Game Review #247: Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: John B.
Developed By: Dimps Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment Category: Puzzle, Strategy Release Date: 04.04.19
Price (at time of review): $59.99
Buy Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission from the Switch eShop here.
Buy Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission from Amazon here.
Cartoon Network’s Toonami block (the original one that played during the week, not the weekend block that’s on now) had an outsize influence on my personal tastes. Shows like Outlaw Star, Gundam Wing, and The Big O remain some of my favorite series of all time. But I think we all know that when we talk about Toonami’s cultural significance (and most viewers’ personal favorite show), we’re really talking about one thing: Dragon Ball Z. It is an undeniable cultural force in my generation, and maybe more so in the generations that came after. I love DBZ, is what I’m saying. I also used to love going to arcades, but there really aren’t any in the US anymore, so we never got Dragon Ball Heroes in the states. It was an arcade game/digital trading card game that allowed players to put together teams of their favorite Dragon Ball characters and battle against other players or the computer. Dimps and Bandai Namco have finally rectified this injustice, with the release of Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission. As far as Dragon Ball games go, it’s not as deep as FighterZ in terms of gameplay, but the roster is absolutely bananas. But we should formally start the review before we get into that, so I’ll quit stalling and just get on with it.
In the world of Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission, Dragon Ball is a cultural phenomenon, much like it is in our world. Unlike ours, however, this world has entire stadiums devoted solely to a digital card game based on the series where players battle it out for glory (and, one assumes, money). You play as a young boy who has recently moved into a new city where one of these stadiums is located. After excitedly playing your first game with the free cards they give everyone at the desk and totally rocking your opponent, you attract the attention of Great Saiyaman 3, a famous player they call “Master” and “Dreamboat.” Outside the arena, Saiyaman is attacked by Cooler… but wait! How are Dragon Ball characters in the real world? And how does Great Saiyaman 3 have super powers? And how does one random kid he just met figure into the mystery? Find out next time, on… Dragon… Ball… Zeeeeeeeee!
Sorry, that one was just for me. Turns out there are these weird anomalies in the game world that allow the characters to transition into the real world, somehow. GS3 has been investigating these anomalies for some time, and has furthermore invented a special item called the Hero Switch that allows him to enter the game world to do so. In what should come as a shock to no one, your character also happens to be compatible with the Hero Switch, so you get recruited into the mission to investigate the anomalies and meet all your favorite Dragon Ball characters (and Yamcha) in the process. Along the way, you will collect cards, make new friends, and beat up Super Saiyan versions of pretty much every Dragon Ball character. I liked Nappa’s Super Saiyan goatee. It was great. It doesn’t explain how to tell the difference between Super Saiyn Raditz and SS3 Raditz, though – their hair looks exactly the same.
The story is pretty simple, much like the Dragon Ball series itself. It’s all about jumping from fight to fight and occasionally screaming the names of your most powerful techniques as loud as possible. Which is to say, I loved it. You are introduced to a variety of characters along the way with colorful personalities, and they are what really makes the game work from a story perspective, but then again, that has always been the case with the Dragon Ball franchise. Deep, intricately crafted plots are just not a part of the formula. The game more than makes up for it with energetic - if one-dimensional – characters and the occasional litany of volleyball puns.
It’s Over 1,100!
While there is a fairly fun story to experience, SDBHWM is a collectible card game, so the cards seem like a good place to start breaking down the gameplay. The base game has over 1,100 cards to collect, which is… holy crap, that’s just insane. I thought the Pokemon series was getting unwieldy at 400 pocket monsters to gotta catch, but apparently Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission had a beer they needed someone to hold. Pretty much any character, in any costume, from any DB series you care to name makes an appearance. We’re taking things to a level where Piccolo with and without cape have different cards in multiple sets (we’ll get to sets later, though). They even make cards for stuff that’s not in the series, like the aforementioned Super Saiyan Raditz and Nappa cards. Not only are there already 1,100 cards on the game cartridge, Bandai Namco are releasing some free DLC with cards to actually EXPAND the roster. I have no idea what they can even add at this point, but my record will show that I’m fine with free stuff.
Anyway, every card has three stats; HP, Power, and Defense. The HP of every card in your deck is combined to form your HP pool during missions. Power determines how much damage the character does in combat, and defense determines how much damage they can resist from enemies. Each card also has special attributes listed, such as the character’s special attack and its Hero Point cost (more on that in the next section), any special skills they possess and the condition under which those skills activate, and finally whether they are part of a team. Teams are a pretty cool idea that I’ll get into more later on, but basically let’s just say it gives you a legitimate reason to assemble the Ginyu Force even though the individual cards aren’t the best. Finally, there are three different types of characters; Hero, Berserker, and Elite. Berserkers have a physical attack type, Elites attack with ki blasts, and Heroes can attack with either, depending on the card. Physical attacks deplete your opponent’s HP faster but don’t affect stamina as much, while ki blasts do less HP damage but deal greater damage to your opponent’s stamina (which we’ll get to in the battle section).
