The 3DS had a bit of a rough start back in the day, but since its launch we’ve seen dozens of solid games released for the platform over the years. In particular, it’s been a great place to play some RPGs, much like its rival system the PS Vita. Games like Bravely Default, 7th Dragon III Code: VFD and of course Pokémon have made the 3DS a great system for RPG fanatics.
With Dragon Ball Fusions we’re seeing Bandai Namco take another shot at the genre, and it mostly works…well, despite some localization issues here and there.
The plot’s simple enough: your character and their Saiyan pal Pinich use the Dragon Balls to summon the mystical dragon Shenron and organize the ultimate martial arts tournament. It’s a chance to truly discover the most powerful character in the Dragon Ball universe. Ascending through the new world that Shenron created for the tournament is accomplished by winning battles and proving that you really are the strongest. You’ll need to team up with classic characters like Trunks and Goten to climb to the top of the heap.
Unlike many of its contemporaries, Fusions takes the Dragon Ball series in a different direction: it’s a turn-based RPG! You’ll create a character, choosing from one of five iconic Dragon Ball races and whatever gender you’d prefer, then launch into a whole new setting created for the game. Exploring the world takes place using full 3D movement, allowing you to fly up and around obstacles to seek friends and foes alike.
Combat, meanwhile, is an odd combination of a time-based fighting system as you might remember from Grandia with a positioning-based system inspired by pool. Your character’s attacks will push foes around the battlefield; launching an enemy into a friendly character will result in them adding their attack to your own, causing more damage and pushing the enemy away even further, possibly even into another ally. Long and impressive chain combos are key to victory, as is using your knockback to push enemies out of the ring-shaped arena where battle takes place. Not only does this delay their next turn, it allows you to learn new special moves.
In accordance with the game’s title, Fusion also plays a big role in combat. The usual suspects are here, like Vegito and Gotenks, but there are plenty of original Fusions as well. Fusing two characters together will result in a single more powerful unit, just as you’d expect from the series. This decreases the number of allies you have on the board, but a fused character can be more powerful than the sum of its parts. Weighing the power of Fusion vs. the utility of having more units on the board for chain combos is an important consideration in battle and adds an additional layer of strategy.
All of this comes together to make for an addictive and enjoyable battle system that clearly had a lot of effort put into it. One wishes, however, that the same effort had been put into the game’s localization. It’s one of the worst we’ve seen in the modern era of localization being taken at least semi-seriously; the biggest offense here is that attention wasn’t paid to the size of the game’s text boxes. This means that it’s pretty common that a character’s message will simply cut off mid-sentence, which can lead to some awkward conversations and a lack of clarity in dialogue. Story clearly wasn’t the focus of this game so it’s forgivable, I suppose, but it’s also something that could have easily been caught and addressed with a modicum of playtesting.
Other than the embarrassing localization errors, Dragon Ball Fusions is a joy to play through. It looks and sounds great given the hardware that it’s running on, plus it incorporates plenty of beloved characters from the series. The battle system is unique and enjoyable, though combat can drag on a little bit as characters are bounced to and fro. Fans might want to give it a shot, but the poor localization hurts the game’s appeal for newcomers and those who aren’t willing to overlook that sort of thing.