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February 22, 2018

Re: RE: Dragon Ball FighterZ

So I’ve been playing more Dragon Ball FighterZ, and…whew.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not a bad game at all.  If you know anything about it at this point -- and you should -- then you don’t need me to tell you that it’s an audiovisual treat that does justice to the brand like few other DBZ games have before.  And while the difficulty of mastering the gameplay is present (as it is with any fighter worth its salt), it’s worth it in order to fight it out with your favorite characters and carve out a win.

Still, I don’t envy anyone who’s struggling to git gud.  Nor am I willing to begrudge them, or shrug off their efforts.  Dragon Ball FighterZ may seem beginner-friendly -- and mash-happy -- on the surface, but as with any fighter that has autocombos baked in, that’s not enough to guarantee a win.  Or even the ability to stand a fighting chance.  Ergo, the learning process involved with the game.

So in the interest of trying to help out others who are getting in deep with the game, here are my thoughts, experiences, and tips so far.  Because if there’s anyone qualified to dish out pro tips, it’s a guy who hasn’t touched an arcade stick since BlazBlue came out.  The first BlazBlue.  Take that as you will.

--Right now, my main team is Piccolo, Android 16, and Vegeta.  I haven’t fully committed to that order, even if all the main players are in place.  I’m inclined to believe that 16 is the closest analogue to a grappler (for now, possibly, since Broly’s officially on the way), which means he should have a harder time getting in and putting on pressure than most.  That’s probably not an ironclad rule given DBFZ’s mechanics, but still.

--My reasoning goes something like this: Piccolo has side-switching built into his moves, so potentially he can get mix-ups with a single command.  By having 16 as an assist, he can use his arm blast in the middle of my attack string so that -- in theory (and get used to hearing that phrase a lot in this post) -- I can make my offense more ambiguous while making sure I actually get my combo in.  

--Still, having 16 on point instead of Piccolo has its advantages.  Piccolo’s assist creates a slow-moving energy ball that homes in on an opponent, a la Marvel Infinite’s Reality Stone.  In theory, that means I can make an approach with 16 with a little insurance policy in place; if a foe tries to dance around me or counterattack, the ball will clip them and put me in position to start a combo.

--Either way?  Vegeta’s my anchor, without question.  I need that assist for combo extensions and lockdown pressure, and the prince of Saiyans himself makes for a stable, no-nonsense pinch hitter when it comes down to the wire.  Which it often does.

--This is true of any Vs-style game, but the main goal is to dismantle your opponent’s team as quickly and thoroughly as possible.  Chances are high that the team they’re playing has a setup planned well in advance (assuming they’ve put the time in), so busting up their plans ASAP is always a high priority.  As a friendly reminder?  Use a Dragon Rush to sneak in an unblockable string of hits, then hold the assist button to snap in an enemy fighter that’s giving (or might give) you trouble.  Seal off your opponent’s assist or anchor by bashing them into oblivion.

--Also worth noting?  Snap in with a Dragon Rush to not only pull in troublemkers, but also to stop wounded characters from recovering blue health on the sidelines.  It’s SO frustrating to nearly KO an opponent’s character, only to have them escape with a raw tag and guarantee future headaches.  Stop ‘em cold however and whenever you can.

--Okay, but for real though?  Don’t do a raw homing dash from full screen.  Don’t.  Unless you’re sure it’ll hit -- like you know you can catch your foe while he’s chucking fireballs -- then don’t.  Not only are you risking a huge punish (a down Heavy attack will launch you sky high for a nasty combo), but you give your foe plenty of time to react, and their character plenty of time for the attack to come out.  So even if common sense says “he’s far away from me, so I should hit this button to close the gap”, you’re making a big gamble that you really shouldn’t.

--Push back opponents with a well-timed deflect.  And I stress well-timed; on some level, you have to be able to read and predict the opportunity to defend yourself.  Mash it out and you just might lose.  More importantly?  If your foe reads your efforts to deflect and gain space, then (with some characters more easily, like Trunks) they can stagger their offense, leave you deflecting thin air, and start a fresh combo all over again.

