Publisher: Bandai Namco Interactive
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Tested on New Nintendo 3DS
Dragon Ball Fusions – Review
‘It’s over 9000!!!’ – We all know that familiar phrase Vegeta shouts when the Saiyans first encounter Goku’s power level in Dragon Ball Z. Most of us grew up with this popular anime show that made us sit in front of the television, early in the morning and made us reenact iconic scenes with our friends at the playground. The series has been around for over 30 years and has produced multiple anime, manga and all kinds of toys and videogames. Especially the games industry has benefited greatly from the series popularity. Just last year, we enjoyed Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 on the larger gaming platforms and now Bandai Namco Entertainment has another treat for the fans, this time for the Nintendo handheld. Dragon Ball Fusions for 3DS is the newest addition to the wide selection of Dragon Ball franchised games. And as the giant fans we are, we eagerly jumped into a new Dragon Ball adventure.
The story takes place in an alternate universe where two young warriors, Pinich and Tekka, are eternal rivals and can’t decide who the better warrior is. Not being able to satiate their hunger for combat and challenge, they decide to collect their planets’ Dragon Balls, so that can wish for the creation of the biggest, baddest fighting tournament, the universe has ever laid his eyes on. This way they can test their skill against the strongest opponents who ever lived and decide who the strongest warrior of the two of them is. A second after their wish was granted, both Pinich and Tekka get sucked into a black hole and get transported to another dimension where multiple worlds and planets got warped. The two warriors stumble upon the Capsule Corporation where they meet Bulma and she explains that the fused dimension was created by Shenron, in order to organize the greatest fighting tournament that has ever existed. But before they can take their shot at the tournament, they must recruit a team of 5 warriors in order to participate. Pinich and Tekka decide to form their own individual teams in order to decide once and for all who the strongest warrior in the universe is without knowing what kind of dark plot is about to unravel behind the scenes.Dragon Ball Fusions offers a simple but fun story in accordance with the well-known traditional Dragon Ball lore. It’s filled with familiar, hilarious moments and characters that will especially appeal to the fans, while players looking for a deeper and thrilling storyline, will probably put this one aside. Apart from the main storyline, you’ll also be able to participate in quite a lot of side quests that don’t offer any decent story writing although it’s met with the typical lighthearted tone of Dragon Ball. The side quests tend to be more on the plain and silly side, foe or friend alike, offering no mere value to the bigger conflict at hand. The fact that you can customize Tekka, as he functions as your in-game avatar, creates a greater sense of involvement to the story although it lacks the ability to directly influence the outcome of the game. The latter felt like a missed chance.
Visually, Fusions, looks great. The 3D models of both characters and environments alike, are incredibly attractive and beautifully rendered. Especially when exploring the semi-open world map, you can experience the well-designed colorful surroundings and recognize the iconic locations from the series and movies. The designs of Akira Toriyama of the multiple characters and NPCs look cute and awesome as they’re presented in a semi chibi like design. During combat, you’re facing a 2D overview of the battlefield. The battlefields look a tad plain as there isn’t that much variation in available battle locations and some animations start to grow boring over time. If the developers had added some spirit to the environments, where spots were blown off, or craters that came to fruition by explosions, this would’ve made the battlefields a lot more appealing.
The soundtrack of most Dragon Ball games mostly remains the same in style and genre, and Fusions is no different. The main theme is primarily a Japanese rock theme accompanied by an orchestra. Most of the music used in-game is mainly similar to that of the anime and movies. The theme isn’t the only thing that is in Japanese, as the western localization leaves something to be desired. Although accompanied by English subtitles, the voice work is Japanese only. It’s great to hear the original Japanese voices but a lot of western players and fans grew up with the English cast of the series. The dialogues aren’t completely voiced but through the use of slight sound effects make certain dialogues more lively and fun.
Dragon Ball Fusions is a tactical turn-based 3D brawler RPG where you build up a team of 5 characters to face off against enemy teams up to 5 members strong. At the start of the game, you get to customize your avatar, Tekka, where you can choose between five distinct races (Earthling, Saiyan, Namekian, Majin and Alien). The customization is relatively deep and offers enough options as you can change gender, looks, voice and name (Tekka is the standard name) of your avatar. After a short tutorial battle, you’ll also get the choice between 3 kinds of fighting classes: power, speed and technique, which will be important during combat, but we’ll return on this in a later topic of this review.
