Based on its turn-based combat alone, Dragon Ball Fusions distinguishes itself from other roleplaying games. The tutorial-heavy story is as standard as a one-dollar bill: Players create a character and enter a tournament that will determine the greatest fighter—or, as the game jokes, the greatest group of fighters given that you have a party of five—in the entire Dragon Ball universe. While it’s true that some knowledge of the manga or anime might help you appreciate some of the tongue-in-cheek clashes between popular personalities like Goku and Bulma, anyone with an eye for kineticism can happily lap up the consequences of a well-positioned punch, namely enemies bouncing off each other and your allies like helpless pinballs and the game’s counting up of the total damage as each blow transpires.
The excitement and hilarity of opponents flying around from a beating in Dragon Ball Fusions makes the more static effects of turn-based titles like The Banner Saga 2 and Fire Emblem Fates appear supremely dull by comparison. Although Dragon Ball Fusions is no different than its peers in that you have to carefully choose which action you’ll perform and which enemy you’ll engage, your troops don’t carry out commands in predictable RPG fashion when it comes to melee attacks. After your party member flies into action based on your input (true to Dragon Ball Z, everyone likes fighting in midair), you choose one of eight directions from which the character can perform the move on the selected adversary. If opponents fail to initiate a damage-reducing block by predicting your direction, they’ll be knocked back a certain distance within the defined ring of combat.
At the point of the knockback, if there’s no one in the immediate area, rivals will take the hit and wait for their turn to attack, assuming they have health left. And if there’s another enemy in the path of the knockback, you get damage bonuses on both enemies. If the enemy flies into one of your allies, the party member will hit the enemy, producing another knockback. Depending on the angles, you could see enemies ping between three of your buddies before smashing into one of their friends, who then might collide with yet a third victim. These collisions can also cause fighters to sail through the barriers of the ring and crash into mountains for more of a hit-point loss.
This brutal but bloodless violence is brilliantly animated by developer Ganbarion, with close-up anime scenes accentuating the major blows, one by one, through sharp cuts. The visuals are even more intoxicating when other party members toss in supporting punches and kicks due to their close proximity to the beatdown. Through this use of montage, Dragon Ball Fusions creates the illusion of teamwork before the camera switches to a high angle so that you can clearly observe and enjoy the bumper-car dynamics. Even when the outcome of the battle is predictable, how you execute the annihilation, along with the ensuing visual punctuation, can make Dragon Ball Fusions some of the best kinetic art you’ll see in a turn-based RPG.