Despite perhaps being one of the longest titled Dragon Ball games in recent memory, Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission isn’t your standard Dragon Ball game. In fact, it’s been a long time coming to Western audiences, having released originally as a Japanese arcade/trading card game back in 2010. In the original Japanese version, you would go out and buy physical Dragon Ball trading cards, which you would then use in specially made arcade machines, as you build teams of 7 to do battle with.
To pigeonhole SDBH as merely a card game would be severely underselling it because there are just so many layers to World Mission. There are card battles, sure, but also included is a story mode, an arcade mode featuring all-new original content and a deep card creation system, which is in addition to over 1000 collectible cards. Frankly, there is just so much content in here (dare I say hundreds of hours worth) that it’s a little overwhelming, but for Dragon Ball purists, it’s a damn treat.
The real meat of Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission is in its battle modes. Battles consist of 7 vs 7 round-based action where, instead of drawing a card, like Yu-Gi-Oh, all seven characters populate the battlefield at the same time. Players then have a set amount of time to position their selected roster as they see fit – characters within the top three segments will attack, depleting stamina based on how far forward they are, whereas characters positioned at the bottom blue area will recharge stamina. The team to strike first is determined by whichever team’s power level is highest, based on the individual stats of that team’s cards.
At this point, in-game animations take over as your characters slug it out. You will need to remain alert, however, because damn near every fight will involve various quick-time events and other mini-games. The most common of these is Charge Impact, or CI, where a meter will rapidly increase and decrease, and whoever stops the meter with the highest bar wins. Depending on whether you are attacking or defending, winning this bar is crucial to either dishing out more damage or defending from attack.
Mini-games, however, will activate more randomly, mainly depending on character-specific conditions, like which round you are in. These can include quickly moving cards into position to initiate special attacks, or moving (charging) them around the screen to build up meters, either to transform your character or ‘ace’ a super attack, for example. Playing on PC, this was done by moving my fingers up and down my trackpad as quick as I could.
They are fun and quirky events that help keep the battles from becoming repetitive and can be extremely rewarding if they help turn the tide of the battle. However, like many aspects of SDBH, elements like this were designed with arcade play in mind, so can be a little awkward in translation. If someone walked in on me during any one of World Mission’s’ multitude of minigame, I fear I may have some explaining to do.
The other factors at play in all battles are characters’ special abilities, which can buff individual cards, assist team members or hinder the opposition. Some skills will lower Hero Energy (used to pull off special attacks) or make the CI bar even faster; some will affect stamina etc. It’s important to keep track of who can do what when building your team. Thankfully, the battle mechanics are pretty straightforward to pick up and, much to its credit, SDBH takes its time to introduce new players to its styles and rules. Within an hour or two, you will be pretty much set to do everything on your own, and you’ll only become more confident as you begin to build up a bigger roster.
There are so, so many characters to be discovered in World Mission – 1,161 to be exact. It’s a staggering number but this does encompass Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, Dragon Ball Super, not to mention Dragon Ball Xeno (from the Xenoverse games) and the titular Dragon Ball Heroes. Heroes offers a number of ‘fan service’/non-canon forms of Dragon Ball’s cast that you won’t see anywhere else (like Super Saiyan 4 Gohan, for example).
The cards range in rarity, and all cards have different perks and abilities to account for when team building. You’ll need to balance attack, guarding and support units, see what cards link as a ‘unit’ or if they can transform, as well as what cards can use their abilities once or multiple times. Building a powerful team will take time and planning, but you will have to put in work to get to that stage. The 1000+ cards are split across ten different completely different sets and, as is expected, you are entirely at the mercy of RNG as to what you might receive. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly cool to get Super Saiyan 3 Vegito (my inner fanboy runs laps when summoning) but don’t hold out too much hope that you’ll be pulling an Ultra Instinct Goku on the first go-around.
Cards come in ‘normal’ or ‘rare’ forms and can be unlocked by progressing through the story, battles, or the in-game gacha machine. Any duplicate cards are immediately turned into ticket pieces which can later be exchanged for full tickets.
Anyone who already plays the popular Dragon Ball mobile games, such as Dokkan Battle or Legends, will be pretty familiar with summoning for new characters. World Mission, in its favour, contains an immense army of characters Dokkan and Legends have never seen (Super Saiyan 4 Broly, anyone?). Perhaps more importantly, SDBH has no microtransactions at all, meaning all cards are completely free to play for, whereas Dokkan Battle, for example, can see you paying over £40 if you want more of the in-game currency of Dragon Stones to summon.
