[This essay was funded by my generous Patreon supporters. If you liked this and want to see more, please consider joining the crew!]
Season 1 of the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour has concluded, delivering a solid end to the debut season for what was clearly one of the best shounen anime series of 2018. But it’s been a year of ups and downs — if GO1-SonicFox Saga clearly carried the show to high hype levels in the first half of the year, the first leg of Kazunoko vs. The World was the arc where we all kind of realized that the fight scenes drag on a little bit and got kind of repetitive.
That was about where I dropped DBFZ World Tour from my watch list, anyway, and so I came back to watch the DBFZ World Tour season finale and started thinking, hm, maybe I need to see what I missed. Near as I can tell, the midseason patch shook the meta up a little bit, opening up the character select screen rather significantly (now we get to see less Cell, more Goku, less Vegeta, and more of Bardock’s other supers!), and players have gotten more comfortable with playing for snapback loops, baiting and punishing Sparking, and reversal level 3 supers, all of which add a little more excitement to a match. It’s still got some real long combat sequences, but they don’t all look the same, and that counts for a lot.
So what could season 2 possibly have in store for our Z-Fighters? Well, let’s see.
Spoiler alert: Kazunoko is on top of the world right now. He won so much that poor Bandai Namco had to run four last chance qualifier tournaments the day before they ran the Top 8 Finals. That first day was like watching a god damn full-day marathon. Everyone you remember from the beginning of the season was showing up again and again, trying desperately to crawl over each other for a treasured slot in the Sunday Top 8 (and maybe also a cup of water) while Kazunoko, Sonicfox, GO1, and HookGangGod all watched carefully.
But while Kazunoko’s DBFZ performance now looks just as consistently brilliant as he does in any other game he plays, we’re going to see if he’s able to maintain this level of consistency when the 2019 tournament season starts and he’s playing Street Fighter V, Guilty Gear, and Dragon Ball FighterZ at the same event. (I do not envy TOs the scheduling challenge Kazunoko is going to pose this year.)
Fenrich, the man who fought Kazunoko in Grand Finals, had to play through four 200-man single elimination brackets to get there the day before, placing 2nd, then 3rd, then 5th, then finally placing first, only get sent to losers bracket immediately at the beginning of the following day and climbing up to run it back in Grand Finals, even managing to reset the bracket and forcing Kazunoko to a final set.
So: Kazunoko may have won the match, but Fenrich literally just spent a weekend in the fucking Hyperbolic Time Chamber. He played in four full tournaments in one day against world-class talent, and on day two he came up within striking distance of the champion. There’s no way he doesn’t grow from this experience. He’s probably going to figure out how to unlock Ultra Instinct or some shit by the time his flight gets into Japan.
And who can count out SonicFox? At Evo 2018, SonicFox looked like he was so far ahead in the meta that he was playing a different game than everyone else, and that was the advantage that pulled him to the top of the top. But now it looks like everyone is playing the same game, and he’s going to have to find a way to compensate for the historic advantage Japanese players have in the games they play — easier access to a wide variety of top tier practice partners.
This challenge will be particularly significant for SonicFox because it’s something he hasn’t really had to deal with as much in the games that he has dominated — as far as I know, Skullgirls and Netherrealm games are mostly played in North America and don’t have much tournament action in Asia. In those games, I’ve gotten the impression that he wins by knowing more and going deeper than his opponents do, digging out tech and gameplay nuances that are far more mature than anyone else’s.
In other words: SonicFox is an innovator. Kazunoko is not an innovator. He’s not the guy you see demonstrating bold new tech or direction; he’s the guy who takes the game everyone else is playing, and plays it better than everyone else. Kazunoko is a Terminator.
I’d be remiss without mentioning GO1, of course, who was one game away from beating both Kazunoko and Fenrich. There’s no way Melty’s Champion isn’t going to be a major player in the next season. I’m hoping for a training arc where he disappears for a while and then later we find out that he went back to his roots and plays some real poverty shit to train in the offseason.
But I guess we’ll have to wait until next season to find out.
Thanks for reading!