The story of Dragon Ball Z has been retold in video game form many times over, but it’s always interesting to see alternate scenarios of the hugely popular series. Dragon Ball Fusions is another game, based on the anime and manga series from Akira Toriyama, that attempts to mix up everything we know about these iconic anime characters. The concept of fusions, two fighters combining into one, is played up a lot during the course of this role-playing adventure, which leads to some fun combinations of characters that never had the same kinds of interactions in the original stories. However, a few nagging issues keep this adventure from being an amazing return to the world of Dragon Ball Z.
Unlike many other titles based on the anime for the Nintendo 3DS, Fusions takes a different approach by being a turn based role-playing game instead of a traditional fighter. A lot of what you play in Fusions is very similar to older Dragon Ball Z games like The Legacy of Goku series that was on Gameboy Advanced. You can explore a wide area of places based on locations from the anime, with an ensemble of characters from many arcs of the series. The story is completely original and not based on any one arc from the anime, which gives a lot of room for events to happen that we aren’t already accustomed to seeing unfold.
There are lots of playable characters to discover and plenty of side quests to undertake. The references to past events Dragon Ball fans will already know, but the game doesn’t harp on it for very long and instead focuses on making things feel new. Though there are a few silly moments that feel forced, especially in some of the dialogue exchanges between a few important characters in the story.
Battles are fought like a traditional role-playing game, where you and the enemy take turns launching attacks and moving along a designated battle area. The kicker is that fighters in your party can combine their strength for team attacks and, like the title suggests, fusions of their power. Selecting attacks and abilities is simple as each of your characters take turns in battle, along with any additional actions from team-based attacks and abilities.
The early portions of the game felt a little bit easy with the kinds of things I can do during my turn, but the challenge eventually started to grow with each battle as I progressed through the game. I quickly found myself positioning fighters in key spots on the field to bounce around my enemies between them when I launched attacks, leading to some big damage and quick victories.
Attacking and defending are done in an interesting fashion. When an attack occurs, the defender has a chance to minimize the damage by blocking a direction around them, while the attacker chooses a direction to attack. If both line up head on, the damage in minimized by a great amount. However if an attack lands behind a defender, the damage is greatly increased. This leads to some tense moments in some battles that would otherwise be quick and easy wins. However, guessing where enemies would attack me from is a bit too random and dependent on chance to block an attack. I never felt that the strength of my characters improved my ability to avoid weaker attacks.
The exploration in Dragon Ball Fusions is both a hit and a miss. You can fly around to different areas that are key locations from the show, but reaching new places can sometimes be a bit annoying with the energy requirements to unlock them. You have to complete battles to obtain energy to break the locks on specific areas, and while that isn’t bad idea, the requirements to find specific energy colors can be a bit annoying. The controls for flying around in the game aren’t that great either. Flying in one direction and boosting can be a little difficult, especially when you need to turn your direction. It doesn’t break the experience completely, but it does take some time to get accustomed to.
There is some multiplayer functionality in Dragon Ball Fusions, but unfortunately is limited to local multiplayer. You can battle against another in 5 vs. 5 battles, similar to that of the main story. Online would have been ideal to include in something like this, especially since the gameplay is turn-based rather than action based.
Unless you have other friends that are big Dragon Ball fans like you, then chances are you’re not going to play the multiplayer whatsoever. It feels like a missed opportunity, since elements like battles and possibly even trading personal characters would’ve been an interesting aspect to include.
Dragon Ball Fusions is an interesting concept that fans of the Dragon Ball anime and manga will enjoy. It won’t bring in any new fans however, especially since they won’t have an appreciation for all the different combinations of characters interacting with one another. The battles are simple turn-based combat that are easy to get into, but have a few issues that prevent battles from being perfect. Flying around and exploring could have been more fun with better controls and less restrictions on discovering new areas. If the Dragon Ball anime or manga is your thing, then it wouldn’t hurt checking out Dragon Ball Fusions for your Nintendo 3DS. But if not, then you’re not missing out on anything important here.
This review is based on a digital review code of Dragon Ball Fusions for Nintendo 3DS, provided by Bandai Namco.