Plenty of Dragon Ball games have generated excitement over the last decade-and-a-half before release, a trend which started outside Japan with Dragon Ball Z: Budokai in 2002. But none have generated quite as much as Arc System Works’ Dragon Ball FighterZ. That’s because it’s targeting two vocal audiences: Dragon Ball fans and the Fighting Game Community. For years, members of both audiences have wanted a developer to create a serious DB fighting game effort, the kind that would get players and fighting game spectators excited. Hence the existence of FighterZ, where both Arc and publisher Bandai Namco are making the game with the intention of it being played on the big stage at tournaments like Evo.
It’s a shame, however, that Super Dragon Ball Z didn’t fulfill this purpose when it released in the mid-00s, a title handled by ex-Capcom fighting game developers at Crafts & Meister and Arika. It didn’t take off due to being overshadowed by other Dragon Ball games at the time, and because of its comparatively small cast; but a dedicated audience enjoyed it.
FighterZ was announced at E3, and like any fighting game, the developers have been steadily identifying its character roster. Since this is inhering the 3-on-3 style from recent non-Infinite Marvel vs. Capcom games, they started by confirming six characters: Goku, Vegeta, and Super Saiyan II Gohan, along with Frieza, Perfect Cell, and Buu. From there, others like Future Trunks, Krillin, Piccolo, Android 16, and Android 18 (with Android 17 as an assist) have been shown — nearly every character deemed necessary for a Dragon Ball fighting game. Heck, it’s even inherited the DB fighter tradition of having extra versions of certain Saiyan characters like Super Saiyan Blue Goku and Vegeta from the newest Dragon Ball Z movies and Dragon Ball Super. Don’t be surprised if they aren’t the only characters in that category.
Fortunately, Bandai Namco still has some non-clone characters to get through. It was confirmed this week that Yamcha and Tien (or Tenshinhan) will be joining the roster, both of whom are identifiable heroic characters from DBZ, despite how they lost popularity later in the series. Yamcha joining the roster is remarkable because (1) this will mark his first appearance in an Arc-developed Dragon Ball game, and (2) hell, the fact that he’s appearing at all is remarkable. He’s mainly known as being a joke character in the series, and his most popular act in DBZ is dying to a Saibaman in a suicide attack during the Saiyan Saga. So, here’s hoping he’s a top-tier character in this game for ironic purposes.
Tien’s appearance is less surprising, considering he’s always been apparently the second-most powerful Earth warrior. But he, like every other human, took a backseat to Saiyan and Saiyan-related characters. Notably, he’s wearing his outfit from the later DBZ movies and Super, unlike other characters who’ve kept their Z outfits — at least for the non-story modes.
The biggest reveal that blew up the fanbase is Android 21, a brand-new character created by Akira Toriyama for this game’s Story Mode. She’s a scientist whose intellect has been compared to Dr. Gero. Though it appears she’s a villain given some of her mannerisms in the screenshots and teaser trailer, that she’s seen standing with 16 doesn’t make her seem too bad. Her design took off immediately, which led to a plethora of fanart depicting her flooding the internet within a mere 24 hours after the scans from Shonen Jump were posted online. Since we’re on the internet, some art within the first day was of the unsavory kind, so be careful where you look.
Every Android in the Dragon Ball series is capable of fighting, but developers have yet to clarify whether 21 will be playable. It would be a surprise if she wasn’t given the level of excitement surrounding her, even if she’s saved for DLC. As you might be able to tell, I’m a big fan of her design, even though she has more in common with Dragon Quest characters rather than DB ones in her fashion sensibilities.
FighterZ’s closed beta testing session occurred over the last weekend, which was apparently successful despite some connection issues that were eventually resolved. As in, it was a “success” for everyone who got in and connected to each other, but there were far more reports of people being rejected from participating in the beta at all. I was hoping to get in so I could post impressions here, but I sadly wasn’t among the lucky chosen. The idea behind these tests is to make sure the online systems are up to par when the game launches, so they should hold another one soon. One of these should ideally be an open beta, so they can get an idea of whether the online can withstand a significant player load.
FighterZ is due for a release sometime in February 2018, and the remaining roster should be revealed at a steady pace between now and then. Since the story will be noncanonical and new characters like 21 are being added, they should be free to add other noncanonical characters like Broly, Cooler, and Janemba, though not at the expense of canonical ones. Future roster additions and trailers will be interesting to watch, especially for the reactions that will surround them. There’s always a vocal subset of an audience that will be disappointed with the final roster of any fighting game, but if you’re reading this, I hope your favorites get in. And mine.