Dragon Ball FighterZ is a love letter to a legendary series. 23 heroes and villains from various arcs have all been brought together in a fighter that has a bright future ahead of it. But what really helps make it special is how it does pay tribute to everything that came before it. The game incorporates so many references to the game that people who have been paying attention for years will notice, sometimes playing off of things we expect to do something special. The characters have history, and Dragon Ball FighterZ always tries to acknowledge this.
The first time you might notice these tributes is with the special introduction sequences in Dragon Ball FighterZ. If you have the right characters in the proper places, a fight might have a unique start paying tribute to an event from the animated series. There are three known introductions so far. One is seeing Goku become a Super Saiyan for the first time. This happened during the Frieza Saga in the anime, on Namek. Krillin sacrificed himself to save Goku, causing Goku to transform before fighting Frieza. So if Krillin is not on anyone’s team, Goku is on one side and Frieza is on the other when a match begins on Namek, you will see that moment recreated. Likewise, Gohan went Super Saiyan for the first time during the Cell Game Saga after Cell killed Android 16. So if the teenaged Gohan and Cell are the first opponents facing each other and Android 16 is not on either team when the Cell Games Arena is selected, we get to witness that moment. The last one refers to when one of Nappa and Vegeta’s Saibamen self-destructed and took Yamcha with him. In the original series, Krillin defeated the remaining four as an act of revenge. Heading to Rocky Field with Krillin and Nappa as the first two fighters and Yamcha makes this happen again.
What’s also fun is making sure certain characters are on the same team. If specific fighters are both currently alive and on the same side when one of them uses their level three super, they will work together. Android 18 and Krillin are an obvious one, considering they are husband and wife. Instead of Android 17, her twin, chipping in for Accel Dance, Krillin takes his place. Piccolo trained Gotenks, so it only makes sense for him to help with Charging Ultra Buu Buu Volleyball if they are on the same team. In the original series, Beerus has a history of killing Zamasu, leading to Goku Black. So if Beerus uses Destruction God’s Judgement, Goku Black completely disappears.
Finally, there are the Dramatic Finishes that occur when a specific character defeats another one with a heavy attack on a certain stage. Each one pays homage to an actual fight and its finish in the manga and anime. Goku defeats Frieza on a destroyed Namek. History can repeat itself, with Nappa killing Yamcha on Rocky Fields. Or, Yamcha can turn the tables and defeat Nappa on Rocky Fields. A teenaged Gohan can defeat Cell in the Wastelands. Goku takes out Kid Buu on the Sacred World of the Kai. Trunks can completely destroy Frieza on Rocky Fields. And if Beerus and Goku are in Space, Beerus will show him mercy.
I appreciated how even the original character for Dragon Ball FighterZ calls back to some classic elements and characters from the original series. Android 21’s whole storyline adds more depth to Doctor Gero and his Android Development Program. It suggests an additional sentimentality, much like the one that led to Gero creating Android 16 in his son’s image. It also gives us a better idea of the lengths the doctor was willing to go to when creating his fighters. While she is entirely original, her backstory makes her seem like an incredibly plausible character who could have fit into this world, given what we know about the Red Ribbon Army.
Dragon Ball FighterZ shows what happens when a game really goes all out when referencing its source material. Moves did not have to be adjusted to certain characters and specific scenarios did not have to be acknowledged, but they all were. We know what happens, and the game does this whole wink-nod thing to show it does too. It is a wonderful thing to see, and something fans will likely appreciate.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.