Dragon Ball Fusions kicks away the trend of retelling the events of the anime as has been the case with literally dozens of games before it. Featuring an original storyline complete with new characters — even one you create yourself — this Nintendo 3DS exclusive deals heavily in fan service, leaving everyone else out in the cold.
Fusions reminds me a little bit of the Legacy of Goku games for GameBoy Advance, only it’s less Final Fantasy and more 3D brawler with RPG mechanics. The game world is also a little less exciting to explore, while progress is gated by a series of barriers that literally block your path until you store enough energy to break them. Energy comes in five flavours – red, blue, yellow, green and purple – and can be earned by defeating certain enemies found all around the game’s map.
Scattered throughout the game’s various environments — which are amalgamations of many iconic locations from the anime — you will face random encounters and side quests to keep you busy outside of the main story. Battling random fighters gives you the opportunity to recruit them to your team, while picking up side quests may lead to more iconic characters such as Bardock, Krillin, Yamcha or Tien joining in your adventure. This makes exploring a rewarding, if not tedious, experience.
Combat is a fusion (not even sorry) of turn-based and action RPG gameplay. Little icons of the current fighters appear on a running timer on the bottom of the 3DS’ top screen, moving left to right, and only when a fighter’s icon reaches the furthest right point can they take their turn. Getting knocked out of the battle area or suffering a huge amount of damage in one hit can knock a fighter back, delaying their turn.
You can take up to five fighters into battle, all of whom come in three distinct type varieties. This works similarly to Paper, Rock and Scissors system, represented in Red, Blue and Yellow – Red is strong against Yellow strong to Blue, and Blue strong to Red. Keeping an even spread of characters in your team is important, especially the further you get into the game. And don’t worry about rotating your teammates to ensure all of them level up evenly – all characters earn experience after a battle, regardless of whether they participated or not.
Fusions’ battles are a lot of fun, and seeing your favourite characters battle in full 3D (note: the 3DS’ actual 3D is disabled for this game) is really great. My only complaint, and this ties into the previous comment about the tediousness of side quests, is they drag on for too long. Almost every action in battle triggers a quick cutscene, from landing a melee attack, to being knocked out of the battle area. With 10 fighters on screen at once and a short five second cutscene occurring after each attack, as a minimum, that time count starts to rack up.
There’s a certain level of strategy involved with battles which I quite like, doing well to alleviate my issues with how lengthy they can be. Positioning your fighters near their allies triggers support attacks, upwards of a maximum of four. The only time you can change the position of your fighters is when firing off a Ki Attack, or when they get knocked out of the battle area. Positioning them in the right place can sometimes lead to a devastating attack, and on occasion I managed to KO an enemy with a single attack this way.
You’re also given the opportunity to block incoming melee attacks and reduce the amount of potential damage your fighter will take. Thing is, your opponents can also do this and while I enjoyed this particular mechanic, it’s yet another thing that further draws out Fusions’ battles.
If you would rather push ahead with Dragon Ball Fusions’ story and ignore all the side content the game certainly won’t punish you for it. You just don’t get rewarded with powerful new fighters. But that’s okay, because most characters can fuse together – hence the game title – to create powerful new forms.
The classic type of fusion as seen in the anime is there from the outset (Trunks / Goten, etc.) These fusions only last a certain amount of time, but allows you to unleash powerful hits on your opponents. Ultra Fusions are five-way fusions that can only be triggered after filling your special metre – which automatically fills over time. These fusions are awesomely powerful, lasting 20 seconds and can often turn the tide of battle if used correctly.
EX Fusion is another fusion type that lets you permanently (or until you reverse it) fuse two characters to create a new form. The first form I created was through fusing young Goku and Krillin to create the very cool looking Gorillin. There’s several dozen potential fusions to make, and only by recruiting as many fighters as possible will you unlock all the cool fusions. It’s all completely fan service, and diehard fans will get a real kick out of seeing their favourite characters come together in these fusions.
Again, the time you want to take investing in recruiting all of the fighters depends on the player. I tried to balance my time evenly between the main story and the side content, though after 10 hours I just started blazing ahead with the former. By this time I’d built up a good roster of fighters, as well as fusions, and felt comfortable pushing ahead. The game’s difficulty does spike up, but if you’re struggling you can divert for a few hours and do some of the side content to help level your characters up.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Dragon Ball Fusions is an enjoyable RPG that perfectly suits the Nintendo 3DS’ portable nature. If whenever you get tired of the game’s unnecessarily long battles you can simply shut the system and go about your day until the urge to play strikes again. Aside from this one major gripe, which makes exploring the game’s optional side content a painful chore, there’s a lot to like here, especially if you’re a Dragon Ball fan. Anyone else might be turned away as the real appeal is bringing together characters to see the fan-service inspired fusions, and getting past the bloated battle system can be a bit difficult.