By now there have been so many Dragon Ball games that they’ve practically ticked off every genre there is. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to know that this isn’t the first time Goku and co. have taken their war of fisticuffs to the world of card-based battles. The franchise has one of the most successful TCG (trading card games) to its name, and it’s been on the virtual card scene since the days of Game Boy Color . So it’s rather fitting that the tactical cardboard skirmishes of Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission should make their way to the intimate handheld realm of Nintendo Switch. It seems like a match made in anime heaven, but can it live up to the other strong new contenders on the collectible card game scene?
With the likes of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions proving that you really don’t need Hearthstone or the latest Magic: The Gathering release on your platform to enjoy a great CCG, World Mission needs to do more than just have a decent battle system and deck building suite. What it does best is take the things that makes Dragon Ball so ridiculously lovable - namely its extensive cast of colourful characters, its vast and complicated story sagas and its penchant for over-the-top violence - and melds it with the basic concepts of a card battler to create something so madcap it’s DB to a tee.
Originally launched in 2010 in various different variants, World Mission boasts cards from the eight - yes, eight - previous versions that launched in Japanese arcades, on iOS and on 3DS. The series is big business in Japan (so much so that’s even spawned its own manga series) so fans of the franchise will get the most of seeing Mechikabura, Putine, Vegeta and more in action. Thankfully, while some of these wider storylines will pass right over the heads of new players, the flow of the main game’s super meta plot - a young boy finds the characters from the game appearing in real-life when he attempts to compete in a Dragon Ball Heroes tournament - is just open enough for DB-agnostic players to enjoy the mechanics for what they are.
So how has Bandai Namco managed to combine the action of a fighting game with a CCG? Well, by opting for an experience that’s more about subtle tactics than real-time inputs. Cards represent characters from the franchise's many branching storylines, and each one you add to your deck will simulate that particular fighter when you begin a match. You can choose up to seven cards, so when you begin a fight you’ll have the same number of muscled-up, giant-haired warriors at your disposal. When you first start out it’s more about working with your starting deck and learning the ins and outs of combat, but as you unlock more cards you soon start to see the benefit of learning how certain characters complement and contradict one another’s strengths.
Battles are automatic for the most part, with all the mid-air uppercuts and flashy signature moves you’ve seen before in, say, Dragon Ball FighterZ, but don’t believe this is some mobile-like affair. There’s not a huge amount of depth to the tactics of a match - this was originally designed for use in arcades with physical cards, after all - but there’s still a great sense of satisfaction from learning when to rest certain fighters and the best strategies for building up the energy needed to pull-off potentially match-ending supermoves.
However, while it might resemble a real-time waiting game, World Mission requires your constant attention. Before each round, you’ll have a Prep Phase in which to move your fighters into battle. Doing so increases the total collective might of your squad. If you get your team ready before your opponent, you’ll get a bonus. If your total is higher, then you’ll unleash your attacks first. Encounters between characters are usually depicting a Charged Battle, which is effectively a QTE where you’ll need to hit ‘A’ at the opportune time to fill a bar. If you bar is more filled than your opponent’s your attack or defence will be bolstered.
In between battles you can roam the streets and shops of Hero Town (think Splatoon 2’s Inkopolis Square, but with a heavy coat of DB paint), unlock new cards in the gacha shop (via currency you earn through completing missions), play mini-games in the Hero Lab to increase your prowess in battle and battle your friends in both local and online multiplayer matches. While its storyline isn’t the most engaging use of DB lore - which is kind of expected with this kind of ‘meta’ plot - with more than 350 characters and over 1,000 cards to choose from there’s enough extra ‘stuff’ to make up for it.
Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission is the best version of the long-running card-battling series yet, boasting a raft of new adjustments, extra cards and fresh missions to keep you coming back for more. It’s packed to the rafters with content, from a heavy-duty story mode to local and online battles, so if you’re a fan of the series you’re going to lap up this entry now it’s finally arrived in the West. While it lacks the deeper tactical nuance of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions, it’s still a fun and unapologetically Japanese arcade experience right there on your Switch.