You also have an avatar card for your hero, which lets you play as the character you created for the story mode. You level up as you gain experience, which grants your avatar card stat boosts. You can also learn new special attacks from other characters, so you can choose the attack you want your card to have once you start learning new ones. It’s a really cool idea, but the problem is that your avatar card… kind of sucks. Your avatar’s stats don’t advance fast enough to be worth playing over some of the cards you’ll acquire. There are some fairly powerful abilities that require your character card to be on the field to activate, though, so depending on your play type your mileage may vary. It also depends on what race you choose for your avatar, I think; I got a few hours into the game when I realized that having the abilities from one of the other available races would have been way more useful than the basic Saiyan model I picked. Live and learn, I guess.
We Gotta Power
Battles play out between two decks of up to seven cards. The cards turn into the characters they represent for battles, and take the field in a battle area consisting of four rows. The back row is your support area, and any character set there will not attack, but they will regain stamina. Characters have up to four stamina bars, and moving them into the attack area will consume one bar per level they move up. So, the row right after the support area will consume one bar, the next row consumes two, and the front row consumes three bars. Each bar of stamina consumed will also increase your team’s battle power by 1,000 points; the team with the highest battle power gets to attack first that round. Finally, every time your battle power increases by 3,000 points, your team gets a Hero Point. Every card has a special attack that can be activated after you have accumulated the number of Hero Points listed on the card.
After the attack order is established, the fighting for the round starts. Characters attack together based on their card type; I.E., all of the Elite cards attack together, then the Heroes, then the Berserkers, unless the card indicates that they only attack alone. The effectiveness of every attack is largely determined by the Charge Impact meter. Basically, a meter fills up and empties out continuously for three seconds and you and your opponent have to press the A button to stop it before time runs out. The player with the fullest meter wins. If you win the CI when you’re attacking, you deal additional damage. If you win while defending, the damage you receive is reduced. Attacks deplete both HP from the HP pools as well as stamina from whichever character is being attacked; if a character runs out of stamina, they are stunned. Stunned characters can’t attack or defend themselves, and are susceptible to more damage. Additionally, the special attacks I mentioned earlier will only activate if you win the CI when you’re attacking that round. Battles consist of up to five rounds; if one team’s HP isn’t reduced to zero by the end of the final round, the team with the higher HP wins… maybe. I’m about twelve hours in right now, and I haven’t had a fight go the full five yet, in a win or a loss.
So, those are the basics of battle, but there are a TON of additional events, abilities, and items that also affect the fight. Early on you acquire a Hero Robo, which is a capsule robot that will activate during the round you specify before the battle starts. After every fight you unlock a new module for the HR, and you choose the module you want to use when the appointed round comes to pass. Hero Robo modules can grant buffs like increasing your battle power, increasing your defense, replenishing HP, or debuffing your enemy. My favorite modules are capture modules, however; these grant you the ability to capture an enemy, turning that capture module into a summon module. You can then summon the captured character in future battles, giving yourself an eighth character to fight with. It’s a great advantage to have, but unfortunately capture modules aren’t allowed during a lot of story fights, especially the battles with special boss enemies with ridiculously balance-shifting special abilities. Seriously; some of the bosses are borderline cheating with the crap they can pull.
You can activate consumable items before each battle which will grant you bonuses like additional HP (hit points), HP (Hero Points), or EXP at the end of the battle. Most cards have special abilities that will activate under certain conditions. For instance, most Trunks and Goten cards have the ability to perform the Fusion Dance after the second round, becoming Gotenks for the remainder of the fight. Other abilities range from restoring HP, charging other characters’ power or stamina, or Goku straight up getting to fire off a free God Kamehameha before the round starts. Some of these abilities have some special mechanics that require you to move the card around the screen if you’re playing docked or use the touchscreen if you’re playing undocked, which makes for a fun change of pace during battles that can sometimes feel a little stale. For instance, that God Kamehameha ability requires you to move the card around the screen to write a “G” within a certain time limit in order to activate it.
