Fenritti finally took the title, but a dark shadow still looms.
Fighting games are all about player expression in a one-on-one scenario, for the most part, and few titles have as much personality and free-flowing movement to enable that at the highest level as Dragon Ball FighterZ.
But even with a hype tournament to name the 2022-23 World Champion, there is one key flaw that very openly leaves the competitive scene trekking through mud.
It is not a secret that Android 21 (Lab Coat) is one of, if not the best, characters when it comes to competitive play because she was given the unique ability to apply a 21-percent damage debuff effect to every other character in the game with one of her moves. This essentially made it so anyone not playing Lab Coat 21 would be facing a one-sided disadvantage no other character in the game could inflict.
It got so bad that Lab Coat 21 was being used on a majority, if not all, top team compositions for players finishing highly at big events following her release on Feb. 24. This led to elongated conversations about banning her use in tournaments, and it even successfully happened at CEO 2022.
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Following a balance patch last June, which nerfed Lab Coat 21 (to an extent) alongside a number of other changes that were part of what was then supposed to be the last update for the game, the conversations faded slightly. In other fighting games, you see conversations like this brought up and abandoned frequently.
However, for Lab Coat 21, there is a year of high meta usage data, top results, and continued domination even after being nerfed and the problem has only worsened.
The Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour Finals for the 2022-23 season just wrapped up, with perennial top contender Fenritti finally taking the top spot after finishing in second twice before. And, while the event was still hype and had plenty of incredible matchups, all you need to do is look at the character usage to see a disappointing trend.Image via Killer4free Killer4free
Out of the top 20 players and their teams, 15 of them featured Lab Coat 21. Additionally, nine had Vegito SSGSS, another seven had Gogeta SSGSS, and five more included Gogeta SS4. The only character to rival that usage is GT Goku, who appeared on 10 different teams at the 2020-21 finals.
There was not a single team out of that group that did not include at least one of those characters, and most lineups featured two. In total, only 20 characters were used between the top 20 competitors out of the 60 available on the DBFZ roster.
Fenrittis lineup, along with Seyhan, INZEM, Hayat, and Jake Ryans all used Lab Coat 21, Vegito SSGSS, and Gogeta SSGSS togethermaking it the most dominantly featured composition at any World Tour Finals.
Compared to the 2021-22 finals last July, usage for Lab Coat 2021 more than doubled and the meta quickly shifted to teams pairing her with one or multiple of the Goku and Vegeta fusions. It isnt game-breaking by any means, but usage rates like this are where legitimate causes for concern regarding the health of a competitive scene tend to pick up steam.
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Thankfully, Bandai Namco and DBFZ producer Tomoko Hiroki have reversed their previous stance that the last balance update would be the final one.
Alongside news that a new Dragon Ball Budokai Tenkaichi game is in development after more than 15 years away, among other game announcements, fans also got confirmation that DBFZs rollback netcode update would begin tests on Steam this Spring. A fresh balance update is also in the works and will be released in the future.
More information on the rollback test and the future patch will be shared in the future, but at least this gives players hope that adjustments will be made to Lab Coat 21 and high-usage characters to even the playing field as much as possible, where applicable.