Nine months after release on competing platforms, Dragon Ball FighterZ has finally made its way to Switch. Back in January, when our sister site Push Square reviewed the original release, they gave it a glowing 9/10 score, and for good reason. Even by PlayStation 4 standards, FighterZ is breathtaking. So, how does one of 2018's standout titles fare on Nintendo's portable? Exceedingly well, it turns out.
The Switch version of FighterZ is simply stunning; in motion, it's truly a sight to behold. Arc System Works has done an amazing job bringing the anime to life, and if you didn't look at the PS4 version side-by-side with the Switch version, you'd likely have a difficult time finding the trade-offs made to make such an impressive-looking game run on hardware that is significantly less powerful.
All of the cinematic ultimate moves such as Gohan's one-handed Kamehameha from the Cell saga, or Buu's, "You know what... I hate you!" move have been recreated on the Switch with all of their screen-filling effects in place. Similarly impressive are the match-ending Destructive Finishes, which show cities or landscapes being destroyed, sometimes even from space. Sending an opponent flying into a nearby mountain to see it crumble from the force of their impact is immensely satisfying and looks stunning to boot. Finishing opponents with a heavy attack in certain stages will cause the fight to move to a completely different locale as well, which the Switch version manages without skipping a beat.
What's more impressive is that we couldn't detect even a hint of slowdown, even when multiple massive attacks were being fired off at once. It truly appears that no corners were cut in the making of this unbelievable port. The work done to fit this game on the Switch may not seem as impossible as what Panic Button has done with DOOM and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, but it's still an impressive showcase of what the Switch is capable of nonetheless.
Of course, FighterZ's beauty is more than skin-deep. Under all that polish is an incredibly competent fighting game, capable of dethroning Capcom's long-running Marvel Vs. Capcom series. In fact, FighterZ was the most popular title at EVO 2018, the largest fighting game tournament in the world, according to a tweet from the tournament head.
The comparison to the Marvel Vs. Capcom series is useful for more than the game's popularity as well, as FighterZ plays similarly to Capcom's now-maligned crossover game. In it, each player builds a roster of three Z-fighters from a roster of 24 characters (30 if you purchase the six DLC characters separately.) During fights, you can freely switch between your characters or call them in for a quick assist. Combos are relatively simple and mashing either the X or Y buttons will give you a full combo, but those that master the system and switch between high and low attacks and make use of their friends to tag in at opportune moments can perform high-flying stunts that will endlessly juggle their opponents. The result is a combo system that is surprisingly easy to get started with but offers enough scope to make it hard to fully master. It feels great in practice and is welcoming to both seasoned fighters and novices alike; there are few fighting games that can say the same thing about.
Fights are also littered with awesome fanservice moments, provided you know Dragon Ball's lore well and can recreate moments from the series. For instance, if Goku and Frieza face off on Namek and Krillin isn't in either team, the match will open with the evil emperor killing Krillin in front of Goku, causing him to become a Super Saiyan for the first time. It's cool things like this that show just how much the team at Arc System Works care for Dragon Ball, which is a great thing as the series enjoys one of the most fervent fan bases anywhere.
There's more to FighterZ than just mindlessly brawling, however. Included is a story mode which includes three arcs focusing on the Z warriors, the series' villains, and a newly introduced character, Android 21. The story is delivered through cutscenes interspersed between fights and can last quite a bit of time, well over 12 hours by our estimation, assuming you take on and complete all the side fights on offer. The cutscenes that deliver the narrative are gorgeous but run at a much lower framerate than that of the actual game. While you might think this is a technical issue, the issue exists on other platforms; we assume it's an attempt by the developer to replicate the often-stuttery animation seen in the original anime.
We found the narrative itself to be interesting, but the story modes feel like a bit of a grind as the fights aren't all that difficult, but you're often forced to get through five or six of them to get another bit of the story and move on to another map. About halfway through each arc we found ourselves just mindlessly beating opponents to get to the next map, no longer caring about completing everything. You have to do this to unlock Android 21 however, which is a mechanic that feels a bit antiquated in the face of online play becoming increasingly important.
Aside from story mode, there's also Arcade mode, which gives you the standard progression-based experience fighting game fans are used to, in that opponents become gradually more difficult as you climb the ladder to your final fight. There's no narrative to speak of in this mode, but you can unlock Super Saiyan Blue (still called SSGSS in this game) Goku and Vegeta by completing certain conditions. Again, we're not sure how we feel about characters being locked in fighting games in 2018, but there you have it. Arcade mode is a fun way to test your skills, offering several different difficulty tiers that'll provide a challenge to most.
To navigate all these modes, you get dropped into a lobby where you'll select a chibi version of one of the game's many characters to run around and interact with other players. Even if you're playing the game offline, you'll still be in a version of this lobby. We like it, but we would've preferred a menu-based approach when playing offline. Playing any mode earns you Zeni which can be used to purchase new lobby characters. As with most online Switch titles, there's no voice chat here, so you're forced to communicate using stamps and preset phrases. Each of the game's stamps features a character from the Dragon Ball universe, along with a phrase. These phrases can be used independently of the stamps, but in our experience, there was no need to really use these as most players are going to queue up for one match type or another.
Online play was fairly painless as well. Once paired up with an opponent for a match, we found very few issues with lag, and when we did it was easy to attribute the issue to a spotty WiFi connection. During online matches, you'll see a display at the top of the screen telling you how bad the frame delay is between you and your opponent. For us, anything under a five frame delay seemed to be quite manageable, though obviously, your mileage may vary.
Bandai Namco has made much of the game's potential for local play too, even showing off footage of a single Joy-Con per player being used. It's perfectly possible to enjoy the game in this way, but the lack of buttons on the controller means that certain commands become button combinations (Dragon Rush becomes Light Attack + Media Attack, for example, while normally this would be mapped to the R button). Even so, being able to face off against a human opponent whenever the mood takes you is a real bonus.
Dragon Ball FighterZ on the Switch is, simply put, the best fighting game we've seen on the system yet. Arc System Works went the extra mile in capturing the essence of the source material and distilled it into an incredible brawler that has lost nothing in the transition to Nintendo's hybrid console. The stunning visuals, intense action and easy-to-master controls make FighterZ a game all fans of the genre should have in their library. If you only play this kind of game casually, it remains a must-own.