One of the most iconic elements of Dragon BallZ was Fusion, a special power that let two characters combine into one hero with the powers of both. Despite the seemingly limitless potential of Fusion, it ended up underutilized in the series, with only two sets of characters ever combining. It made a much more prominent appearance in games, though still only with a handful of characters. Dragon Ball Fusions is an RPG that takes the concept to its natural conclusion, allowing players to fuse pretty much every character in the Dragon Ball universe.
Dragon Ball Fusions opens up with two young heroes: your custom-named protagonist and a young Saiyan named Pinichi. The two friends are looking for a challenging fight and use the Dragon Balls to get their wish. In doing so, they create a "Timespace Tournament" that drags in heroes from across the timelines for the biggest brawl ever. The two must form teams of five and enter the tournament to determine who's the strongest. Of course, the strongest fighters in the multiverse aren't just good guys, and some of Dragon Ball's cruelest villains are already looking for a way to take advantage of the tournament to carry out their dastardly plans.
The storyline in Fusions is cute but mostly geared toward Dragon Ball fans. Goten, Kid Goku, Kid Trunks and Pan are the only prominent characters in the story, and most others are reduced to cameos. This game won't retain your attention if you're not interested in Super Saiyans and Kamehamehas.
Most of your time in Fusions is taken up by flying around the world maps. Each map is a mish-mash of famous Dragon Ball locations separated on floating islands. It's neat to have such a huge environment, but it's slightly too big for its own good, and it can be tedious to travel between locations. The game doesn't have random encounters, but you'll see other martial artists flying around and can challenge them to duels, which are interspersed with occasional boss fights.
Combat takes place in large arenas, since most battles consist of five-on-five fights. Every character's face appears on a timeline at the bottom of the screen, and they get to act once they reach the end. Generally, the goal is to lower the enemy team's HP to 0 before they do the same to you. Every character has one of three elements: power, speed or technique. It's a rock-paper-scissors system where speed beats power, which beats technique, which in turn beats speed. As a result, certain characters are more effective than others.
There are two kinds of attacks in Fusions: melee and ki-based ranged attacks. Any melee attack requires you to choose a direction to attack from, while your opponent chooses a blocking direction. If they guess correctly, they'll block some of your damage. In comparison, ki-focused attacks cannot be blocked except by special barrier/absorbing moves. Ki attacks are weaker and don't generate as many Ki orbs, but they can hit multiple opponents, so they're useful if enemies are clustered up. Ki orbs are needed to fuel your special moves, which can inflict damage effects ranging from the traditional RPG poison to instant-kills.
Knockback is critical because the arena has edges. Anyone who's hit so hard that they go beyond that edge gets a Ring Out. This does extra damage and forces them to the start of the attack timeline. Before knocking enemies out of the ring, you can knock them into one another or into allies, which bounces them around and does further additional damage.
Additionally, an enemy who is defeated by a Ring Out may drop a new skill for your party members. RNG. Getting new skills is so random that it rarely feels earned when you get something amazing. The numbers work in your favor if you defeat enough enemies with Ring Out attacks.
In battle, there are two kinds of fusion: Fusion Dance and Ultra Fusion. The Fusion Dance allows a handful of characters to create a new fighter from two in battle. The fusions only last a few turns but have their own distinct skills. The other skills are fueled by an Ultra Bar, which fills up as you attack or defend. Upon activating a Zenkai attack, you are given a temporary minigame where you mash attacks to fill up your ki orbs to perform a special attack. The other is Ultra Fusion, where all five characters fuse into a single, super-powered being. You play the button-mashing minigame to inflict damage — often enough to wipe out weaker enemies in a single move.
You can recruit enemies to join your party by either completing quests or defeating enemies with a Zenkai attack. The most important reason to recruit party members is EX Fusion. Partially through the game, Bulma invents an armband that allows two characters to fuse together. The resulting character has a combined move set and attributes from both characters, as well as special EX and Fusion moves. Most characters can only fuse with a subset of the roster, but your protagonist can fuse with any character in the game. In essence, fusion is character customization, so you can use it to shore up weak points, such as providing a speed boost to a slow character.
There are hundreds of characters in Fusions, though most of them are original fighters created for the game. Some are similar to canon characters, and others are created characters with small backstories. There are plenty of Dragon Ball characters to meet and recruit, from the famous to the obscure. (This may be the first Dragon Ball game where you can have Goku's rarely seen mother in your party.) Each character has a distinct lineup of moves and passive abilities, so it's worth collecting them all so your party can be more flexible.
A major issue with the combat system is that speed is too important and overrides everything else. In theory, slower characters inflict more damage to make up for the speed difference, but in practice, once you reach a certain point, you just want fast characters in order to be at your best. It's almost as if you're punished for not focusing on fast characters.
The other major problem is that the combat system is really repetitive. While it's fun to create and customize characters, you start to repeat the same actions in every fight. The game attempts to add some twists to the combat, but they're usually not fun, such as an enemy who can only be attacked within a limited time frame. Swapping out characters can make things interesting for a bit, but it only postpones the inevitable.
How much fun you'll have with Fusions depends on your interest in collecting everything. The combat and story in Fusions is rather bare-bones. Most of the content and fun is in finding every single Dragon Ball character and recruiting them into your party. If you're fine with grinding out Zenkai attacks and completing side-quests to unlock characters that you'll probably never use, there's a ton to do in this title. If you're just looking for a Dragon Ball RPG, Fusions might feel a little thin.
Fusions is a charming game, especially when you start fusing characters in all kinds of ways. The combat animations are nice, but once you've seen them a dozen times, you'll long for a way to skip them. The soundtrack is forgettable, and the game is mostly unvoiced except for some attack cries and snips of dialogue. For a 3DS game, it's fine but unexceptional. The most critical problem is the lack of stability. I had several hard crashes while playing the game, and they usually revolve around the Daily Adventure check-in, which is supposed to get you additional items. It's annoying but not crippling, so hopefully it'll get patched soon since it makes it difficult to obtain special moves.
Unfortunately, the localization is very poor. This is most noticeable when you're working on the built-in quizzes, which have contradictory answers. The dialogue is kind of dry, and several lines feel incoherent, especially when trying to translate jokes. It isn't enough to ruin the game, but it's sloppy.
All in all, Dragon Ball Fusions is a cute, if unexceptional, Dragon Ball RPG that's made almost exclusively for the fans. Nothing about it breaks the mold, but it has a reasonably engaging combat system and a ton of collectible characters to keep you busy. It's dragged down by a weak story and an excessive amount of grinding to unlock characters. Fusions won't do much for casual fans, but die-hards will have a good time seeing all of the absurd fusions that the show could never do.
More articles about Dragon Ball Fusions