App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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The Dragon Ball franchise has always seemed like low-hanging fruit to make video games out of considering it’s a series mostly about tough guys screaming and punching each other. It wasn’t until Dragon Ball FighterZ came out this year that it really felt like a developer nailed it though. This continues to be the case when looking at Dragon Ball Legends, a mobile, card-based fighter, that serves up appropriately flashy visuals, but doesn’t really have much substance lying underneath.
Portrait mode punching
Dragon Ball Legends is basically a fighting game mixed with something like Clash Royale. You and an opponent face off with your teams of fighters and use cards to unleash flurries of punches or energy blasts on your foes, with the ultimate goal of having the last fighter (or fighters) standing.
This all takes place in portrait mode on your phone, where you can do some maneuvers like power up your characters (to play more cards), dodge slow moving attacks by swiping around on screen, and—of course—tapping on cards to chain together attacks. The whole thing looks pretty impressive in motion, with your fighters gliding all over the screen at blistering speeds, but the controlled action itself is just simple, tap-based commands.
To get you acquainted with Dragon Ball Legends’ gameplay, there’s a single player campaign that has you take control of Shallot, a new hero to the franchise. This new fighter finds himself with a pretty nasty case of amnesia and has to rely on the guidance of characters like Krillin, Bulma, and Yamcha to figure out what is going on and his part in it.
This story mode is pretty light on any sort of interesting or deep narrative, and mostly serves as a way to teach you how Dragon Ball Legends operates before throwing you into the game’s multiplayer mode, where you compete against other player’s fighter squads to climb a ranking ladder and earn rewards.
The action can be fast and frenetic in Dragon Ball Legends, but it all comes at a price. Dragon Ball Legends suffers from long load times, horrendously clunky UI, and confusing tutorial systems, but the main bad guy of Dragon Ball Legends is mostly its free-to-play mechanics.
If you can name a free-to-play mechanic that you don’t like, it’s more than likely in this game. Energy timers, gacha grinding, fusing characters, power ratings, etc. are all in full effect here, all of which work together to break the core ideas behind the game itself. Fighting games should be about two players on roughly even footing testing their own skills against each other, not about which person can level up their characters more before a fight. Unfortunately, Dragon Ball Legends is only concerned with the latter.
The bottom line
Dragon Ball Legends essentially boils down into a game about who has the higher power level. In a way, this makes it a pretty pure and accurate representation of what the anime and manga are about. On the other hand, this obsession over power levels is stuck in a free-to-play system that just isn’t very fun. So, despite some weird alignment with the core values of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Legends is a pretty big flop.