a whole lot of damage, but do provide some sort of extra utility.
We already covered assists, but there are several other tag mechanics in the game. To hard tag your opponent, just hold their respective button and they will come in with a homing attack. This attack is very unsafe, unlike standard homing attacks. It’s easy to interrupt and, if blocked, leaves you vulnerable until you hit the floor. You essentially shouldn’t use this at all unless it’s inside a combo.
“Alpha counter” tags make an appearance, costing one bar. This allows you to tag into your partner from a block, granting you an instant counter attack.
You can also tag in your partner by comboing into their super. You can do this by performing a super motion and pressing an assist button during one of your supers. This is one of the safest ways to tag in and is the primary use of meter.
However, unlike the Marvel VS series, you do not need to be performing a super of your own to perform one of your teammate’s supers. This essentially means you have access to every super of your entire team at all times. This allows you to pull out Gohan’s anti-air Kamehameha or Buu’s close range explosion no matter who is on point. This, too, is a relatively safe way to tag and will be used extensively in the final build of the game.
Combos are very easy to perform, usually consisting of a short chain combo, followed by a super dash, lather, rinse, repeat. However, hit-stun deterioration is heavy in this game. Like other Arc System Work’s games, players can tech out of combos once their hit-stun deteriorates to zero. Teching makes a character temporarily invincible, so pushing your combos too long puts you at risk of eating a much heavier counter attack.
Goku is, as expected, the basic all-around character. He has a number of beams, a multi-hit kick attack, a rush punch, and decent combo ability. His supers are unique in that they all start with a teleport, making them both good mix-up tools and good screen control tools. Teleporting to the ground from the sky in order to fire off a Kamehameha is a great way to catch people who like to jump around in an attempt to stall you out.
Vegeta is a faster and more aggressive character (also to be expected). He has a dive kick, an invincible knee attack that acts as a dragon punch, a dash kick, and one of the most useful projectile flurries in the game. When on point, Vegeta wants to be in the opponent’s face. Most of his major attacks are safe, allowing him to keep pressure on unless the opponent pulls out a trick or two. As an assist, his projectile flurry allows other characters to keep pressure on in very much the same way. It’s very useful for setting up mix-ups and locking the opponent down.
Gohan is even more aggressive than Vegeta, somewhat of a glass cannon character. He has very little range but incredible movement. He also does more damage than pretty much anyone else in the roster right now. Unfortunately, his special attacks don’t do much to cover his approach, so he relies very heavily on his assists. He does have one of the best anti-air special moves in the game and even has an anti-air super, so keeping him as a teammate instantly gives you anti-air options no matter who you are playing with. That being said, he’s far more useful on point since his specials and supers are all geared toward extending his combos and laying on damage.
Frieza is the game’s only zoner so far. All of his normals have a ton of range (look at that tail whim) and some of his normals are projectiles! He has an unblockable cutter attack, an earth pillar attack with variable range, a warping projectile move, and even a super that fires a beam while getting up from a knockdown. All of these are meant to keep the opponent out and chip him to death with projectiles. Frieza’s assist is the earth pillar and it homes in on the opponent making it a fantastic tool for space control. Frieza is also the only character in the game so far to have an install super with his “Golden Frieza” super. This increases his damage and some say it increases the size of his projectile hit-boxes, though this couldn’t be confirmed.
Cell is another all-around character, but in different ways than Goku. He has a normal Kamehameha, a full screen command grab, command lows and overheads, a jumping command normal that warps to the opponent’s location, and a close-range burst super. What he doesn’t have, unfortunately, is straightforward combo tools. Instead of simply chaining light, medium, heavy, dragon rush, Cell needs to get a little bit more creative with his combos. Because of this restriction, Cell feels more like a reset character than a heavy combo character. He also makes a fantastic point or anchor character since his mix-up tools allow him to mount an offense even without assists.
We still don’t have a whole lot of information about Buu. He was the least played fighter at EVO and his strange moveset made him hard to learn. He has a variety of long reaching normals, but he didn’t have any beam specials or projectile specials, making it difficult to play the long range game with the rest of the cast. He also has incredibly damaging and inexpensive supers, but they are all hard to combo into. In fact, his explosion super is the slowest super in the game. He isn’t bad, necessarily, but more time is needed to figure out what niche he fills.
We have three more characters coming – Trunks, Piccolo, and Krillin – before the beta starts. Right now it appears as if Trunks is an aggressive character that makes use of his sword’s disjointed hit-box, Piccolo is a character that is based around charging his attacks, and Krillin is a character with low damage but a variety of hard-to-block mix-up tools. Unfortunately, we won’t know much about these characters until we get our hands on them, so stay tuned for more coverage when the closed beta kicks off.