'Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission' Review: A Card Game Needing Cards

Super Dragon Ball Heroes is a popular digital card game in Japanese arcades where fans can collect cards of their favorite characters, put together their own dream teams, and watch them do battle on the screen. But despite existing in Japan since 2010 and increasing its popularity through regular updates, the arcade game has never made it to outside territories in any significant was. But now fans in the West are finally able to experience this arcade game for themselves with its experience distilled into Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission for Nintendo Switch. While the Switch allows for some unique interactions to draw you in, there's a glaring absence from this game without any of the physical collectible cards to toy around with.

Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission is set in a world outside of the standard Dragon Ball franchise as players take control of a kid learning how to play Super Dragon Ball Heroes for the first time. All goes well until villains from the Dragon Ball franchise start appearing in the real world, and now the player has to jump into the fight in order to fix the anomalies in the Dragon Ball timeline.

World Mission collects over 350 characters from Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT. Not only will fans recognize the inclusions, there will also be just as many that are brand new as original characters from Dragon Ball Heroes exclusive non-canon arcs such as the "Dark Demon Realm" and the more recent "Prison Planet" arcs make an appearance.

There are also several what-ifs that fans may not have seen such as Super Saiyan 3 Bardock, Adult Gotenks, and even a super demon Cell. But fans need to win these cards through random lottery pulls, so it's pure luck to get characters you might actually want.

Each card itself has fantastic art for fans to enjoy, but unfortunately those designs themselves don't get to shine too much as there's no real way to closely inspect the card art as you would in real life. That glaring absence unfortunately exists throughout the rest of the experience as the real meat of the gameplay begs for deeper interactivity.

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(Photo: Bandai Namco)

Going through the game's original story or select stories from the Super Dragon Ball Heroes franchise past in the Arcade mode, players select seven cards to assign to their deck. Each card has one of three main types, and have stats reflecting their strength or stamina. Matches are five rounds long, and each round players move their cards into certain spaces to attack or recover stamina. The further to your opponent's side you place a card, the stronger the attack will be and the more stamina you use. The goal is to whittle your opponents health to zero, but it's a bit more challenging than it seems given the amount of randomness built into each match.

Matches unfortunately seem to last a little longer than you would suspect. The game tends to pause whenever a character's effect activates as it interrupts the match with a huge notification. Not only does the game do this with every stat buff or nerf, this halting tends to feel even harder to bear with the game's super animations.

Some characters, like Goku for example, have access to transformations -- which gives them an additional super attack once a match -- and players must activate them through minigames. Using the joystick or touch screen, players fill energy bars, spin the card in a circle to stop time, for a "G" for "God Kamehameha," etc. While enjoyable at first, these minigames will feel a bit tedious after a few hours as fans are lacking the crucial aspect of using a physical card to activate these powers.

Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission is ambitious, but it still feels and looks like an arcade experience. It's perfect for a handheld console like the Nintendo Switch (which was used in this mode 75% of the time for this review), and made to be enjoyed in short bursts before repetition potentially sinks in.

For dedicated fans of the franchise, this is a great introduction to the Super Dragon Ball Heroes world. New characters, new stories, and the chance to finally play a game that has even inspired an anime series all make Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission a unique experience that stuffs a ton of fan service into a tiny cartridge.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission is now available for Nintendo Switch. A retail download code was provided for the purpose of this review.