The Dragon Ball franchise is all over the place. For as many years as the iconic manga and anime series has existed, there have been a nearly endless array of spinoff projects and adaptations released. Fighting games, action games and even turn-based RPGs based on the hot-blooded action anime have graced nearly every platform since the NES. Until recently, though, one of the most popular Dragon Ball games of all time wasn’t on any game consoles. It wasn’t even available in English. This card-collecting game wasn’t just exclusive to Japan, but to their arcades as well, so it’s only now with the release of Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission that fans across the globe can now get that same experience in their living rooms.
Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission can be a little overwhelming at first. It has over a thousand cards, hundreds of characters, and a combat system that can be a struggle to learn thanks to the weirdly vague opening tutorials the game offers you. Basically, you create a team for combat made up of just seven cards. Each card is a unique on-field character with its own type, strengths, weaknesses, and unique abilities. You need to create a team with a proper balance between defensive and offensive abilities, because when a card runs out of energy they’ll switch to a passive support role until they regain their energy.
It’s a simple system, and once you get the hang of it the fun of putting together a well-oiled team of synergised cards is really satisfying. It can also be a little daunting, though, given the wide array of cards and abilities in the game. You get cards at a pretty constant pace through winning battles and using slot machines, but creative players can also make their own entirely original cards. Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission has an incredible card creation suite where you can choose from a huge set of character art, visual effects and card abilities to create your own original card. You can even customise the placement of the art on the card for aesthetic perfection.
Sitting in the card creation suite and piecing together an endless amount of slick looking pieces was one of the most engaging parts of the game to me. That’s not just down to how satisfying the card customisation was, but also how unsatisfying the combat can be. Battles often felt artificially lengthy and bloated thanks to how many extraneous animations and gameplay elements there are. Every turn consists of long-winded animations, convoluted touch screen mechanics and awkwardly long wait times for text to disappear. This kind of downtime makes sense for the original arcade version of the game, but it’s absolutely gruelling on home consoles.
On top of rough battles, the game sports some pretty abysmal enemy AI. Opponents are often either barely able to put up a fight against you or bust out overpowered skills that are impossible to counter. In harder battles, enemy AI will also often complete their timed meter-filling objectives in battle with robotic precision, barely ever giving you a sniff of victory. It’s a shame that AI battles can be so unrewarding, because the story that you go through to experience them is pretty entertaining.
Your main narrative sees you playing as a young character living in the fictional world of Hero Town, an idyllic alternate world where the masses fawn over the Dragon Ball Heroes card game as their favorite pastime instead of Saiyan Soccer or Keeping Up With the Namekians. Our protagonist aims to get to the top of the card-battling world, dreaming of being the champion of Dragon Ball Heroes. Unfortunately, things go awry when villains from the game world invade real life, forcing our character to go into the grid and do battle inside the virtual world of Dragon Ball Heroes. It’s silly and weird and full of generic plot twists and revelations, but the fun of seeing fan-favorite characters mixed together in unexpected ways is a treat for Dragon Ball fans.