Missions wise, there is plenty to see and do in Super Dragon Ball Heroes. The arcade mode has a wide selection of original content and arcs made exclusively for Heroes, featuring some new villains, and new villain forms, such as Fu, Cumber and Golden Cooler. With this, each mission increases in difficulty as you progress and has its special completion conditions added extra replayability to the mode. Alongside this is SDBH’s story mode, which sees you take control of Beat, who lives in the aptly named Hero Town. In this alternate reality, the Dragon Ball Heroes card game is the most prominent form of entertainment around. Soon enough, villains from the game world begin to wreak havoc on the real world and Beat, with his knowledge of all things Dragon Ball and skills in the card game, is drawn in to save the world.
The story itself is fun, helped by the roster who are all aware they are in a game and regularly break the fourth wall, not to mention fanboy/girl over various Dragon Ball characters, but the plot of space/time anomalies is a touch old hat at this point, having been covered already in Xenoverse 1 and 2. Essentially, enemies will show up in time periods where they shouldn’t, or achieve transformations they never could (I won’t go into many spoilery details here, but Super Saiyan Nappa is a damn riot) and you beat them up until they stop it.
Each story mode chapter is split out across maps, with many battles, side-battles and story content to traverse before you complete it. Some fights will have unique objectives or quests attached to earn a Super Dragon Ball or a higher score. The maps themselves aren’t the most exciting things to look at, but the side missions can be a lot of fun, especially those in ‘extradimensional space’, which offer a higher difficulty and, in some cases, are continuations of storylines. They aren’t necessary to tackle (and some can only be unlocked by completing battles under certain conditions), but they do offer intriguing distractions from the plot.
It is also worth briefly discussing the interface in World Mission, specifically the Hero Switch. Just a quick button press will bring up a menu option that will take you to any of World Mission’s modes, irrespective of what it is you are currently doing. It’s a simple but helpful feature that aides the games pacing. Not to mention it helps speed up exploring the central hub, removing the need to travel everywhere (it’s a shame that DIMPS didn’t implement this within a title like Jump Force). It’s just nice when traversing the world doesn’t feel like a chore.
One of the talking points about Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission is sure to be the graphics. To most, they will look dated. If you are thinking ‘PS2 graphics’, well, you’d be right. World Mission does use the same character models as seen in the Budokai games. To some, this will ‘make or break’ the experience, but, honestly, after a few hours, it becomes an entirely moot point. It is important to remember that this version of DBSH, for better or worse, is a port of a game that is nearly a decade old.
Outside of this are World Mission’s creation modes, which are set to be a massive draw for many. Not only can you create missions for others to play online, but you can also invent your very own Dragon Ball cards to use in battle as well as having a dedicated mode to build your decks. As with collecting cards, you’ll need to put in a few hours work to unlock card stickers to create them in the first place. You control what characters you insert onto a single card, the backgrounds, the card’s special attacks and abilities, the stats and much, much more. When all the pieces are in place, the number of cards you can create is effectively limitless and only limited by imagination. It’s so much fun to build, and the sheer level of customisation is insane.
Even though Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission is creeping up on ten years old, you wouldn’t know it. I just cannot stress how much content there is to be found here. As you learn to build better decks and subsequently unlock cards, the battles only becomes more rewarding and better fun with the more time you put in. From story modes and original arcade missions, to an absurd wealth of cards to unlock (all for free) an infinite amount of creation possibilities, World Mission is truly the gift that keeps on giving. For Dragon Ball fanatics and serial completionists, you will have your plate well and truly filled for a long time to come.
For less dedicated Dragon Ball fans, the charm may wear off sooner, although there is still an innate thrill to be found as you creep towards obtaining all 1000+ cards on offer. Plus, the admittedly dated graphics are going to put some people off, but they are simply selling themselves short how much fun World Mission can be.
If I had to have any real niggles with SDBH, it would be the story rehashing familiar beats already seen in Xenoverse, despite the number of enticing story/battle opportunities it could present. Also, while I do still very much enjoy spending time with World Mission on PC, I couldn’t help but think that the interface, especially when it comes to the variety of in-battle minigames, would be much more rewarding if played via the touch screen medium of the Switch. This, however, is a minor point and largely down to player preference.
For those with no prior knowledge of Super Dragon Ball Heroes, they might be slightly disappointed if they were expecting another DB fighting game, like Xenoverse or FighterZ. But for all its limitless creative avenues, this is a card game with an arcade spin and plenty of depth. With the largest roster of character in any Dragon Ball game, this is one of the most accessible and replayable titles in the franchise to date.
There is more content to play with here than a thousand Dragon Balls could ever wish for. Simply put, Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission is a gigantic bounty of arcade and card-based fun and creation that keeps on giving.