Dragon Ball is a huge franchise, with a ton of video game adaptations. A number of them have made their way to North America, but some have remained exclusive to Japan, like the Dragon Ball Heroes line of games. Originally a popular game in Japanese arcades featuring physical cards, this series made the jump to digital as well. Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission marks the first time Bandai Namco have released an installment in the Heroes series outside Japan. Has that appeal transferred overseas with the international release?
World Mission is a specific beast, best for people who know Dragon Ball lore and can get extra enjoyment from the various references the game makes to the world and characters of the hit franchise. For example, knowing that a character is normally a non-combatant makes their game incarnation as an active fighter even more amusing (i.e. teenage Bulma stumbling into the fray with her laser gun). The more you know of Dragon Ball, the more you can appreciate the game. However, even someone with a passing knowledge of the long-running franchise can jump in.
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The game features a multitude of characters pulled from various eras and versions of Dragon Ball—ranging from Z to Super—and even more content via the various play modes. There's story mode, which shines when it breaks the fourth wall. It’s all about a Dragon Ball game spilling into a variation of the real world, prompting players to use crazily advanced technology to literally transform into their superpowered avatars, and fight off the dimension breaking threat. It’s a plot that pushes the more bizarre tones of the franchise into even goofier and meta territory. There are neat crossover and “what if?” scenarios like self-proclaimed speedsters Burter, Neiz, and Dyspo teaming up or an alliance between two alternate versions of Frieza.
Then there’s arcade mode, with a bunch of missions that follow different arcs. They include adaptations of previous storylines in the franchise like the Battle of Gods film, and lesser-known stories like the struggle against the demon goddess Towa. There’s even an alternate universe story that features Dragon Ball characters as if they were office workers, suits included.
For people not as interested in the entirety of lore spread across various media, World Mission offers a solid enough gameplay experience in its combat system, though with some hiccups. While most Dragon Ball games are naturally fighting games, the Heroes series approaches combat a little differently. Fights play out like a turn-based card game. There are still all the iconic kicks, punches, blocks, and ki blasts like the classic Kamehameha wave, but they’re not done in real time.
World Mission is no FighterZ, but it captures the feel of Dragon Ball in a different way. It’s more reminiscent of Dragon Ball Fusions on 3DS, which also has more turn-based combat. Besides offering something different, the addition of turn-based combat emphasizes another aspect of Dragon Ball's sheer spectacle. The shonen series often features larger than life, highly stylized action. While FighterZ largely captures Dragon Ball at its most swiftly frenetic (outside of drawn-out super attacks), World Mission slows down the action a bit to take in more of the stylized steps of every layered assault. While FighterZ lets you embody and become the characters in action, World Mission gives you the feeling of sitting back and watching an episode or movie of Dragon Ball after you’ve personally and successfully set it all into motion.
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Both styles can entertain in different ways. World Mission provides a pretty good mix of a digital card game, turn-based tactics, and Dragon Ball content. However, the game has its flaws. Sometimes World Mission just looks wonky in its animation. Still, the graphics overall are fine, if not spectacular. The colors are bright and character models are structurally sound enough. On the other hand, the 2D card illustrations generally look good.
While there are various little issues and details in the game’s very involved combat system, there is one major mechanic that is possibly the most critical. Battle in World Mission can lead to theatrical shows of Dragon Ball spectacle, but the quick time events the player often has to do to trigger them aren’t the most enjoyable. These quick time events are called Charge Impact battles, and they largely boil down to determining if your team can fully attack or block.
Charge Impact may not be for everyone and can come off as irritating and frustrating. It takes the form of a moving meter, and the player has to hit the button when it’s nearly full to win a Charge Impact battle. It’s a mechanic that is basically about whether the player can hit the button once at the right time or not, feeling more like chance than skill most of the time. This can turn especially aggravating during close fights where victory hinges on whether you can deal more damage or preserve the last of your HP.
Fortunately, Charge Impact isn’t completely intolerable, even if it can get tiresome. It’s softened by the fact that it can be manipulated a little, returning some control and providing another layer of possible strategy. Different character cards can use status effects that will slow down or speed up the Charge Impact meter, either making it easier for the player to hit the button at the right time, or making it harder for the enemy to hit theirs. This can work in reverse too, with opponents able to make things harder by speeding up the player’s Charge Impact meter.
Though Charge Impact is the most prevalent way of triggering attacks, there are other more varied and creative actions that can be used, depending on the character cards taken into battle. While these can get a little stale after repeated use, the concept itself still feels novel. Additionally, the very act of repetition is often a sign that you’ve found a team with a move set that works for you and offers a dependable strategy.
These alternate actions include a character card for the alien wizard Babidi that has a special brainwashing technique. Besides being super appropriate for this Dragon Ball character prone to casting mind control spells, it’s functionally entertaining with an enjoyable payoff to watch when it’s successfully completed. To make the move fully happen after it’s been automatically triggered, players must move the joystick in a certain way. The really interesting part about pulling off this mechanic is a small but nice detail—the joystick must be moved to follow the path of a hypnotic swinging pendulum motion as depicted on the screen. It’s a move that further combines gameplay with character and Dragon Ball lore.
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The whole concept with Babidi’s character card feels unique, and this is part of World Mission’s high points. The game obviously has major players from Dragon Ball—you’ve got your Vegetas and Gokus and Gohans—and their traditional skills in martial attacks, ki blasts, and hair-changing transformations. However, it feels even more interesting when you get to cards with lesser known characters and move sets that go a bit beyond the basic shape of striking and blasting.
Along with Babidi, there’s the Vados card, showcasing one of the few female characters in Dragon Ball with canonically substantial power. Her card features a tranquil-but-effective technique of binding, crushing, and absorbing energy from an opponent with a figure-eight joystick motion. Then there’s a Bardock card with a special technique that feels like a throwback to a classic element of Dragon Ball—the Great Ape transformation. It’s just ridiculously fun to rejoin the battlefield with a giant kaiju-like figure on your side and towering over everyone, ally and foe alike.
Speaking of lesser-known characters these days, there’s arguably the bio-android Cell. While he is a major Dragon Ball antagonist, he hasn’t made a full comeback like other villains in the franchise outside of some cameos and a continuing presence in the games. This includes the Heroes line and World Mission, which also have the only option for a bio-android avatar. (While the Dragon Ball Xenoverse games and Fusions let players create avatars from different races in the franchise, they haven’t included options for bio-androids.)
Given that Cell is a personal favorite, I enjoy playing as him. I’ve wanted to play as the Heroes avatar made in his image for a while, something the new international release makes more accessible. That’s part of World Mission’s appeal. It has so many characters from different parts of the franchise, it can offer people time with probably any of their favorites, even if they’re not always normally in the spotlight of the Dragon Ball universe. It can even help people better appreciate some characters in the franchise; you may not have cared for them much when they first showed up in the show or comics, but they may be more fun to play in the game. The potential of this huge roster motivates players to try their luck at the in-game vending machine to get the character cards they want or obtain the crafting supplies to make them.
Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission Review | Final Thoughts
All this content can actually be a little overwhelming when first starting the game, but eventually, the sheer replayability value sinks in. Players can return to the game numerous times for another round in arcade mode, to tackle the story mode again, collect or make another card, or try out a newly assembled team. Filled with possibility and enough lore for anyone with even just a passing interest in a multimedia franchise, Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission is a fun time once people find their playstyle and a character roster they enjoy.
TechRaptor reviewed Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is available on Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.
- Large and Varied Cast
- Some Creative Controls
- Lots of Content
- Semi-Annoying Charge Impact Battles
- Some Wonky Animation