There have been many Dragon Ball games over the years, and one universal truth exists: they seem to get better as time goes by. Early efforts on the SNES, Mega Drive, PlayStation and Saturn left a bad taste in the mouths of series fans, but lately Bandai Namco's Dragon Ball Xenoverse sub-series has redressed the balance neatly. Although the Xenoverse titles aren't available on Nintendo 3DS, the folks at Bandai Namco decided to take the freedom of Xenoverse and fuse it with an RPG to create an exciting new product in the form of Dragon Ball Fusions for 3DS.
The journey starts with you creating your custom fighter, but you first have to select the race of your character: Earthling, Saiyan, Namekian, Offworlder, and Alien. Each race has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, with Earthlings being the perfect balance of offense and defense. After deciding upon the race that best represents your style of play, you then personalize your avatar by choosing their facial features, hairstyle, and voice from a limited selection of options.
While previous Dragon Ball games have enjoyed retelling the events of the Dragon Ball manga and anime, the narrative of Dragon Ball Fusions is an original tale that carries with it the charm and humour you have come to expect from the series. The story of Fusions opens with you and your friend, Pinich, gathering the dragonballs and making a wish for the ultimate martial arts tournament. The eternal dragon, Shenron, grants the wish and so begins your Dragon Ball Fusions adventure.
Progressing through the game's story is done by meeting and talking with various Dragon Ball fighters from the numerous story arcs and fulfilling the demands necessary to advance to a new area. As the story and side-missions are completed, you will battle and recruit fighters in an effort to assemble the most powerful and formidable team for the upcoming tournament. You can recruit iconic Dragon Ball characters from the original Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, and even Dragon Ball Super. Even characters exclusively found in the movies, like Broly, can be recruited to your team. Any lifelong fan of the Dragon Ball series should find it gratifying to see so many characters get recognition.
Recruiting a fighter to your team does take a little effort, however. Firstly, you can only recruit fighters that have a star next to their Level-Rank. During battle, you will need to use your Zenkai attack against opponents with the star. Defeating said opponent with the Zenkai attack will persuade them to join your team.
Enrolling new fighters not only strengthens your team, it is also a necessity when it comes time to advance the main story. In order to progress through the narrative, one must acquire a specific amount of energy in order to gain access to the next area of the game. You earn energy by winning battles; but by scouting new members from the different playable races, you will increase the amount of energy you can store for each race. Recruiting members of different races will provide you with the energy type that corresponds to their race, and aid you in reaching the required energy level to advance. Acquiring energy necessitates a moderate time investment, and can feel like a tedious task.
The battle system of Dragon Ball: Fusions is brilliant and highly entertaining. Battles are waged in an arena of sorts, where each team is aligned on opposite sides. Once the battle begins, you are free to move your characters anywhere in the designated combat area. Making use of a turn-based battle system, there is some strategy at play here and you should consider all possibilities prior to launching an attack. Depending on how the opposing team is positioned, it is possible to knock challengers into each other and inflict quick damage to all the opposition. Conversely, you can also knock enemies towards allies to create a short chain of combos.
One must also take note of how close an enemy is to the boundary of the battle arena for it is possible to knock a foe out of the arena, and in doing they'll receive extra damage. Furthermore, since the game uses a turn-based battle system, knocking an adversary out of the arena will reset their move back to the starting point, thus giving you a battle advantage.
Each character can perform a basic melee attack, an energy attack, or a special attack – these include skills like the Kamehameha and Galick Gun. As you battle and inflict damage, you will fill a gauge that will allow you unleash powerful attacks, including the Zenkai attack and the Five-Way Fusion technique. The Five-Way Fusions technique will fuse all five of your fighters into one super warrior, allowing you to annihilate the opposing team with ease.
Depending on the strength of your team and the level of the opposing force, the length of a battle can range quite significantly. Some battles can be won in just a couple of minutes, while battles with high-ranking enemies will take closer to 10 minutes. Since combat feels like was watching an episode of Dragon Ball, chances are you won't begrudge the long battle sequences. Even though the 3DS is getting a bit long in the tooth these days, the visuals still look impressive.
After winning a battle, you will gather energy, earn experience, and acquire new skills to teach your fighters. Much like a Pokémon game or any RPG, you can only assign a set number of special attacks to a fighter – so you'll have to think about which skills will prove beneficial during combat.
Forget the disappointing video game adaptations of the past, Dragon Ball has finally come of age on consoles. Dragon Ball Fusions fuses fan service with an enjoyable story and battle system to create a fresh Dragon Ball video game experience, with the only blot being the sometimes tedious energy aquisition process . If you are looking for a new and original Dragon Ball title to play on your 3DS, your wish has been granted.