I consider myself to be a relatively intelligent person – although I’m not quite sure what it’s relative to. I’ve been playing games and specifically card-based games for years and years. I’ve learned intricacies within different systems, how they work within certain parameters and in both the digital and physical realms, always enjoyed learning new rulesets. Add to this the wacky fun of the Dragon Ball series and surely, we’re onto a winner, right? That’s what I thought too. But Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission makes everything so ludicrously convoluted that barriers are constructed before the game truly gets going.
That’s not to say this is a bad game. In fact, certain aspects of it are very enjoyable whether you’re keyed into the overall universe or not. After all, who doesn’t love gachapon collecting and RPG-esque elements? The issue, for me at least, is in the mechanics, which I’ll come to shortly. The story is bonkers – our character is obsessed with the Dragon Ball universe and begins playing the Super Heroes digital card game when they’re sucked into the game world and have to fight against classic enemies. The game looks the business, too. Whether docked or handheld, a game which utilises these 2D sprites needs to be crisp and bold and that’s achieved here.
So, let’s get to those mechanics which are the crux of the title. What Bandai Namco is doing here is transposing the big physical battles of the TV show and films over to a Collectible Card Game and for the most part, the actual action is mostly watching lavish fight scenes play out. Before this can happen, however, you need to prep your cards and focus on the playing field. Before each fight, you’ll be required to select your deck which is built from years of content over a variety of characters. You’ll have access to boosting items which power up moves or replenish hit points for your team, but tactics are always required as you’ll need to select which round they come into play.
This is all done before the playing field even appears on the screen and once it does, many more decisions have to be made in order to battle. Cards only come as fighters – some which are high tier fighters like Super Saiyans and some lower tiers which act more like support for others. Each card features a Power Level, which is synonymous with the Manga, and a stamina bar. Stamina is depleted as your fighter battles and is determined by where you place them on the field – put them on the front of the three rows to do more damage and the stamina runs down faster, meaning in the next round you’ll need to bring them to the back row to rest.
Still with me? Great news!
Once you’ve placed your fighters on the chosen rows, the fight starts, with the player who holds the highest Power Level total going first. Now, you can sit back and relax a bit while Goku et al bash each other’s brains in and throw around fireballs. Well, not quite. Some user participation is required for certain moves to be completed and to gauge the damage said moves inflict. You could be asked to stop a moving bar within a specified range or wiggle the thumbsticks, or even scribble with your finger on the touchscreen to deliver a proper killing blow.
All of these different systems begin to slowly tread on the feet of each other and it doesn’t take long before you’re juggling several mechanics over the course of one fight. Sure, the extra button tapping and screen scribbling adds a level of interactivity, but it doesn’t feel necessary. It almost feels a bit bloated.
Away from the battlefield, you can explore shops using the money you earn in battles to buy accessories which buff your cards or, and the most fun aspect for me, you can play the gachapons. Through fights, you will earn tickets to use in the machines which give you access to new cards. There are literally hundreds of cards to unlock and use, each of which gives that slight giddy thrill when you pull a rare card. And each card looks lovely with detailed artwork based on the cards that Japan so loves.
As someone who only recently came to the Dragon Ball franchise, the various storylines and characters felt a little overwhelming at first, but it was great to learn about each of them through the eyes of the central character, who, in essence, is a fan. Everything is larger than life and for those who want to delve into all the tiny intricacies of the battles on top of absorbing the lore, they’ll be in their element. Those of us on the fringes will find a relatively fun game that throws a bit too much at the wall hoping for it to stick.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment