Video Games Review: Dragon Ball Fusions (Nintendo 3DS, 2017)

As a fan of the Dragon Ball franchise, its newest handheld entry, Dragon Ball Fusions, was an absolute delight. Blending the colourful characters of Akira Toriyama’s ever-expanding series with surprisingly addictive turn-based gameplay, Fusions provides an entertaining and gorgeous-looking romp through the many worlds and environments of the Dragon Ball series. While it may not break new ground within the JPRG genre, the game is a satisfying journey with a simple, but effective story, and provides many hours of enjoyable gameplay.

Allowing you to create and customise your own character from a choice of Earthling, Saiyan, Namekian, Offworlder or Alien classes (as if anyone would choose anything other than a Saiyan), Fusions starts off strong, introducing you to Pinich, your friend and rival, as you summon the dragon balls and wish for the ultimate fighting tournament. It is this wish that kicks off the action of the main game, as you and Pinich are thrust into a bright, newly created world filled with new and old fighters from the Dragon Ball series. The game spends little time delving into the mythos of the dragon balls, but swings you right into action, introducing villains Nappa and Raditz, and your soon-to-be allies, Goten and Trunks. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, this cold open may confuse, but with a simple, innocuous story and effective, fast-paced action, even non-fans should find it easy to enjoy the game and its many, colourful characters. When I say many, I mean it – Dragon Ball Fusions allows you to befriend over 1,000 characters to fight and fuse by your side. For the completionists out there, this number may seem like wild overcompensation, but it does allow for a wide range of customisation and choice, and hunting and collecting new fighters is a great way to keep you engaged.

Overall, I did feel there was a lack of depth in the game’s story, and while the general premise is neat and works well within the world of the game, there are times when Fusions seems a bit vapid and unnecessary, as it adds little to the Dragon Ball mythos. Visiting certain villages does allow you to take on side quests that expand the world of the game somewhat, and helps you earn the experience needed to level up and take on more powerful moves. This process both added and hindered my enjoyment of the game, as while side quests allowed for stronger characters, many of the quests were repetitive and boring.

Fusions is peppered with fun mini-games, quizzes and side quests to keep you entertained on your journey to become the ultimate fighter, with a particular favourite of mine being the flight mini-game, where you attempt to navigate an obstacle course and pass through a series of coloured rings. It reminded me a lot of the speedways of Spyro, a seeming call back to the days of classic adventure games. These games, along with character quests and the main story mean that there is a whole lot to do within the world of Fusions, despite the boredom that soon sets in from the inanity of these games.

While the game makes very little use of the system’s 3D functionality, the worlds it presents are crisp and colourful, with a variety of iconic environments from the series to explore. The base worlds are gorgeous and make great use of Toriyama’s animation style, immersing you in a world that perfectly captures both the look and feel of the anime series. While flying through these worlds is largely delightful, the frustrating flight system marred the experience somewhat, as the camera has a tendency to flip wildly while you attempt to cross the map. With time and practice, this became less of an issue, but the camera system did hinder my progress in the initial levels.

The combat of the game, which I was most cautious about, also took some mastering, but proved to be a fun new take on turn-based battles. As a fighter, you can unleash melee and ki attacks, as well as special moves such as the classic Kamehameha or the Galick Gun. Combining turn-based moves with quick time blocking and strategy, the battle system is complex, but allows for the set up of intense, powerful combos and devastating attacks. Setting up two fighters close by and knocking an enemy into them kicks of kind of battle Ping-Pong, with enemies bouncing back and forth between your strategically placed fighters. These combos were an absolute highlight for me, as the satisfaction brought by a well-executed combo was endless. Less delightful was the quick time blocking system, which required a level of hand eye co-ordination and quick reaction time that, quite clearly, I don’t possess. Multiple times in battle, I ate the full force of a powerful combo because I wasn’t quick enough to block my opponent’s attack. Overall though, the combat system is neat and well executed, and makes up a large part of the charm of the game.

The repetition of battle does wear you down after several hours, but the ability to fuse your fighters and gain powerful new attacks allows the novelty to stay fresh and exciting for quite some time. Zenkai moves, obtainable during your first boss battle, allow you to take on your opponent one on one while dodging and attacking. These moves are more akin to the action of the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games, and provide welcome, challenging relief from the relatively stress-free turn-based battle system. Fusions are another way that the game keeps the combat fresh and exciting, despite an overall lack of challenge in combat. The fusions possible within the game are endless, and a lot of them, ridiculous, but the powerful attacks that fusions unleash are devastating, and another reason why the combat of Fusions is so entertaining. While classic fusions such as Vegito and Gotenks make appearances, every fighter can be fused leading to some hilarious combinations such as the unfortunately named ‘Natz’, the fusion of Nappa and Raditz.

With an expansive multiplayer system, Fusions allows you to take on other fighters across the globe, a system that fits in so perfectly with the premise of the game. These fights require intense concentration and battle strategy, as many of the fighters online, as one might expect, are tough and highly experienced. I spent very little time exploring the depths of the multiplayer system as several humiliating defeats had me scampering back to the safety and comfort of the main game. Despite this, multiplayer battles are a fun and challenging way to keep you entertained, and ensure many more hours of engagement and longevity for the title.

Overall, Dragon Ball Fusions is a unique, world-hopping adventure with neat gameplay, a range of fun characters and immersive, gorgeously rendered worlds to explore. Fans and non-fans alike will find much to like in this new entry to the series, with enough substance and freshness to keep the gameplay exciting and largely unique. After several misfires in the Dragon Ball game franchise, Fusions is a well-earned hit, and despite some tedious battle repetition, it provides a unique and highly enjoyable gameplay experience.

Review Score: 7.5/10
Highlights: Brilliant graphics; Great worlds; Variety of companions
Lowlights: Battle repetition; Grinding for powerful fusions; Camera issues; Lack of difficulty
Developer: Ganbarion
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS