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Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: April 5, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on April 9, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission takes place in Hero Town, an alternate reality where a Dragon Ball card game is the most popular form of entertainment.

Buy Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission

Dragon Ball Heroes is a game that seemed destined to never leave Japan. It's an arcade game that's based on collecting physical trading cards and using them to fight digital opponents. It's a significant part of the Dragon Ball franchise, and it has its own exclusive characters, storylines, and even animated shorts. In that regard, Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission is something that Dragon Ball fans have been waiting for a long time. On the other hand, it's been a long time since we've had straight ports of arcade games, and it's easy to remember why when you play World Mission.

The core idea behind World Mission is that there's a collectible card game that inevitably ends up with a magical portal through time and space. One set of storylines follows the protagonists as they battle the forces of evil. The other follows the young child Beat as he is enlisted to fight evil alongside Great Saiyaman 3 using the power of collectible cards, which are based on every character in Dragon Ball history.

The biggest appeal of World Mission is that it goes completely off the rails with the Dragon Ball story. Dragon Ball Xenoverse waved its hands at this, but Heroes offers a lot of tremendously strange scenarios, ranging from the simple ("What if the Saiyan Saga Saiyans all became Super?") to the absolutely outlandish ("What if Goku were a modern-day salaryman in a suit working for DB, Inc., with the rest of the characters?"). For fans of the franchise, this is the reason to play the game. It offers absurd ideas, what-if scenarios, transformations, and character concepts that otherwise would never happen. The story is just an excuse for these weird scenarios, and it does a good job at that.

Likely the single biggest appeal of World Mission is that it has a cast list that can't be rivaled. Pretty much every single Dragon Ball character is represented in some form or another in this game. That includes all the variations of Goku and pals up until the end of Dragon Ball Super, but there are also plenty of obscure characters. You can play as random villains from the movies, side characters like Bulma or Mai, and even characters who appeared only for moments in flashbacks, like the Supreme Kais. There are also a bucketload of game-exclusive transformations. Almost every character gains the ability to turn Super Saiyan 3, and quite a few others have even greater transformations. If you wanted to see Tao Pai Pai beat up Ultra Instinct Goku, this is the game for you.

The core gameplay of World Mission is relatively simple, but it's obfuscated beyond an absurd amount of excessive technical jargon. You and your enemy both field seven characters. The battle arena is divided into four spaces: The support space and three rows of attack spaces. At the start of your turn, you put your characters in one of the spaces. Putting a character on the attack rows causes your power level to rise. The higher the row, the greater the rise, but this causes your stamina to deplete correspondingly — and without stamina, your characters are vulnerable to attack. Putting them in the support row means they can't attack, but they regenerate stamina.

Once you've set all of your characters, the combat phase begins. Whoever has the higher power level attacks first. Combat plays out automatically, with characters going in a certain turn order based on their character type (Berserker, Elite and Hero). Things get more involved with Charge Impacts. Each attack and defense has a time-based minigame, and whoever wins the minigame receives a bonus. Attack does extra damage, and defense lowers the damage taken. If you time it perfectly, you'll gain a "Perfect," which grants additional bonuses. Characters can modify the speed of Charge Impact by using various abilities that make it easier and tougher to do.

The complexity of World Mission comes from character skills. There are hundreds of cards, each with its own attributes and abilities. Many characters are represented more than once, with different cards having different abilities. Some characters can boost stats, others can transform into new forms, others can fuse together, some can boost allies from the support line, others gain a power boost if they're alone on the front line, and some characters can combo attacks together — the list goes on and on. You can even create customized cards with their own special abilities.

The system is really fun once you get a good selection of cards. Building an ideal deck to battle your enemies can be really enjoyable. You can focus on a deck designed to super-charge one powerful character as far as they can go, or you can create a deck that's designed to make it almost impossible for your enemy to attack. Decks can be geared toward winning on round two or stalling until later rounds, where special abilities can provide crazy stat boosts. The game takes a long time to reach the point where this is necessary, since you can win most fights by just repeating the same tactic. It's playing against other people where the title shines the most.

World Mission is heavily minigame-focused, as it's less of a CCG and more of a genuine arcade game. Almost everything you can do in the game involves timing or button-mashing. This is probably the make-or-break feature for most people because the minigames aren't optional, and you need to get good at them. They're not overly difficult, but it means you can't just play it as a relaxing CCG. It's effectively a heavily customizable minigame collection mixed with a relatively basic card game.

One of the big issues with World Mission is that it's less complex than it seems. When you look through the card list, you'll see all sorts of gameplay mechanics: Capsule mode, Dragon Fist EX, Dark Shenron Summoning, Fusion, Transform, etc. The honest truth is that they're all a lot of fancy names for "fulfilling a certain condition listed on the card will have an effect, perhaps with a minigame associated." This is likely due to the fact that the game itself is built upon a decade's worth of arcade bloat, but for newcomers, it looks a lot more overwhelming than it is. When you start the game, you'll have no idea what is happening, and it takes a lot of digging to figure out why characters are summoning dragons or transforming into other forms.

Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission was designed for arcades and physical cards. Many of the things you do in the game involve moving cards around a virtual board for immersion. You're using virtual cards on a virtual board, though, so the result feels nonsensical and poorly implemented. Why do I have to waggle cards to do a fusion? That's how it worked on the arcade machine. It's a straight port, with only the barest of concessions to the fact it's now a fully digital game. It's slow, tedious and involves a ton of unskippable animations.

The last and most significant issue is that World Mission is based on an arcade game, and that includes the "make bosses ridiculously hard so you can drain quarters" gameplay style. A huge number of bosses in this game basically get to ignore mechanics. They will always get very high ratings on their Charge Impacts and can't have their stamina reduced. This means that if you're playing the arcade mode, you're effectively reduced to pulling out overpowered cards and hoping to brute-force them. It's annoying if you like weaker cards, but at least the create-a-custom card feature means that you can use anyone as a strong card in the main story mode.

Dragon Ball Heroes came out in 2010, and honestly, it looks it. While the game has continued to add new characters and visuals, the basic graphics are comparable to the PlayStation 2 Budokai series. There's an absolutely absurd roster of characters representing basically every single character who so much as looked at a Dragon Ball, but it also means that it doesn't look very good. Some of the animations are incredibly charming, but the low-budget character models may be too much for players who are used to the relatively high-quality animations of recent DB games. The soundtrack is also tremendously lackluster, but DLC exists for songs from the animated series. You'll need a lot of love for Dragon Ball to get past the incredibly low-budget presentation.

It's difficult to be positive about Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission because you have to give it the benefit of the doubt and be a big Dragon Ball fan to enjoy it. The core game is pretty fun in a simple time-wasting way, and the "What If?" scenarios are significantly more engaging than the ones in Xenoverse. Unfortunately, to reach all of that, you have to deal with awkward UI, convoluted explanations, and just about the worst graphics you'll see in a $60 game. Fans who have the patience to deal with a lot of caveats can enjoy World Mission. Casual Dragon Ball players will want to go for the Xenoverse games for an overall higher-quality experience.

Score: 6.0/10

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