--Getting pressured?  From what I’ve heard, you can do a quick tag with forward + an assist button to tag in and blow through an enemy offense.  I haven’t tried it for myself because I’m a huge coward, but I’ve seen video footage and…yeah, it can work.  That doesn’t mean you can rely on it forever, in the same way you can’t rely on deflecting.

--Everybody in the game has a universal overhead command with forward + medium.  You can use it to sneak in a hit (because in fighting games, people tend to block low by default), and certainly steal a win on an unsuspecting foe.  BUT, from what I’ve heard?  If you combine an overhead with an assist, you can turn a stray hit into a full combo.  I need practice with my team to maximize that potential, but I’d imagine that with 16 and Vegeta, it’s free damage I’m leaving on the table.

--One of the things I like about DBFZ -- albeit something that detractors rail against -- is that there are universal constants that make it easier to get into varying characters without learning every last detail of every last attack.  To wit: you can probably get in a decent combo with most characters by going from a low medium to a standing medium.  Because the low acts as a quasi-launcher, you can go into a jump cancel and start up an air combo, complete with a down heavy attack for extra damage and a super dash to follow up.

--Vanish is an important tool.  Don’t forget to use it.  You might be able to use it to escape pressure, and its obvious use is to stop full-screen shenanigans (even if you try and DHC, a Vanish will still tag you, if not cancel out your super altogether).  But it can and should be used in the middle of combos if you have the meter.  Landing a hit with it adds a wall bounce to your combo, which means if you’re quick enough, you can catch a foe and go for more midair shenanigans.  

--Near as I can tell?  Whenever you land a hit that makes the camera shift or zoom in, that’s your cue to use whatever tool you’ve got to tack on extra damage.  Gotenks’ Galactic Donut catches a foe in a ring that blows up and launches them, and you can follow up with a Vanish to keep the offense going.  Alternatively?  16’s standing and jumping heavy attacks let him use a shoulder tackle (with armor!) to blow foes back; adding on a super dash is the most basic of basic ways to tack on more pain.  And possibly a dunk.  He’s real good at those.

--One more thing about Vanish, though: by default, you’ll automatically warp behind a foe and attack.  If you’re Sparking, though?  Hold down the buttons, and you’ll appear behind a foe without doing a hit.  It might be a good way to catch a foe off-guard.

--Since this is an ArcSys game, it’s in your best interest to learn how to do an instant air dash -- which lets you zoom at a foe quickly and low to the ground for A) mix-ups and B) a lower risk of getting hit with an anti-air.  You can do it if you hit up forward on your control/arcade stick, then quickly tap forward to get that forward thrust.  Add in a jumping attack, and boom.  Combo started while your foe’s blocking the wrong way.  I, uh, speak from experience.

--That’s all I’ve got in terms of general tips.  Now let’s talk about some characters -- starting with the main man himself.

--I was worried Piccolo would be too complex for me to use when I first started, but now that I put some time in?  Yeah, he’s my guy.  He doesn’t have traditional ki blasts like most of the cast, but his stretchy arm shenanigans means that he can get around an opponent’s defenses with one long-range grab.  If you want to combo off of it?  Use his Demon Shocker (the antenna bolts), and then follow up with whatever you’ve got in your arsenal.  Also, if you use his grabby-hand in conjunction with his tracking ball, you can take a blocking foe by surprise.

--Android 16 can get a lot out of any assist, it seems; his dunks give him plenty of time to call in Vegeta to lock a slammed foe in for another pile driver.  Like I said before, the game’s mechanics mean that he’s no Potemkin or Abigail; he can get in, and some of his normal moves have a surprising amount of range.  (Just don’t try and use the 3rd hit of his light attack string on a blocking opponent; it’s not a true grab).  He can tack on some extra damage with his rocket punches mid-combo, and their homing properties can catch unsuspecting foes. Also, as a friendly reminder: his Level 3 doubles as a command grab, so if you land it, it’s a TON of raw damage.

--Question: Voltech, have you ever landed his self-destruct super?  Answer: yes I have.  And it feels so good.

