The Dragon Ball franchise has been making big headlines in recent weeks, thanks to an announcement that there will be a new anime series based on Dragon Ball Heroes. That announcement was enough to get fans super excited that the franchise has a new series coming to replace Dragon Ball Super, but for casual fans who don't follow every branch of the frnachise, there was a lingering question:
What is Dragon Ball Heroes, exactly?
The answer to that can be found over in Japan, where Dragon Ball Heroes has become an immensely popular video game series. One reason for that popularity is the fact that the Heroes combines arcade video game play with a collectible card game. Fans can buy sets of cards, each of which come with a general theme and some secret cards. These cards, inserted into the game, allow players to unlock mission storylines unique to the card sets, as well as new playable characters, outfits, and other power-ups or features. Players can create custom avatars to serve as their main character in the game, while the cards also allow for just about any version of any character from Dragon Ball lore to be included in the game (where talking hundreds of possibilities!).
Heroes is played using a turn-based card battle system, set to five rounds or less of play, using a game board where players move their cards to arrange their fighters different positions for a 5-on-5 battle (later updated to 7-on-7). Attacks power and defensive power are determined by each character's position on the game board, while a mini-game requiring precise button presses and timing for the two players to determine the strength of their attack or defensive maneuver. Fusions, transformations, special attacks, energy attacks, and even special "Ultimate Unit" team attacks are all possibilities, depending on which cards a player is holding.
Dragon Ball Heroes launched in fall 2019, but has gone on to become the number 1 digital card game in the market, having sold nearly 400 million cards, and making about 40 billion yen (approximately $365M dollars, US). In November 2016, a major update was made to the game (which was re-titled Super Dragon Ball Heroes), increasing the player numbers to seven per team, while changing the game dynamics to include support characters in addition to standard offensive/defensive mix, a la Overwatch. Despite that massive success, it's the intangible value to the Dragon Ball franchise that has made Heroes fertile ground for this new anime series.
Among the international fandom, Dragon Ball Heroes is known for being a gaming version of Dragon Ball fan-fiction, where any "What If" scenario is a possibility to occur. While the game is in no way considered canon, it comes with story arcs that are both unique to the game ("Dark Demon Realm Saga" and "Dark Empire Saga"), as well as its own adaptations of the canonized manga/anime storylines ("Beerus Saga," "Golden Freeza Saga," "Universal Survival Saga"). Those storylines get introduced in trailers that function almost like anime shorts, setting up the basic plotline and characters of that story arc. It's those trailers which are now being expanded into a full PR anime series to further promote the game, essentially taking Dragon Ball Heroes' fan-service appeal and trying it out on a much bigger scale with the global fandom.
As of now, Dragon Ball Heroes is moving into another adapted story arc (Dragon Ball Super's acclaimed "Universal Survival Arc"), as well as a new original storyline ("Prison Planet Arc"), both of which will serve as the basis for the anime. The Prison Planet arc has fans especially excited, as it will put a Dragon Ball video game villain in the spotlight (Fu); will bring back some fan-fav characters (Future Trunks and Cooler); and introduce a mysterious (and cool) new Evil Saiyan character. While there's been no determination of how long the Dragon Ball Heroes anime will run, it seems that the series will be an experiment that could result in the non-canon, fan-service side of the franchise getting a shot at massive popularity with the larger fan base. If that works out, and curiosity mounts, there's also possibility that the Dragon Ball Heroes game could finally make its way to overseas consoles and arcades (besides Nintendo 3DS), as well.2comments
Are you excited to see the Dragon Ball Heroes brand expand? Or are you waiting for more Dragon Ball Super-style canon?
Dragon Ball Super is currently airing its English dub on Adult Swim during the Toonami programming block Saturday evenings at 9:30 p.m. It is also available to stream on Funimation and Amazon Video. The Japanese language release of the series is complete, and available to stream on Funimation, VRV, and Crunchyroll.