(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 4 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 4 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 3 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 4.5 Stars
- Bottom Line
Dragon Ball Fusions
- Street Date:
- November 22nd, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Tyler Treese
- Review Date:1
- November 23rd, 2016
- Game Release Year:
- Bandai Namco Entertainment
- ESRB Rating:
- T (Teen)
Digital 3DS version reviewed. Review copy was provided by the publisher.
The latest video game entry in the 'Dragon Ball' series comes from 'Pandora's Tower' and 'One Piece: Unlimited World RED' developer Ganbarion. Called 'Dragon Ball Fusions,' the role-playing game brings characters from the series' entire 30 year history together for a tournament that will decide who is the toughest warrior in the universe. From Goku as a kid to his granddaughter Pan, the game features a who's who of 'Dragon Ball.'
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
The plot of 'Dragon Ball Fusions' revolves around two original characters (one of which can be customized by the player) that gather all of the Dragon Balls and then wish to hold a contest to decide who the strongest fighter is. This ends up creating an alternate universe where characters from various points of history all gather.
For a strange, arbitrary reason the characters have to join teams of five in order to compete. This turns battles into giant 10-fighter duels. These turn-based battles take place in an oval field and fighters can either attack with ki blasts (ranged attacks) or melee strikes. Melee strikes tend to be more powerful, but the defender has a chance to block the attack by guessing which direction the strike is coming from. There's also some typical RPG mechanics such as special attacks that use up orbs of enemy that amass overtime and a team-wide ultimate attack that can be used occasionally.
While it doesn't really strike any new ground mechanically, it's truly impressive how much depth there is to the combat system here. Extra damage can be obtained by knocking foes either into other enemies or launching them into your allies who will also get a few punches in. I was able to practically play dominos at certain points, and it always felt awesome to have one attack end up hitting all five of the enemy characters.
Another strategy I had fun playing with was delaying the attacks of the enemy team. If a character is tossed outside the circular playfield, they get a "ring out" penalty and have their attack gauge completely reset. Thus, if played correctly, I could actually take out enemies one-by-one and get in additional attacks in a row before they ever did any damage. It's a phenomenally fun combat system, and one that is enhanced over time as Ganbarion introduces additional mechanics such as a rock-paper-scissors system where certain character types can deal more damage. These small touches can be ignored by those that want a more straight forward experience, but there's enough meat here for RPG veterans to really enjoy.
As the name would suggest, performing fusions is a huge part of the game as well. There are several different types of fusions in the 'Dragon Ball' universe and they are all used in different ways. For example, the powerful five-person fusion acts as a special attack during battles, although it only lasts a turn. Other fusions include a temporary power boost that lasts an entire battle and a more permanent one that uses the Potara earrings from the anime.
This more permanent fusion is a key part of the game as it takes two standard characters (such as Goku and Vegeta) and then creates a more powerful version of them. These earring-wearing fighters can take an extra special move into battles, and more importantly open up an additional character slot for the player's five-person team. Those who want to obtain the most powerful team, and don't mind the characters being weird mutated versions of the beloved cast, will want to have a group entirely comprised of fused characters.
The overall story is pretty straightforward, but it's presented in a fun, fresh way. Players are always given a goal to achieve (such as breaking down a barrier by collecting energy), and get some fun interactions between characters for their trouble. The game has a pretty breezy pace for the first two-thirds as the energy requirements (which are gained by fighting in battles) don't really become too hard to achieve until later on.
It's pretty rare that I get through a role-playing game without complaining about grinding, but 'Dragon Ball Fusions' skirts around that for the most part. There are some sections where players will have to recruit a handful of new members to continue forward, but the core combat is so fun that I never grew tired of it. This may not be a groundbreaking RPG, but it's a highly polished one that is fun throughout.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Featuring an art style reminiscent to the spin-off manga 'Dragon Ball SD,' 'Dragon Ball Fusions' features smaller, more adorable versions of the characters fans know and love. Well, except for the legendary Super Saiyan Broly as nothing can make him look anything less than terrifying. It's a great stylized look, especially since the Nintendo 3DS doesn't have the power to render highly detailed versions of the characters. The only real bummer is that the game doesn't support stereoscopic 3D, which is really disappointing since flying around the worlds and watching the attacks take place in a 3D space would've been an awesome visual.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The 'Dragon Ball' anime has one of the most recognizable dubs of all-time, and one that has been featured in most of the video games since the PS2 era, so it's disappointing that only Japanese voices are heard in 'Dragon Ball Fusions.' Not having the voices of Chris Sabat, Sean Schemmel and company makes the game seem like a second-rate entry, despite that not being the case. The rest of the package is fine as sound effects help battles come alive, but Goku unleashing a Kamehameha isn't nearly as fun or recognizable without hearing him chant along with it.
'Dragon Ball Fusions' features hours of role-playing game fun if you streamline the story, but there's even more content packed inside. There are dozens of different side-quests available, and hundreds of characters to unlock (although many are generic looking characters). What makes the side-quests so much fun is that they all feature an entertaining story that drives the action, so there's always a reason behind the player's actions and it never gets into fetch-quest territory. There's a lot of great moments hidden away, such as Goku as a kid getting to meet his father Bardock, so fans of the series will definitely want to complete all of them.
There's also a multiplayer component of 'Dragon Ball Fusions,' but it's local-only. It's pretty one-dimensional, though, so players aren't missing out on much if their friends don't have it. It basically allows players to compete against each other and trade special moves, but that's it. It's certainly a cool addition, but not a core component of the game.
'Dragon Ball Fusions' delivers a fresh take on one of the most heavily adapted franchises. Not only is the role-playing game unique in that it tells an all-new story, it has a fantastic battle system that has plenty of depth hidden under an easy-to-learn exterior. This is a must-own 3DS title for fans of 'Dragon Ball,' and a good RPG that doesn't have to rely upon nostalgia as a core selling point.
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