--If Goku is the Ryu of this game, then I guess that makes Vegeta the Ken.  (Or is it the other way around?  Discuss.)  That does mean that, in a lot of ways, Vegeta’s limited by the linearity of his attack patterns; flourishes aside, he’s very shoto-esque.  Still, if you need someone reliable and honest, he’s your guy.  Just don’t forget that you have access to two Big Bang Attacks -- one that goes straight, and one that flies at a downward angle.  Maybe you can use the latter to counter an anti-air attempt…?

--Speaking of Goku, though?  Don’t sleep on him.  He has every tool he needs to support and stabilize every team, especially as an assist.  Not only does his Kamehameha give you a valuable beam assist, but also carries opponents to the corner and even provides a wall bounce -- which can be taken advantage of by opponents that are fast enough, or characters with far-reaching attacks.  Beyond that?  He has overheads built into some of his moves, and supers that let him attack from behind.  Hope you’re blocking in the right direction at all times with this guy.

(I...I need to start watching Super.) 

--As the internet’s premiere ninja-hater, I’m glad that there aren’t any in DBFZ.  Trunks still comes dangerously close, though.  His ability to cover horizontal space quickly is staggering.  He has a beam attack, yes, but he also has a special move that pushes him forward as he does a massive blast against the ground -- a quick move that starts combos for him.  And he has a low sliding move on top of that to give him even more combo opportunities.  

--He also has some tricks that add extra mobility: he can dash towards you in the middle of a string to throw off your deflect timing, and a backwards flip that lets him escape and reset the situation to neutral.  Neither option is flawless, I think -- pepper him with light attacks for the former, and super dash to catch the latter -- but it does mean he can get away with some nasty stuff if you let him.  Also, block high.  His sword slash will get you if you don’t.

--Even if they’re far from being the strongest in the canon, don’t underestimate the baldies in this game.  Nappa’s size gives him impressive reach, and while he doesn’t have armored normals like 16, he can get his attacks out faster.  The real threat is his ability to set up Saibamen and give him an assist on top of assists.  Let the little buggers touch you, and it gives the big bruiser a chance to take you to Combo City, North Dakota.  Blast the Saibamen if you get the opening, and use a Vanish to prevent Nappa from making use of his green thumb when he’s at full screen.

--As an assist or on point, Krillin’s got some nasty moves.  He doesn’t need to throw Senzu Beans to be a threat; because his rocks travel in a delayed, upward arc, attacking while they’re out means you risk getting popped and opened up instead.  He’s also got variations of the Multiform technique at his disposal, one of which is a fake attack, and the other is an overhead that’ll crack your defenses if you’re not careful.  Thankfully his Destructo Disk isn’t an instant kill, but between that and his Level 3, he can rack up the hits and the damage even from full screen.

--DARK.  TIEN.  RISES.  The triclops is strong enough with his low rekkas (one of which has armor) and Chiaotzu assists, but make him your anchor and pop Sparking, and you’ve got a legitimate threat in your lap.  One of his specials is an overhead, so the instant you hit with that, you can transition directly into his Level 3 for INSANE damage, especially if you spend the meter to extend it.  Both of his Tri-Beam supers shave life, but it’s worth it if you have Sparking active to regenerate health or, more appropriately, utterly annihilate anything that dares to stand against you.  Or, you know, win the match.  Whichever comes first.

And that’s about all I’ve got for now.  Well, sort of.  There’s more that I can say and more characters I can go over, but I guess I’d better save that for a later date -- certainly once I get a little more experience with the game.  Inevitably, that means I’m going to be a punching bag for a while longer, and it’ll probably feel like whatever wins I get will be based purely on good luck, but whatever.  I’ll take what I can get.  Every drop of sweat in training is one less drop of blood in battle.  In a metaphorical sense.  And a literal sense.

Anyway, this probably won’t be the last time I talk about DFZ.  But until then?  Feel free to leave a comment.  Enjoying the game?  Struggling?  Who’s on your main team?  Played through the story yet?  Divulge at your leisure.  Especially if there are details re: Android 21.  I still need to unlock her.

Though on that note: glasses and coat 21 > Majin 21.  That’s my stance, and my unshakable devotion to the craft.

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