In the wake of Nintendo’s announcement that the 3DS is being retired, I had thought to start writing a post that was my farewell to the 3DS. Looking back though, for the significant library the device had, it was still overwhelmingly a Pokémon machine. In amongst those 1000+ hours I spent collectively on the Pokémon franchise, there was one other underappreciated gem in my most played games that I ended up revisiting.
One that stands out amongst many, many terrible games within the franchise as one of the best. One that richly deserves a sequel.
I mean, I don’t know why I’m beating around the bush. The game I’m talking about is in the title. Looking at the helpful activity tracker app on the Nintendo 3DS, I was able to see exactly how much time I’d spent with the little device. And while my top five, most played games on it were overwhelmingly Pokémon titles, one out of those five was Dragon Ball Fusions. A game I’ve suddenly found myself pouring a bunch more time into since remembering it’s a thing.
Unlike practically every other game based on Dragon Ball, Fusions isn’t a fighting game. Ironically enough, it’s an RPG much in the same vein as the Pokémon franchise. Taking control of a player-created avatar, this character and their best friend Pinich begin the game by managing to collect the Dragon Balls and make a wish on them. They want to fight in the greatest fighting tournament ever conceived and consequently shatter the bounds of reality as a consequence.
Finding themselves in a world where all eras of the Dragon Ball lore seem to be occurring simultaneously. In a world of floating islands and mashed up locations from the series, the player finds their wish has come true and they’re now taking part in a giant tournament. Only with one wrinkle: it’s a team-based tourney where everyone needs to enter as a group of five.
From here though, the actual story is pretty light. The game introduces the player to the gameplay mechanics, which are pretty unique as far as Dragon Ball games go. The best comparison I can make is like playing a game of marbles, only, in this case, the marbles can fire Ki blasts and fuse together. In a turn-based fashion, the player moves around the arena and uses the various moves at their disposal to damage opponents and send them flying.
Which is the main crux of the battle system, by choosing which direction they go, they can crash into their teammates, damaging them, collide with your teammates, which will send them flying back in the opposite direction or fly our of the arena entirely, sending them to the bottom of the initiative order. It’s a simple but fun battle system, one that ultimately becomes pretty trivial as the game gets going and you quickly out level all of your opponents.
What really draws me in, more even than the battle system are the Pokémon-like collection elements to building a team. While the game will fill out your team with a handful of both recognisable and OC characters throughout the story, at a certain point the player gains the ability to scout and recruit pretty much any character you encounter throughout the game. Not only that, bu fusions goes one step further from satisfying that Pokémon inspired collection itch, but makes full use of its title sake to go one step further beyond.
The ability to fuse characters together increase the number of little chibi dragon ball OCs to see exponentially. after a certain point, the battle system and the story become secondary to filling out that fusion chart. Much in the same way the collection aspect of a Pokémon game can become all-consuming.
As a result, this a kind of game that uniquely works perfectly as a 3DS game for me. As a larger person with larger hands, the 3DS was always a device I could only use with limited comfort. Thus I subconsciously found myself attracted to a very particular type of game on the device. Specifically, games that didn’t require a lot of constant attentiveness.
Holding the device, all hunched over it and such made playing particular kinds of games very difficult. Games like the Metroid 2 remake (Metroid: Samus Returns) were titled that I greatly enjoyed, but could never get that far into thanks to how much playing that game ruined my hands, my neck and my eyes. I don’t even want to fathom trying to get into a Monster Hunter game on that little thing.
Menu-driven games like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Fusions were the perfect kinds of games for me to play on handheld devices. Almost being able to play them with one hand at a certain point. And that really was where the 3DS shone for me, for as impressive a library as the little device had, moving away from them in favour of the switch might have ultimately been the best move for Nintendo.
Which makes me wonder which 3DS exclusive titles will eventually find their way to a continuation on the Switch. The more I think about it, the more I’d love to see a Dragon Ball Fusions 2 on the device. With the extra lore that’s been added to the franchise since the release of the previous game, such as the 80+ that were added to the Tournament of Power alone, there is a ton of potential for a load more weird character mashups going forward.
It really is a game I don’t think anyone would complain about if it got a “more of the same” style sequel. And there’s really no better time for it. While Dragon Ball has never been on the out, Super’s return really acted as a kicking off point for the series to have a resurgence of popularity, bringing new fans into the fold. Just look at how ridiculously popular the Xenoverse games still are, despite being objectively terrible. The modding scene for them is thriving. The whole idea of taking those OC type characters and creating a whole new character mash-up game on a big boy console kind of seems like a nonbrainer to me at this point.