Goku Black has been prominent throughout all levels of play in Dragon Ball FighterZ. This wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but there wasn’t enough information to go off of before the release of the game because both the Alpha and Beta did not have access to the Dragon Ball Super villain. A lot of the talk was focused on Android 18, Cell, Frieza, and other solid well rounded characters, but players did not expect just how powerful Goku Black would be.
There really isn’t a “meta” or “tier list” right now, as an overwhelmingly large majority of characters are good to great (as long as you have a set plan in place with your team), but there are definitely characters that have been overperforming. Super Saiyan Vegeta, for example, has been often compared to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s Doctor Doom, for having an incredibly good assist, good damage, and a solid overall moveset in general. Frieza has been an outstanding character in the anchor position, as he can get the most out of Sparking Blast with his Golden Form. Kid Buu is amazing at dealing with other Sparking Blasts, as well as a mixup machine.
Goku Black has seemingly on a totally differently level, though.
The interesting thing about it is that he isn’t actually the best at any one thing, but he may be second or third best at most things. He has a beam assist, which is highly regarded as one of the best assists to have in the game due to how much advantage it gives your other characters on approaches. He has a lot of mixup options with Instant Transmission, which isn’t the fastest way to approach, but opens up overheads, 50/50s, and other assists (like the aforementioned Super Saiyan Vegeta’s). He has a tracking command grab, which is excellent against turtling opponents and cleanly converts into a combo for only 1 bar of meter, and is valuable at all positions on a team.
As a point/lead character, he can safely and securely build up a nice amount of meter for your team, with safe blockstrings and pressure. He sets up aggressive characters like Android 18, Hit, and Gotenks very well, and while he doesn’t have a lot of defensive options, he can make good use of defensive assists. Putting him second in line will give you his beam assist, which we’ve already talked about. This also gives your point character that much more flexibility, as well as a nice fallback plan in case said point doesn’t work out early on. Having this much of a core allows your anchor to clean up due to how much excess resources you have, so it may be a good idea to have an anchor that can really turn things up when necessary, like Tien or Frieza. Goku Black works very well as an anchor too, and this is where the problem of the character really stands out. He can be a functional anchor without actually being an anchor; meaning he can start a fight anywhere you want, but positioning a match in a way that allows him to be effective early, then switching out and letting others clean up, then dumping the rest of your resources onto Goku Black, is what makes him so absurdly powerful.
He isn’t weak anywhere. He can act as multiple positions in one match and suffers no real penalty because of it. It’s kind of warping when you think about it. He doesn’t gain anything special compared to the other characters when performing multiple roles, but the fact that he can perform multiple roles with equal effectiveness is what makes him so strong. There are other characters that can certainly do well in at least two out of the three positions- Adult Gohan being a good example of this. Those characters are either not as effective as Goku Black at all three positions, don’t have a Beam assist themselves, or have a major weakness attached to them, such as a bad assist, lack of effectiveness at a specific range or height, or lack of options on offense or defense.
As if that wasn’t enough, Goku Black is the only character in the game that has a free empty teleport. He can teleport directly in front of the opponent, a character’s length away, or, at the cost of one bar, behind the opponent. This does have startup and isn’t the fastest move, but the fact that it exists makes Black that much more versatile.
The first chart (courtesy of u/GaijinB on Reddit) shows the frequency of character appearances among the top 100 players on the PS4 version of the game, and the second shows the most common character pairings on a team within the same top 100.
It’s very clear that Goku Black and Super Saiyan Vegeta are the most frequently played characters by quite a fair margin. It’s also clear that Goku Black and Super Saiyan Vegeta are paired together the most. What the charts don’t show you, however, is that the reason Vegeta is played so much at that high a level is almost exclusively because of his assist, which is widely regarded as the best assist in the game for a multitude of reasons. The character itself isn’t exceptionally special- in fact, it may be slightly underwhelming outside of said assist. Goku Black’s capabilities are far, far greater, and only get stronger when having a dedicated assist by his side.
So what does all of this mean for the game? Is Goku Black overpowered? Personally, I don’t think so. There always will be a best thing to do in the game at any given point, and this just happens to be it. He isn’t oppressive, not in the least bit. The real issue is that he fits into any team so easily, with no real sacrifice. You aren’t losing out on something by choosing him. Many players have expressed discontent with how prominent Goku Black is, but the game has come off as so incredibly balanced, while also being highly technical at higher levels of play. The problem appears to be more of an issue among lower ranked players still trying to figure things out, as it gives an easier target to place blame on. The problem isn’t necessarily Goku Black, but possibly the lack of willingness to deal with what he brings to the table. If there are a lot of players playing him, then learning how to deal with him should be the priority, as with any “meta” strategy that happens in any game ever. Granted, he’s so good overall that the only way to beat him is to just be better than your opponent, but isn’t that the goal anyway? If you’re playing better than your opponents, you will beat them, and beating Goku Black as a character should be a residual effect of that. It’s okay to have very solid overall characters that require you to improve your general gaming knowledge to beat, as it encourages players who are dedicated to leveling up to do such. I’d argue that characters like Kid Buu, Cell, and Android 21 aren’t much further behind in terms of overall power and effectiveness, but Goku Black gets flak for it for being an easier execution character. I don’t think execution should be a reason why a character should be nerfed or touched at all. In fact, I think the opposite is true. Having a character that’s this good and easier to execute gives newer players even more access to playing at a higher level, where they’ll eventually be more motivated to get better at the game where they hit a wall that Goku Black can’t push them through.
I don’t think any nerfs will be put in place any time soon, the roster as a whole is one of the most balanced fighting game rosters I’ve seen in years. When major tournaments like EVO roll around, it will be evident who the standout characters will be.