I said before I’d talk more about special teams later, so I’ll get to that here. Teams are basically abilities that require three specific characters in the same row at the same time. They tend to be more powerful than individual cards’ abilities, but not always. There are some special conditions during battles that sometimes come into play; for instance, some fights will reward you with a Super Dragon Ball if you win. If you collect all seven, you get to make a wish to win a rare card, a rare item, lots of money, or more space for modules for your Hero Robo. Some fights have a Porunga Meter, which rewards you with one of Porunga’s Dragon Balls every time you win a Charge Impact. Once you get all seven, you get to spin Porunga’s reward wheel twice; once during battle, and once after. The spin during battle either grants your team a huge buff or slaps your enemy with a big debuff. The spin after battle gets you prizes like extra XP, money, or special items.
After battle, you get a bunch of different spoils. You get consumable items, gacha tickets you can use at shops to exchange for more cards, Zeni (money), accessories to power up your cards, stickers to create custom cards, and one Hero Robo module every battle. You also get experience points to level up your character’s avatar card, bond points to increase your friendship with the supporting characters you meet along your journey, and camaraderie points that increase your relationship with the characters in your cards. Earning levels in bonds and camaraderie will grant you bonuses in the form of stat boosts for your character avatar card, new special attacks for same, or special items. The game also tallies a score for each battle, but I’ve had trouble figuring out exactly what a high score gets you. I think, perhaps, the better your score the more rewards you receive, but I haven’t been able to confirm that.
So… that was a lot. The battle system has a hundred little wrinkles that provide a variety of different situations, but the million dollar question is, as always: is it any fun? Well, that’s… hard to say. I found myself really drawn into it, even though the battles never really felt all that deep. I know I just wrote a thousand words about how it all works, but once you get the hang of it, it boils down to building up a bunch of stamina and trying to get all of your characters able to use their special attacks at once. It’s fairly simple. The big problem for me is the Charge Impact system; against other humans in an arcade setting, I’m sure it’s a very fair test of reaction speed. Against an AI opponent in Story or Arcade mode, it just feels pointless. You’re playing against a computer; it could win every time if it wanted to, and in missions with higher difficulty levels it seems like that’s what is programmed into the game. It adds a level of unnecessary frustration for no reward. Maybe a different type of quick-time event would have been more appropriate for single-player missions.
Dan Dan Kokoro Hikareteku
The battle system winds up feeling a little simple, but the game gives you a bunch of different modes in which to experience its battles. There is an arcade mode that lets you fight through the storylines from various Dragon Ball anime and video games. There is a tournament mode that lets you participate in tournaments at the local Hero Stadium. Tournaments are tricky, since just because you won the fight doesn’t mean you advance. You have to achieve a certain battle score to be eligible to advance further for the first two rounds, and then it becomes an elimination tournament where all you need to worry about is winning. The Hero Lab is a special area where you can participate in challenge battles (called Puzzle Battles in-game) that aren’t full battles, you just need to accomplish a certain task during the fight. Puzzle Battles have really good rewards, so don’t forget to play a few every once in a while.
Deck Creation is particularly engrossing, or at least it was for me. This is where you select cards for your team and outfit them for battle, if you choose. You can preset up to fifty different decks, which allows you to build different teams that fit different situations. For instance, if you’re fighting a boss that has a special ability to deplete your stamina, you can make a deck that has cards whose abilities can counter stamina loss. It’s mostly a time-saver so you don’t have to create a new deck every time you encounter a certain situation; you can just have a few decks that fit some of the more common scenarios. There are two types of decks, custom and simple. Custom decks can be equipped with accessories acquired as battle rewards in Story Mode or purchased at the store. Simple decks consist solely of your cards; no accessories allowed. The reason you need both is that certain game modes (Arcade and Online) do not allow custom decks.
Creation Mode lets you create both cards and missions, which you can share online for other players to challenge. Creating cards and missions and then completing said missions gives you access to a special rewards list when you hit certain milestones. You create cards by taking blank cards you can purchase or acquire as mission rewards and add stickers to them to set a character, abilities, stats, and aesthetic decorations. Creating missions consists of choosing a setting, a lineup of opponents, and any special rules you want applied.
Additionally there is a network battle mode that lets you go head-to-head with other players around the world. All of these different modes give you the same kind of rewards as playing through the Story Mode missions, which we’ll get to… let’s say now.
Story Mode is probably the most in-depth of the game modes (aside from maybe Creation; you can do a lot of stuff in Creation Mode… but, no, there’s more to do in Story Mode). The story is broken up into chapters, and each chapter is further broken up into subchapters. Each subchapter has its own map of different connected nodes. There are five types of nodes; battle nodes are where the storyline fights occur, story nodes show scenes that advance the plot, capsule nodes are like treasure chests that contain different items, challenge nodes are a hodgepodge of different challenges which, upon successful completion, reward you with items, and, finally, warp nodes transport you to another area of the map. The most common challenge node type is a Charge Impact challenge, where you just have to win a Charge Impact Meter challenge like you would during a battle, just without the battle. Most nodes are locked and inaccessible until you complete certain conditions, such as completing a mission battle or completing the Ultra Completion objective for one or more battles.
