Dragon Ball Legends is actually pretty good

When I first saw Dragon Ball Legends, the new mobile title due out this summer for iOS and Android, pop up during a Google Game Developers Conference talk on how to make money from apps (perhaps a worrying foreshadow), I thought it looked like it could be a decent, surprisingly slick fighting game based on the hugely popular anime. After all, it features real-time player versus player online fights, teams of three characters you can switch between at will, combos, special moves and over-the-top super attacks. Bandai Namco, the company behind it, even mentioned plans to host tournaments.

Timing a quick dodge properly gives you the chance to land attacks unopposed.

It turns out Dragon Ball Legends is not a fighting game at all, despite the fact it has some mechanics familiar to the genre. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a fun, commute-friendly option for fans of the superb Dragon Ball FighterZ – and a decent stab at doing justice to the source material.

You tap the screen to perform attacks and you’re able to move about the 3D environment by swiping the screen. The inputs are simple: swipe for movement, side flick for a quick dodge, vertical swipe for a dash/backstep, tap the screen for normal attacks, tap and hold for a ki charge and that’s about it. Other moves require a single tap, too: tap a card to use it, tap to switch character, tap the player icon to use their ability and tap the Rising Rush icon to use the super.

The idea is Legends can be played comfortably with one finger, probably your thumb as you hold your phone in the palm of your hand, and in this it’s a definite success. The game is responsive, with forgiving-enough input timings for casual execution. Playing the game well with one hand is certainly doable.

The control system suits the kind of game Dragon Ball Legends is, which is more of a strategic card battling video game than a fighting game. Cards are automatically drawn from a deck as you fight. There are five card types: melee, ranged, support, special and ultimate. Each has an energy cost, so you have to manage your ki gauge as you play (you can recharge your energy quickly by tapping and holding down). And each character has an element factor that feeds into a simple rock, paper scissors system. You want to use a character that has an element that buffs your character when fighting certain other elements (you see a little arrow up or down to signify whether you’re benefiting or losing out). It’s a simple system and it’s hardly unique, but it’s easy to understand and forces you to at least think a bit about your team composition when each player is picking the three characters they want to bring into battle.