Game Review

by Todd Ciolek,

Dragon Ball Fusions


Dragon Ball Fusions
Dragon Ball characters warp across time periods and dimensions into a crossover realm of floating isles and roaming warriors. As an all-new, player-created character, the protagonist joins up with various heroes and villains, all of whom can fuse together into new warriors.
Dragon Ball Fusions says a lot in its title. It's ostensibly about the art of fusion, which in Dragon Ball canon finds two or more character blending themselves into a more powerful being. Yet it could refer to the game just as easily, as this 3DS game is a goofy mashup of characters, places, and memorable flourishes from every corner of Dragon Ball.

The storyline trivializes itself rapidly. The player's character (“Tekka” by default) hatches a plan with Saiyan pal Pinich to summon the dragon Shenron and create a massive tournament that gathers together the strongest warriors imaginable. This births a panoply of interconnected worlds where homes float on islands, the afterlife abode of King Kai is a short skip from the tangible Hercule City, and no one really minds being warped to this new reality, not even if they're fighting alongside younger versions of themselves.

If that's a puffball premise, Dragon Ball Fusions lets players put their own character at the heart of it. The customization doesn't run as deep as Dragon Ball Xenoverse, but the four different races in Fusions seem more like six, given how different the male and female variations are for the “offworlder” and “alien” categories. It's easy to create a fighter, tweak him or her slightly, and assign a name that's preferably a food-based pun. The story pays scant attention to character development, of course, so you'll have to supply your own backstory about how your heroine is really the long-lost princess of an intergalactic royal family sworn to exterminate all Saiyans.

Once created, the main character recruits Goten and Trunks in short order, and then it's time to fly among the hovering archipelago, running into familiar Dragon Ball characters and newly generated warriors. Ganbarion (makers of numerous One Piece games and the original, underappreciated Pandora's Tower) puts a sharp visual stamp on the game; the scenery looks great, the characters capture their cartoon incarnations despite their squat renderings, and it's fun just to dash through the air while upbeat music accompanies.

Fusions makes the daring move of turning Dragon Ball, a series full of up-close fisticuffs, into an RPG. Teams square off in predetermined arenas, within which the player can position characters and maneuver them to attack. Everyone gets melee strikes, long-range energy beams, and extraordinarily damaging special moves, and it's possible to deal out extra hits if you knock a foe into another enemy or kick them out of the circle entirely. Nearby allies can join in for combat, and it's possible to break into short duels of dodging, striking, and dashing to build up a power meter.

Every stacks up neatly. Battles change from rudimentary menu-driven combat to Dragon Ball theatrics, and there's something immensely satisfying about pounding an enemy in a fast-paced burst of energy beams and combat blurs, unleashing bouncing enemies off each other until one of them hurls off into a rocky edifice. Even blocking is a neat mini-game: as in a Dragon Ball Z, the attacker can zip around to attack from different angles, while the defender has to guess which way to direct a barrier.

The battle system runs into repetition eventually, but it's perked up by an impressive volume of characters. The recruitable lineup stretches from expected favorites to relatively recent additions like Beerus and Bardock, all of them ready to join the party and be customized with new moves.

That's where Fusions reveals its greatest strength: as a big collection for Dragon Ball fans. Gathering up new characters and testing them out in battle yields the game's best moments, and it helps that everyone's rendered in shorter, cuter, and friendlier form. They're not quite Rowlets or Pikachus, but every hero and villain is at their silliest and most helpful in this happy little crossover country.

The actual fusions may give the game its title, but they're just another side-effect of filling out your collectible roster of humans, saiyans, and other creatures. Unencumbered by canon, the game lets you combine nearly any assortment of characters, most with the predictable results of a Dragon Ball create-a-character board game. It's an entertaining payoff, though the playable character lineup's emphasis on warriors leaves some goofier sidelined. It's nice that you can find (and fuse) Arale from Toriyama's older classic Dr. Slump, but it'd be even more fun to combine Oolong or Puar with Shenron, the giant wish-granting dragon. Perhaps the sequel will sneak them in alongside more characters from Dr. Slump—and, hey, why not Go! Go! Ackman, Cowa!, and Sand Land?

Fusions assembles no intricate saga; it's mostly a roundup of popular characters and some goofy new faces, and most of the story simply involves flying to some new place, talking to new faces, and building up enough energy to breach the next plot point. Sometimes you'll find a flying mini-game that sends you flying through aerial rings, as though it's a fun version of Superman 64. There's a lot to do, but it often involves the same challenges recycled in harder form. The translation is also a quick-and-dirty job; only Japanese voices are present, and the text is often squashed to fit into dialogue boxes.

Those who care nothing for Dragon Ball won't be won over by Fusions, as is the case with all but the most spectacularly crafted anime-based games, and fans of creature-collecting will find more options in the latest Pokémon or Digimon. Even so, it takes a stern mind not to crack a smile at the earnest nonsense and silly puns of Dragon Ball. Fusions embraces that whenever it can, and it serves up a lightly enjoyable game along the way.

Overall : B
Graphics : B+
Sound/Music : B
Gameplay : B-
Presentation : A-

+ Battles work well with the impressive and humorous style
Gets repetitive in the long run

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