The world map is divided in different kinds of layers, with each of the layers being protected by a barrier. Your avatar can fly around the map to interact with iconic locations and characters to progress the story. Here the camera can be a nuisance as it sometimes can get stuck and the controls feel clumsy. On the world map you can encounter events and random battles. Events are marked by an exclamation mark, while random battles are littered around the world map shown as characters marked with their respective levels. If you want to save your game, take a breather from battles and want customize your teams, you can always return to Frieza’s spaceship. The spaceship will eventually unlock for you to commandeer as you progress through the game and acts as an in-game hub.
The battles are presented in a flat 2D space overview and happen in a turnbased sort of fashion. Below the screen you have something that looks like the active time battle bar from the older Final Fantasy games, that decides who goes first. Depending on the speed of your characters, they will go either first or last. During combat you can be pushed out of the ring or borders of the playing field, making you start at the beginning of the bar and at a slower pace. When a character takes its turn, you have the choice between 3 kinds of attacks/actions: melee, energy and support. Melee can be blocked if you succeed in winning the short mini-game, energy attacks can’t be blocked and support can either buff or heal characters. All the known characters have their personal signature move set which can be customized or replaced by other stronger versions or other kinds of attacks. This gives fans a great chance to play with their favorite characters and moves while experimenting with other techniques/attacks.
The success and efficiency of melee and energy attacks depend on a rock-paper-scissors principle. Characters are divided in 3 separate classes: power, speed and technique. Power is stronger against technique but is weak against speed, while technique beats speed. It’s a simple to master and effective triangular system that can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Aside from the normal attacks, you can also use Zenkai attack and an Ultra-Fusion. Both of them use energy from an energy bar in the left corner of the screen and use 1 section of the bar per attack. This bar can be charged up by performing or withstanding all kinds of attacks. Zenkai enables you to launch a barrage of energy and physical attacks during an all-out air attack against your opponent. Ultra-Fusion on the other hand, let’s you fuse all 5 of your characters into one super warrior that launches a massive barrage of energy and melee attacks, dealing a large amounts of damage. These are all kinds of techniques. Both of these ‘super-attacks’ really come in handy if you want to turn the tables when you’re in a pinch.
After each fight or at the end of a certain event/mission, every character you’ve got in your squad, gets experience and techniques that he/she has learned during combat. Every character levels up to a max of level 100 and automatically boosts their basic stats. The techniques you collect, can’t always be directly taught to your characters as they come with requirements ranging from a character having the required level or are signature moves of a certain character. Another thing about these techniques is the fact that they are divided in different ranks (C,B,A,S,G) with C as the lowest rank and G as its highest available rank. The higher the rank, the more powerful the attack or technique. Ranks aren’t only important to the different techniques but also have an impact on the playable characters in the game. Each character is divided according the same ranking system as the techniques. They haven’t got stronger versions of themselves but it can still be boosted to a certain degree by fusing them with other characters, an important core mechanic of this game. At a certain point in the game, you’ll be able to perform Ex-Fusions aside from the Ultra-Fusion, which grants you the ability to fuse your characters and gain new, powerful characters. While Ultra-Fusion is temporarily, Ex-Fusions remain until you ‘unfuse’ them.
Together with series regulars, the other characters and counting in all of the fusions, you can collect around a 500+ playable characters. Most of the characters, can be unlocked, if not through in-game progress, in battle either by K.O. or pushing them out of the ring, through the use of Zenkai attacks or by opening time rifts. Unlockable characters are marked with a yellow star during battles. The time rifts on the other hands, are breaches in time and space that are both story bound and random. These rifts can give you rare fighters from other timelines in the Dragon Ball Universe but most of the time, you’ll need to have some luck. The extensive amount of characters to collect and the wide selection of techniques to choose from, will keep you busy for multiple hours as you try the customize your own team of fighters and grind battles in order to power them up. The only downside here is that it might become a tedious process for players who haven’t got the time and/or patience for this kind of stuff.
Dragon Ball Fusions is fun and entertaining take on the Dragon Ball universe filled with an incredible amount of fan service, a lot of humor and an extensive, deep gameplay that fits the Nintendo 3DS handheld. The massive amount of characters to collect, multiple fuse combinations, the iconic locations to visit and content to unlock, will keep players and fans alike, hooked for multiple hours, even after the end credits, boosting its replay value. But the game might become a tedious grind for some players and will probably pass it aside after a few hours, making this game more appealing to fans. Still, Dragon Ball Fusions is a great game but has its flaws. The developers wasted their effort trying to cram so much content in this game and trying out new gameplay mechanics, they didn’t pay enough attention to other more important aspects of the game.