Sweet as Syrup: Dragon Ball Fusions Review

I know I’ve been talking about Dragon Ball an awful lot on this blog, but it’s a series I find myself being drawn back into by the newer games and shows. Even though I have voiced my distaste for the new Dragon Ball anime, I still found myself enjoying the show in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. However, a month ago I received this awesome gift from my good friend 92Days. It was a Dragon Ball game that I had never played before, but heard was awesome.

This was Dragon Ball Fusions, a game that had blown up Japan and did moderately well. I’m a huge fan of Dragon Ball and thought this would be the perfect game to write up a review on. I want to tackle other DB games in the future, such as the Legacy of Goku games, as well as the Origins series. For now, let’s start with one of the newest titles: Dragon Ball Fusions!

Background Information

Dragon Ball Fusions was a turn-based RPG for the 3DS family of consoles. It was released on August in Japan, and November in America. The game is has one of the highest number of playable characters in any Dragon Ball game ever made, with the exception of Dragon Ball Heroes and Dragon Ball: Dokkan Battle. The game sold very well in Japan, but failed to be successful in America due to an extreme lack of advertising.

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Weird self-insert Dragon Ball characters: The Videogame

Plot

The game starts in an unknown year in Dragon World (The primary setting of the series) and focuses on two youths. These two young men are Tekka (Who’s appearance, name, and abilities are up to the player to choose) and a Saiyan named Pinich. You are best friends with Pinich, though the game never goes into detail on how you met or how you know him. You’re just kind of friends because… Reasons.

Anyway, the two of you summon Shenron in order to wish for the ultimate martial arts tournament. Unfortunately, the wish goes wrong and all of the various realities and timelines of the Dragon Ball universe become merged into one. This includes the original Dragon Ball show, Z, GT, Super, as well as fair amount of the movies. Your main character is partnered with four other characters: Pan, Kid Goku, Goten, and Trunks.

Of course, you’ll obtain hundreds of other characters, but these will be your starting teammates. They will also appear in all cutscenes, even if they aren’t in your party. The teammates themselves feel very developed for a kids game and the writers of this game pay very close attention to detail. A lot of the entertainment value of the plot comes with how the characters work off of each other. The interactions lead a lot of in-jokes that long-time fans will get a kick out of.

Having all these different versions of all these classic characters interacting with each other adds a fair bit of depth and comedy to the proceedings. However, I couldn’t help but feel the story felt a bit formulaic. I appreciated that there wasn’t any hamstrung morals shoved in my face, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the plot felt underdeveloped. It’s simple and easy to follow, but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s almost too simplistic, yet remains entertaining throughout.

Still, the plot was enjoyable for it was. It was silly, nonsensical, and somewhat short, but had a lot of heart to it. The game developers put a lot of thought into making a living-breathing world that encapsulated all of the various Dragon Ball universes, and I’d say that they succeeded hands-down! However, the story is just the appetizer when it comes to what I look for in a game. Time to move on to the main course!

Gameplay

Dragon Ball Fusions is by nature an open-world strategy RPG, a turn-based RPG that focuses on you building a party and having them do battle with other teams. I’m not usually a fan of this king of RPG, however Dragon Ball Fusions managed to get me both interested and invested in its gameplay and world. The game’s combat is primarily focused on having teams of 5 fighting each other. You control a party of 5, as does the opponents you go up against.

Battles take place from an isometric view. You control each party member individually, as does your opponent. The speed of each individual character determines when their move comes up next, relative to their teammates and opponents. This means having a higher speed gives you a combat advantage when compared to your opponents. When it’s your turn, you are a given variety of options of how to proceed. You can do melee attacks, ki blasts, special attacks, or even unique abilities that are specific to the character you play as. This adds a lot of much needed variety to the characters and combat, and having the right blend of characters and special attacks can guarantee you a victory.

There are three different types to consider when choosing which characters to attack with: Speed, Power, and Technique. These different types are strong and weak against the others, in a sort of rock-paper-scissors formation. Sadly, you’ll rarely ever need to take the type advantages into consideration when playing the main game and most of its side-content. Usually, certain attacks and abilities are going to guarantee you victory no matter the type.

The combat sadly lacks balance. Certain moves can just decimate your opponent (such as Energy Burst or Full Power Kamehameha) and this can lead to a lot of enemies overpowering your team using cheap tactics. The unbalanced combat unfortunately makes the game’s online multiplayer a bit problematic as well. The lack of balance turns strategic online battles into games of “Who can turn into a Super Saiyan first?”. Online multiplayer also has a tendency to chug like crazy whenever you perform a Zenkai Attack or Ultra Fusion. This immense amount of lag causes online play to move at a snail’s pace.

