Dragon Ball games on handheld systems never managed to impress me before. I’ve played Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2, a fighting game for the DS, and fighting game mechanics don’t translate well to the limited graphical and control capability of a handheld. Because of this I kind of winced at Dragon Ball Fusions, the latest entry in Dragon Ball’s 3DS lineup, which made it all the more pleasantly surprising when it ended up becoming my second favourite Dragon Ball game of all time.
Fusions follows the tale of a couple young lads including the player character Tekka and his friend Pinich, and the game starts as they use the seven Dragon Balls to summon Shenron. Their wish: to create a tournament that will decide who is the strongest warrior of all time. Shenron grants their wish in the form of the Timespace Tournament, held in a special Timespace Rift that allows the strongest fighters from any time and place to compete. There honestly isn’t much to the story elements of the game, but it does what it needs to, which is bringing together a huge cast of iconic Dragon Ball characters so that you can beat the piss out of them.
The Timespace Rift serves as a sort of open hub world, full of floating islands that contain established locations from the Dragon Ball universe. You’ll find places such as Capsule Corp, King Kai’s house, Master Roshi’s island, and Cell’s Arena. Players need to progress through the various stages of the Timespace Rift to make it to the tournament, putting together a team of five fighters along the way. As well as being able to recruit iconic Dragon Ball characters over the course of the story, there are plenty of random encounters to be had with a variety of original fighters that end up looking like the bastardised children of the main characters from Dragon Ball, each of which can be recruited to your roster if you give them the smackdown just right. Saiyans, Namekians, Earthlings, and Offworlders – all of which will need to be recruited to create a diverse pool of fighters that allow you to make it to the Timespace Tournament.
The combat is honestly not something I expected from a Dragon Ball game, in the best way possible. The game takes a turn based approach within a set area, in which you can move your five characters around to position them in a way that gives you a tactical advantage. Think something along the lines of Fire Emblem but with Dragon Ball characters. Each character has melee and ranged ki attacks, with varying power levels from character to character, as well as 3 special moves with a range of different AoEs and debuffs. For example Kamehameha will hit enemies in a long and wide area, while a move like Shooting Rain hits any other enemies within a circular area around the main target. One melee special move may temporarily blind a target, while another may give their target lowered defense. I also want to note that the beloved beam struggle mechanics make a comeback, and it makes me wonder why they ever made a Dragon Ball game without it (I’m looking at you Xenoverse). As well as this, it’s possible to knock enemies back in the turn order, by either using special moves, or knocking them out of the ring, which will put them right at the back of the queue. The combat requires strategy, planning, and a well rounded team, and has a lot of depth without being too complex.
While there are special moves that allow team members to fuse into a single warrior during battle, including an ultimate 5 way fusion attack that incorporates the whole team (which is sick), there’s also a mechanic to fuse two team members indefinitely from your main spaceship base. For something that was a main selling point of the game, I found the fusion mechanic to be incredibly picky when it came to which characters where allowed to fuse. Sure, you can recreate all of the canon fusions from the series, like Trunks and Goten becoming Gotenks, and I finally got to fulfill my dream of fusing my self insert character with Goku, but all of the original characters seem to only fuse with specific other original characters. As a result I ended up not using this a lot.
A turn based Dragon Ball RPG is something I never knew I needed until I got it, and Dragon Ball Fusions nailed almost every aspect of it as far as I’m concerned. While there isn’t much in the way of story, the gameplay is a great combination of turn based and real time elements, and I appreciate the huge roster of old and new Dragon Ball characters. If you’re feeling a little disappointed with Dragon Ball games lately after a watered down experience like Xenoverse 2, then this bite sized package of super Saiyan slammin’ is like a Senzu bean to the system.
Also published on Medium.