Are you looking to try something new on your 3DS? Fan of the Dragon Ball series? Enjoy a meaty RPG? If you think you can answer any of these questions I would point you towards giving Dragon Ball Fusions a try on 3DS. Dragon Ball Fusions is a game that will sneak up on you. The game literally sneaked up on everyone by showing up in stores on November 22 instead of its listed December 13th release date (I can only presume to get out before Black Friday). Once I finished and popped the cart into the 3DS, it sneaked up my 3DS games of 2016 too.

Gameplay

 

Dragon Ball Fusions is an interesting game to describe.The most-vanilla description – I would describe it as a turn-based strategy RPG. Its like a Fire Emblem game with a splash of Pokemon and most memorably reminded me of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on the Wii U earlier in 2016. I say its similar to a Pokemon game in the sense that there’s a world available to you in which you travel about encountering battles that will help you level up your team or add new members to your team. You can even check back in at Capsule Corp to heal your party. Sound Familiar? It should.

The Fire Emblem comparisons come from Fusion’s use of a very familiar “triangle” attribute system as well as timing based battle mechanic that takes the environment into consideration when dealing damage.  As you navigate Fusion’s “Open World” you’ll run across battles that you can choose to engage in or push off to another time. When you decide to engage in these battles, your team (up to a party of 5 members) will square off on a pre-determined map with boundaries. A bar appears at the bottom of the screen with an icon for each member that scrolls to convey who’s attack is up next. Characters fit into a triangle on the battlefield. Some characters excel at speed, power, or ki / special attacks. Each of these characteristics has a weakness to the other which is where the Fire Emblem similarities begin to enter the fray. Additionally there’s a action oriented command that determines if your attack is a hit or is partially blocked. After choosing an attack you’re placed in a quick command like sequence where you can pick the direction from which you attack. Choose quickly and carefully though, if you opponent matches your direction it’s considered a block and drastically reduces your attack damage. This is a small but nice layer that adds some gameplay to the action.

Position also plays a key role as it can give you the ability to chain multiple attacks from party members together which is very similar to the system found in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE with the exception that it’s not solely based on exploiting triangle weaknesses (as it is in TMS#FE). During battles in Fusion, you can also chain attacks together by blasting your opponents towards your other teammates which creates this ping-pong volley effect. If you’re lucky to use these skills to knock the opponent out of the ring, you’ll be able to add even more tacked-on damage and even cause that character to miss the next turn if you can’t knock them out all together.

You’ll continue to fly around and fight foes, leveling up and obtaining new squad mates, and ultimately progressing the story by beating boss characters. It’s a rewarding gameplay loop due to the mini-open world areas and the freedom to explore the surroundings. Plus, the turn based battles feature some really great Dragonball-esque animations for melee, ki, and special attacks. For a little extra flavor you’ll be able to edit your team, outfits, and use the all important FUSION technique to come up with rather wonky combinations.

The loop is fun and even has that new game feel, but I’ll admit I began to tire from the same animations after about 15 hours of playtime. You’ll really need to dig deep into the collecting and customization features to play this game to the end in my opinion and I’ve never really been one for collectathons.

Presentation

 

Dragon Ball Fusions looks fantastic on the almost-six-years old 3DS system. The environments are lush with color and the environments are some of the more open areas available on most 3DS games. You’ll wage battle in most of the common Dragon Ball Z backdrops to include an earth with mountains, islands, Kami’s lookout, cities, waterfalls, space, the afterlife and so much more. Fans of the Dragon Ball animated series are going all smiles when I hop from familiar landscape to the next as they keep sinking hours into the game. Fusion’s visuals and soundtrack are impressive enough that I would recommend the game even to players that weren’t familiar with the series.

Taking that a step further, fans of the Dragon Ball series are going to love Dragon Ball Fusions. The entire game is just a crazy thrown together salad of fan service that brings all of your favorite characters and settings into one easy to pick up and play portable RPG. The premise is very simple, your created character (my avatar’s name is Aiko) and trusty companion Pinich set out to collect the Dragon Balls. What for? Well to take on the most powerful warrior in the universe! Your wish is granted by Shenron in the form of an alternate universe containing the most powerful heroes & villains for you discover. It’s a simple premise that puts everyone in the same room without breaking the mainline of the series or forcing you to relive all the same moments so many Dragon Ball Z games have forced in the past. The gotta catch em all approach to building your party and testing each Fusion combination and attacks just allows you weave you’re own web within this loosely connected universe. The story isn’t overwhelming, but its definitely enough.

For a game that performs really well inside the battles, which is what anyone should really care about, I did encounter some buggy moments. Very early on in my travels I encountered a mountain that appeared to missing a texture and was just endless mirroring the surroundings infinitely. The bug didn’t impact the way I played the game at all, but it is still in the same place today as it was on day one. Also, there were moments where the text/localization didn’t appear to match what I was seeing on the screen. When I first encountered Goku’s house for example, I was prompted to go outside even though I was technically… already out there. Both of these examples are minor and not really all that important to my experience, but I imagine I’ll continue to encounter one of these here and there. I know that these tedious moments are commonplace with many RPGs that are localized here for the States, but as a reviewer I still feel like its my duty to point out these blemishes.

 

Value

 

The 3DS family of systems is no stranger to robust RPGs. Be it Pokemon, Bravely Default, the Paper Mario games, Yo Kai Watch, Xenoblade (if you’re playing on the New Nintendo 3DS), or the newly released Dragon Quest games, you’ve got a lot to choose from. So should Dragon Ball Fusions be at the top of your wish list? Well if you’re a big fan of the Dragon Ball cartoons, absolutely. Easy choice. If you’re mildly interested in playing any of the aforementioned games however the decision becomes a bit tricky. Is Fusion’s the best of the RPGs available? Not at all, I think that would go towards the newest Pokemon’s Sun & Moon. Is it the longest RPG out there? Well Fusions strikes out again as I’m pretty sure that would go to Dragon Quest 7 or the upcoming Dragon Quest 8. Fusions is a nice in between though, especially for anyone that’s already played this years Pokemon or Dragon Quest entries. Not to mention the budget price of $29.99 makes it that little bit more attractive on the shelf.

Ultimately, in terms of value, I think Fusions holds up and is worth the risk. The battle system is unique to separate itself and the action-based combat with over the top animations give it that appeals more to the Western audience in my opinion vs. the more Japanese-leaning RPGs.

Conclusion

 

I’ve played 22 hours of Dragon Ball Fusions thus far and absolutely can attest that this game is worth the investment. While I’m far from having beaten the story mode, I do feel like the time I’ve spent with the game is enough to provide a well-informed opinion. I’ll continue playing Dragon Ball Fusions and if there is some ‘Last of Us’ story twist that greatly enhances the game I’ll come back and adjust this review.

Final Say – Dragon Ball Fusions is a budget priced game that offers hours (35+ according to my research) of gameplay with superb visuals and music. Even though all the silliness and humor has to be discovered by reading through lines of text, that familiar Dragon Ball Z humor can still provide a smile to fans of the franchise. The battle system is unique, combining action oriented choices with strategy, and is a fit inside the DBZ universe. Even though I encountered some bugs and began to tire from the gameplay loop after my 20 hours of the game, there’s still enough here to warrant a look whenever you get a chance. Fusions is just a good game, no more no less. This should be on your radar during any upcoming sales events or Christmas gift-card shopping sprees.