Dragon Ball Fusions is one of those games that you would think would satisfy all Dragon Ball fans expectations when it comes to fan service. Having the ability to combine any character from all generations of the Dragon Ball series is one of those things people have wished for since fusions became a thing. However a lackluster story and the limiting nature of the Nintendo 3DS hardware shatters those dreams into a soul crushing reality.
Game Name: Dragon Ball Fusions
Platform: Nintendo 3DS (Reviewed)
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: North America: November 22, 2016 / Europe: February 17, 2017
Disclosure: Review copy provided by PR company on behalf of Bandai Namco Entertainment.
The story behind Dragon Ball Fusions is pretty simple. Two kids by the names of Tekka (aka the player character) & Pinich collect the Dragon Balls and summon Shenron. Their wish is to find out who is the strongest fighter in all of time and space. Shenron opens up a Timestream and both boys get dragged into it. Upon arriving at a weird mash up of all the Dragon Ball lands, the two meet up with Trunk & Goten. From here you basically make your way through the usual bunch of encounters with the longest list of Dragon Ball characters ever seen in a video game. Along the way you learn how to fuse with other characters to interesting and powerful results. Overall there’s nothing here that we haven’t experienced before. Sure it’s not the usual “play through the sagas” story that we’ve had so many times in every other Dragon Ball based video game, but there’s just nothing too interesting here to call an actual story.
The gameplay in Dragon Ball Fusions is really very simple. Dragon Ball Fusions uses a rock-paper-scissors style system mixed with a simple set of attacks ranging from melee and ranged beam attacks in a team setting. What makes Dragon Ball Fusions different is that once the attacks are done, you have a chance to strike your opponent into their teammate creating a chain of damage that could lead to a ring out. When you ring out an opponent, you reset their meter and delay their attacks. A smart player can abuse this system so that they don’t have to take much damage at all.
However, the main draw of Dragon Ball Fusions is the fusion system. This system allows an almost unlimited amount of combinations of two characters into one more powerful fighter. If you want to combine Goku Black and Broly to really do some damage, then you can. You want to combine Krillin with Cell and see the result, you can. You can even do some very powerful combinations like Trunks and his Future self. But the biggest and best thing in this system is the ability to combine up to five characters into the ultimate being based around your race type (Earthling, Saiyan, Namekian, Offworlder and Alien) and really do some damage.
Graphically, Dragon Ball Fusions is giving us a down-scaled version of the cell shading that other Dragon Ball games have used in recent years. So when it comes to character models, they do an amazing job with the look. Also since the characters are a “chibi” (aka small style) versions of what we are used to, you do get some characters who look downright adorable while others look very out of place with the head usually being larger than their body. With the animation in Dragon Ball Fusions, it looks like they have taken them right out of the shows and made them look a lot more dramatic when possible. Dragon Ball Fusions really does try to take the aging Nintendo 3DS hardware to it’s limits while keeping everything flowing nicely with no issues in frames per second or anything like that.
If there is anything that is forgettable about Dragon Ball Fusions it’s the sound. The music is the usual generic background stuff taken from titles like Dragon Ball Xenoverse. There’s no use of classic Dragon Ball themes like Head Cha-La or Cho-Zets Dynamic from the recent Dragon Ball Super anime series. It’s a real shame because those themes are iconic and just downright awesome sounding no matter what type of hardware is playing it. Another big issue with Dragon Ball Fusions is the lack of full voice acting. I know it would take up a lot more space on the limited 3DS storage, but to reduce everyone down to very basic exclamation phrases and generic grunts just really pulls you out of the story; especially with you being a very silent protagonist. Surely we could have done more with the sound design here instead of just teasing what could have been.
Overall, Dragon Ball Fusions is a great game in concept that really needed to be on something other than the very limiting Nintendo 3DS. If Bandai-Namco Entertainment had put this on the Playstation 4 or Xbox One with full voice acting, cutscenes and upgraded graphics they would have had a real winner here. However putting it on the 3DS was an interesting if yet limiting experience. I did enjoy meeting, befriending and eventually fusing with one of the largest Dragon Ball game rosters in recent history, but the overly simple nature of the game turned this from a must play to a play it for a week and then forget I had it thing. It’s a real shame that when I finished the game I had no desire to return to it because it’s a great game, but just not enough to keep me playing beyond obligations.
Good in concept, limited by hardware
Dragon Ball Fusions is a wish forfilment to some degree. While it gives us the concept of being able to fuse any character we want, the rest of the game doesn’t live up to that one mechanic. Personally I blame the release of it on the Nintendo 3DS as it limited the other aspects of the game in order to pull off the main mechanic. The game is still fun to play, if not easy to abuse. Dragon Ball Fusions is a game that is going to cater to the casual Dragon Ball fan and the hardcore alike, but the hardcores might not like the overall package once the thrill of fan service wears off.