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2018 was an incredible year for gaming, esports and fighting games all at once, but no title exploded onto the scene quite so spectacularly as Dragon Ball FighterZ.
The 2D fighting game based on the popular Dragon Ball franchise sold over 2 million copies in its first week of release, and quickly established itself as a titan of the fighting game scene. At its debut Evo event in August, it became the most watched main event there of all time, boasting a 257,000 peak viewer count.
Outside of Evo, Bando Namcai have invested heavily in their own tournament series, the DBFZ World Tour. Seven qualifiers, or ‘sagas’, have been played throughout 2018, with the winners receiving a spot in the World Tour Finals (as well as their very own Dragon Ball!).
With the finals happening this weekend in Los Angeles, four saga champions have already secured their spots in the tournament. We take a brief look at their performance at the qualifiers, and speculate on who will take the crown this weekend in LA.
Representing Team Godsgarden, the Japanese Street Fighter and Guilty Gear veteran Kazunoko is undoubtedly the favourite to take the finals after securing 4 of the 7 Dragon Balls available in qualifiers. Kazunoko came out of the gate swinging to take the first DBFZ saga at CEO 2018.
Despite going down to GO1 in Winners Quarters, Kazunoko would recover to dominate him over two sets in Grand Finals, defeating SonicFox, Dogura and Fenritti along the way.
The middle of the season was quiet for Kazunoko: he didn’t attend sagas 2-4, and placed 5th at EVO, losing to GO1 and Moke. By the time we come to SEA Major in Singapore, however, Kazunoko was looking unstoppable. Having cemented his Gotenks/Gohan/Yamcha line-up, Kazunoko’s ultra-aggressive playstyle allowed him to obliterate everyone in his tracks.
Throughout the final three sagas of the season Kazunoko failed to even drop a set, picking up wins against a variety of top players. With over half the Dragon Balls available under his belt, Kazunoko will be looking to convert his 2018 performance into a big win to kick off 2019.
A four-time EVO champion and fighting-game natural, SonicFox has certainly continued the trend of his career by making an immediate impact on the DBFZ scene. Representing Echo Fox and sporting his trademark blue tail and fox head, SonicFox’s saga win came at VS Fighting in the UK. He went undefeated through the event, picking up wins against zeroq, Moke, GO1 and Dogura.
Outside of this, however, his saga attendance was fairly poor; his only other result was a stray 7th at SEA Major Singapore. Despite this, he was a prominent success throughout the year, with notable wins at DreamHack Austin and Canada Cup 2018.
Known for his aggressive playstyle, SonicFox’s best demonstration of this was at EVO. After blasting his way through the Winners bracket, including a 3-0 domination of GO1, SonicFox dropped the first set of Grands 3-0 to GO1. What followed next was arguably the hypest set of the year.
SonicFox’s shell of Bardock and Android 16, with his flavour-of-the-month favourite Fused Zamasu, threw itself time and time again against the wall that was GO1. Despite every game being close, SonicFox was able to clutch it out every time and take the second set 3-0 to secure his 4th EVO victory. The final move, a raw Dynamite Driver for the kill, embodies SonicFox and his playstyle. He will be looking to bring that raw power, aggression and sheer rudeness (in-game) to the finals this weekend.
The master of various 2D fighters, GO1 has proved his consistency yet again in DBFZ, placing in the top 3 of all of the first three sagas. Despite narrowly missing out to Kazunoko at CEO and losing an intense Losers Final set against Dogura at VS Fighting, third time was the charm for GO1 as he took his saga win at Ultimate Fighting Arena in France. Boasting wins against strong European contenders Aixy and Skyll, GO1 took first place over HookGangGod 3-0 after a reset in Grand Finals.
Whilst he was somewhat absent from the rest of the sagas, his solid trio of Cell/Bardock/Vegeta combined with an unmatched defensive playstyle will continue to be threatening in 2019, as he looks to secure a win at the World Tour Finals.
Representing NRG Esports, HookGangGod features as one of the most prominent character specialists in DBFZ, with his Piccolo being unmatched in the competitive scene. His consistency at sagas throughout the year is also to be noted; boasting top 8s at CEO, Ultimate Fighting Arena and Thunderstruck, where he took first place without dropping a set.
Boasting wins against Supernoon, GO1 and SonicFox throughout the year, the Namekian master has amassed an impressive body count in DBFZ. Outside of sagas, HookGangGod’s most impressive placing has to be his victory at the Summit of Power. At arguably the most stacked tournament of the year, with 16 of the world’s best players competing at an invitation-only event, HookGangGod defeated ApologyMan, GO1, Fenritti, and finally SonicFox in a gruelling two set Grand Finals to take the win. This tournament success combined with his unique playstyle will surely make him one to watch heading into the finals of the World Tour.
With four strong contenders having already secured their spots, the World Tour Finals is sure to be a highly competitive start for DBFZ in 2019. Whilst Kazunoko’s four Dragon Balls surely make him the favourite, the achievements of the rest are not to be dismissed lightly. Combine that with the host of talented players who will be hungry to enter through the Last Chance Qualifiers on Day 1 of the event, and the finals are going to be explosive.