In addition to the map nodes, occasionally another character will appear on the map and travel around. If you run into them, it will trigger either a challenge or a special battle. The challenges are the same things you find at a challenge node, but the battles tend to be incredibly difficult fights against super-powerful opponents. My fight against a wandering Gohanks (Gohan fused with Trunks) was the hardest of the game so far. Occasionally, a Dragon Ball icon will appear on a battle node; winning that battle will reward you with a Super Dragon Ball. Other icons include Porunga and the Grand Zeno, which let you know that the battle will feature a Porunga meter or possibly reward you with a Super Dragon Ball if you fulfill the Grand Zeno’s requests during battle, respectively.
SDBHWM has four different shops; one for each of its item types. The accessory shop is where you buy accessories to increase your cards’ stats or grant them new abilities. The creation shop allows you to purchase blank cards and stickers to use while crafting custom cards in Creation Mode. The item shop sells consumable items, like capsules that grant you free Hero Points or increase your HP pool at the start of battle. Finally, and most importantly, is the gacha shop, which is where you acquire precious, precious cards.
You receive gacha tickets after battles, and they come in both blue (normal) and gold (rare) varieties. Blue tickets will grant you one random card from whichever set you choose, while a gold ticket guarantees you a rare card. There are eleven sets to choose from, and I have no idea how the characters are distributed amongst the sets. It’s not by character, or show, or game; just know that there are eleven sets to complete (although one of them is the DLC set, so that one could grow as they release more DLC). If you get a card you already have, that card will automatically be turned into ticket pieces. The number of ticket pieces you get is determined by the rarity of the card; a high rarity card will give you as much as twenty pieces. You can trade ticket pieces in for additional tickets, at a rate of ten pieces for one normal ticket, or fifty for a rare ticket. Maybe it’s just because I have the compulsive collector bug, but the anticipation of getting new cards was a huge part of the game’s appeal for me. In fact, I need to go win more gacha tickets right now. No! Must… finish… review! Then I can go get more tickets. That seems fair.
Graphically, Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission has a cool, cel-shaded aesthetic which is my favorite graphical style for games based on anime. Unfortunately, the arcade release of this game came out in 2010. There was a re-release in 2016 for arcades, and then finally the Switch release in 2019. I don’t know how the original game looked, but World Mission looks like it’s just the 2010 graphics with a slightly newer coat of paint slapped on. It doesn’t really look terrible, but when you compare it to other current games, or even recent Dragon Ball games, it doesn’t look great, either. On the other hand, every character model moves smoothly and the animations capture the spirit of what made Dragon Ball’s fight scenes so memorable, so we’ll call it a wash on the graphics. They’re good enough to get the job done, anyway.
As for the music, I can’t tell if all of the music is from the various Dragon Ball animes throughout the years, but I definitely know some of it is. In creation mode you can unlock many of the animes’ theme songs, which is a cool addition. Overall the music is totally fine; it’s full of energy and gets you psyched up to play the game. There is voice acting, too, but it’s all in Japanese. That’s not a problem during cutscenes where you have dialogue boxes, but during battles where no subtitles are offered I sometimes felt like I was missing something. For the most part I think it was only just battle repartee, but I don’t know that for certain, so there is a little hint of FOMO at play here. Still, I love the Japanese Dragon Ball voices, so I’m not too mad about anything. The game still sounds great.
Detekoi Tobikiri Zenkai POWER!
Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission is not a perfect game by any means. The battle system is fairly simple and occasionally unnecessarily punishing. The graphics are presentable, but clearly a little dated. But if you push beyond that you will find a game worth an investment of your time, especially if you have any affinity for the Dragon Ball franchise. While the graphics look a little old, their cel-shaded aesthetic accurately recreates your favorite characters. The simplicity of the battle system makes the game easier to pick up, for the most part, and the battle visuals successfully capture a lot of what made the fights in the Dragon Ball series so memorable.
Hearing Goku scream out his iconic “Ka-Me-Ha-Me-HAAAAAAAA!” in the midst of battle is as engaging and enthralling here as it is in any other medium. When you add the nostalgia factor together with the sheer variety of different activities present, Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission is a game worth any Dragon Ball fan’s time. Oh, and make sure you get the day one physical on this one; it comes with five special edition Dragon Ball Super Trading Card Game cards. I don’t play, but who doesn’t want free stuff - especially free stuff with Gogeta on it?
Buy Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission from the Switch eShop here.
Buy Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission from Amazon here.
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*Review Copy Provided by Bandai Namco