The biggest draw of the game is the EX Fusion system. In Dragon Ball, fusions were usually only limited to certain characters. Fusions were always used sparingly and were almost entirely useless most of the time. EX Fusions are different, as they allow you to fuse all sorts of characters to together. Your custom main character can fuse with anyone, while all the other characters in the game are limited to fusing with specific characters. Fusing two characters together can generate a substantially more powerful character, but other times it can hold back a particularly strong character. It’s a pretty unique system that allows for flexibility, and allows you mix and match to your heart’s content.

The game has over 1000 characters to obtain, if you include EX fusions and Ultra Fusions. Ultra Fusions are simply limit breaks that involve you fusing all 5 of your party members together. While you can do some serious damage with this attack, it also leaves you wide open after you use it. Then there is the crux of this entire game: EX Fusions. This gives the game a lot of replay value, as you’ll find yourself collecting characters long after the credits have rolled. While I like the EX Fusion system, I won’t deny that it has some problems. For one thing, if you want to de-fuse a character, you have to go through the arduous task of reassigning the specials moves to each specific character. This slows down the EX Fusion process considerably, and often causes me to ignore the system entirely.

Another problem with EX Fusion is that some of the fusions look downright ugly, especially the ones involving the generic NPCs. You’re bound to create some freaky abominations while playing this game, which is kind of fun in a way. What isn’t fun is the fusion process itself. Some fusions are so ludicrously difficult to get, sometimes involving you jump through some rather large hoops. Some fusions require you beat the 100 man tournament, or complete all 16 quizzes at the quiz house. That’s not even bringing into account all the fusions that require characters have a specific special move to use. It’s so hard finding that right special move, especially when you really need it.

The game has a wide variety of special moves available to the player, a lot of which can vary up the gameplay a lot. These moves also act as equipment, with certain moves providing buffs to the character who equips it. Unfortunately, storing these moves and saving them for later is a terrible ordeal. The game provides a bank that can only hold 30 special moves, making it near impossible to build a massive library. There’s no way to expand this bank, so you are stuck with a special move bank that can barely hold any special moves.

One of my favorite elements of this game is the character customization. While the options you can choose for your characters are limited, you can still customize a fair bit of how he/she will look. You can also obtain different sets of clothing in game and then tweak their color to your heart’s content. You can also change your character’s appearance even more through EX Fusion, allowing your character to take on a whole heap of wacky appearances.

While the game does feature a wealth of content, the story mode is insanely short. Most of your gameplay experience will mostly involve the post-game content you’ll partake in after the main quest is done. In a way, this makes Dragon Ball Fusions a giant sandwich, with two thin bread slices of story content and the rest being the juicy slabs of meat that act as the game’s filler. I have no problem with this, I just wish the main quest was a bit longer.

Visual Stimuli

This game looks amazing! This game has some of the best graphics you’ll ever see in a 3DS game. It has stunning visuals, though lacks the 3D features often associated with a game on this console. The voice acting is pretty good, though I could never fully get into it. I never grew up with the Japanese voice acting team, so hearing them speak through my favorite Dragon Ball characters was a bit odd.

The soundtrack for this game was fantastic, truly a delight to my earbuds. Songs sounded like something you’d hear from the show and the game knew just when to use them at the right time. The game performs well, though the aforementioned online mode isn’t stable at all. It’s possible to get kicked out randomly before you can reach an opponent to fight.

Honestly, I think the presentation is the strongest part of this game. While I was iffy on the gameplay and plot, I felt that the way the game looked really won me over. Never before have I seen a game that was made for a handheld that filled me with such glee. Couple this with the amazing soundtrack and good voice-acting, and you definitely have a winning combo!

In Summation

I’m conflicted on this game. While it’s true that it has great graphics and a fun and unique combat system, it fell into the trap of being too repetitive and slow. Fights dragged out for far too long and the plot felt devoid of the creative energy that helped the power the series for so long. Despite this, I found the game to be a pleasure to play. Heck, I loved it so much that I’ve nearly 100% completed it, which is something I never do with RPGs!

It’s got a lot of heart to it and its immense amount of characters and quests managed to win me over. Despite its many flaws, I can definitely say that Dragon Ball Fusions is as sweet as syrup. I only really recommend this game to fans of strategy RPGs and Dragon Ball. I don’t think there’s enough here for fans who are unfamiliar with the franchise. Still, if you like the grindy nature of something like Dragon Quest mixed with the silliness of Dragon Ball, then this is something you need to play.

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