I don’t hate anime. I just never got into it. To me, anime is like a glass house. I can look inside it and see things inside that pique my various interests but whenever I try opening the door to check things out, I realize I don’t have the key. The key could be laying around here somewhere, but I just can’t muster the desire to check all the bushes and lift up all the rocks. Despite all the recommendations of what to watch, I still haven’t been able to find that one special anime that just makes everything click.
I wouldn’t say the ridiculousness is something that holds me back; I watch ridiculous movies all the time. Take Riki-Oh. Sure it’s a masterpiece in absurdity, but it’s also as live-action anime you can get. But why I can’t get into the anime or manga versions of Riki-Oh is beyond me.
Dragon Ball Z is a prime example of the accumulation of things that I typically don’t like about anime. There’s a breakneck speed amount of nonsense, buffed-up dudes are flying left and right punching each other with the strength of gods, and the acting is so over-the-top in an attempt to keep in line with the over-the-top story. I realize that Dragon Ball and gaming seem like the perfect complement for each other, I’ve just yet to find the spark to keep me interested.
Which meant that going into Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission was going to be a tough sell. I had high-hopes that it could be a potential entry point into at least understanding the world of DBZ. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Frieza or a Vegeta and I’m not sure if Goku is a character or just a mobile version of the popular streaming device. I’ve gotten more into Blizzard’s library through Hearthstone and this made me better able to understand key characters in the deep Witcher lore through Gwent.
Five minutes into World Mission and I knew I was in over my head. So many systems, so many card types, so many characters…so many things! The game is a mash-up of two distinct genres: the collectable card game (CCG) and fast-paced, button-mashing QTE (quick-time event). It’s a combo that doesn’t always work and I could barely keep up, until…it clicked and all the crazy stuff started to make sense. Well, not everything, but I started to enjoy the game. I started to enjoy its weird anime nonsense. I started to get a tingle as to why Dragon Ball has such an appeal. I started to get into it. I even started to like it!
Immediately, I started to respect the story they’re trying to tell. It’s weird, off-putting and intensely video gamey, but it’s also charming and adorable how convoluted everything ends up being. You’re a kid who’s very green to the Super Dragon Ball Heroes tournament – so green in fact that you’ve never played the game ever before. And yet here you are joining a tournament! After your first battle, which serves as a tutorial, you’re introduced to a character who believes you have something special going on: a natural! Then, as these things often do, you begin to notice that things are going awry so you have to use super high-tech grade technology to go inside the game.
It’s all quite bonkers, but I appreciate how the game tries to put forth so much effort to make something ridiculous, and yet is self-aware enough to know how asinine it all is. The game leans into its more charismatic craziness, heavy. What sells the nonsense is the dialogue. Voiced by Japanese actors, its surprisingly well-written with a can-do cornball attitude working overtime to sell the story in all its messy glory. The cutscenes involve a ton of dialogue, however, so be prepared to do a ton of reading from level to level and there are a ton of levels to get through.
What’s impressive is the amount of content inside of World Mission. Outside of the 1000+ cards, the game also has its incredibly lengthy Story mode as well as an Arcade mode offering up different, smaller chunks of stories that center around the various, extensive universes of Dragon Ball. That’s a lot of stories. Factor in the online play against others and you’ve got a game that offers indefinite play – at least until they shut the servers off.
It’s handy to know how much content there is since it takes times to learn the ropes. It gives you time to come up with strategies and learn the mechanics. To those not actively paying attention to what’s going on the screen, it’s complicated to explain and yet, even if you get it, it’s still a bit hard to parse to newcomers but the boiled down version is simple enough. You’re given the option of choosing your deck of cards who will then take the form of characters on a battlefield where they’ll fight the other team.
The positions of where your cards are is very important as you have three playing fields and one “bench” to get cards to rest up for the next round. It’s your responsibility to find a strategy that will help you win the day using only the cards needed while preparing for what’s coming up. Add to this are tons of variables available to help buff your team or weaken opponents. Despite my best efforts to strategize, I still found myself guessing from time to time as to what will net the most amount damage to my opponent.
Therein lies two of my biggest concerns with the game. One is convolution, the other is pacing. While a convoluted story can be fun and engaging, asking a player to keep track of system after system that keep popping up can feel overwhelming, something that’s intensified by the move time limit. This causes me to cease all strategy manufacturing and instead focus solely on trying to make my moves ASAP before the clock ran out. This concept of time for a tournament or and online setting is absolutely fine since waiting for 5 minutes for opponents to make a move online can be a horrible experience. But with so much single-player content, there should have been an option to turn off the time restrictions. That would help create more pensive and strategy through each match instead of resorting to knee-jerk decisions.
This time-limit factors into my biggest complaint about the game. Pacing that promotes quick, fast-paced action can be incredibly important. In World Mission, after hitting go, you’ll start to see your characters battle anime-style. These scenes are constantly berated with the stuff that’s happening on screen is almost always active and never passive. There were times I’d spend the allotted time setting up only to look away for a second and then miss a critical QTE which then requires me to either not deal enough damage or take more.
World Mission takes a much stronger active approach and never allows you to skip through any of QTE or any of the fighting scenes, and this really drags the experience. Had the game focused more on the actual card game aspect, and less on these more action-oriented sections, it would have been a more enjoyable experience.
Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission is a long game with a long title, par for the course in the zany Dragon Ball universe. It doesn’t quite reinvent the collectable card game (CCG) genre but it injects enough charisma to feel fresh and interesting. Hardcore fans will certainly get the most from what it’s offering – how could they not? – given the amount of recognizable characters and scenarios at their disposal here. I’m not sure I’ll ever get deep into the intricacies of its mechanics, but the game is smart enough to make me feel like I’m halfway decent. At least that’s what the one character in the game keeps telling me…