I was like, super into anime and manga in high school. Like, embarrassingly so. I used to bring in my Gunpla models to tinker with during classes and if I got to put earbuds in (and sometimes when I wasn’t allowed) I’d typically be jamming out to whatever OP I’d heard most recently. And, of course, there were the gacha games. I started with One Piece Treasure Cruise, but playing it on my tiny phone – I used an iPhone 4 and then an iPhone SE, both small models – was no fun, so not long after it launched, I and a friend started playing Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle.
Dokkan Battle consumed around 4 years of my life and hundreds of my dollars, maybe more. I even tried other games, most notably Treasure Cruise and Fire Emblem Heroes, but Dokkan reigned supreme in my heart and wallet. Every Dokkan Fest I was liable to spend and pull until I got what I wanted, and for years I was in pursuit of each meta’s Vegito cards; naturally I never got them until well after they were relevant. And yet, last year, I just sort of… stopped. Recently, however, I’ve gone back in since a big New Year’s banner dropped, and despite falling victim to some of my older habits, I’ve noticed I’m nowhere near as engaged. Today, I’d like to discuss why I was so enthralled with it, and why I think I’ve ultimately left the game behind.
Confession 1: The Friendliest Grind
Die hard players can probably correct me on this, but Dokkan has a really friendly introductory period. You are practically showered with Dragon Stones to summon with, and most of the early story stages range from laughable to requiring the most basic of team building. Speaking of, team building is simple and easy to grasp for a new player, with types and categories making it easy to group all your characters under one banner – Super STR, “Fusion”, “Goku’s Family”, really simple to grasp divisions. As a result, I wound up getting a slow, safe introduction to the game right as the meta was entering a relatively prosperous period.
Having a whole bunch of Dragon Stones, the premium currency of Dokkan Battle, as well as a friend to keep me engaged with the meta, led to me playing constantly. Constantly, that is, until my phone broke and I had to take a break right as the first Super Vegito card dropped. Yaaaaaay. I was going mad with the need for that card; as unhealthy as it sounds, there were days where getting a new phone to play Dokkan was most of what I thought about. Needless to say, when I got back to the game, I took advantage of new banners to really dig my heels into the meta so I could clear more content to get more Stones so that one day, when he returned, I could pull Super Vegito.
Confession 2: The Most Extreme Luck Ever
For some reason, I had super weird luck when it came to summons. Generally, I’d pull “average” stuff, but then I’d wind up getting the new exclusive cards off of a single pull (5 stones, as opposed to a 10-pull multi for 50) or just get the rarest, “LR” card off it’s new banner on my first summon. However, there were some days where I just couldn’t pull anything worthwhile. More specifically, I couldn’t pull any Super Vegito cards, and they were consistently somewhere between great and outstanding. One of my favorite characters was top tier and I could summon anything but him, for years – literal years.
and third. All in one day.
It lowkey tormented me, that this character and specifically the AGL Super Vegito were nearly perpetually out of my reach. I pulled meta leaders left and right, like the STR SSJ4 Goku and LR PHY Fusion Gogeta, and well into the category leads, I was pulling cards like the LR TEQ GoBros and both the transforming AGL Gohan and INT Cell. But, somewhere in that process, and very late into that process, it happened. I got my AGL Super Vegito, and a PHY Super Vegito, and most of the Vegito Blue cards and even LR INT Potara Vegito. I achieved my goal for the game, and practically nothing could stand in my way anymore.
Confession 3: Diminishing Returns on Dopamine
The real catch of gacha games is how much they make the warm fuzzies go off when you pull a card you want; it’s just like opening a booster pack in real life, but with flashing lights and sound effects. Every 50 stones, and every dollar spent, could have a screen crack or a fusion animation guaranteeing a rare card. I realized it was becoming a problem and got my friends to help regulate what banners I pulled on, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted those warm fuzzies so badly I’d drop $10 or more on a whim – just for a shot or two at getting the rush during times where I did not have that money to throw around. I was in way too deep.
And then, it just sort of… changed. I stopped checking the game daily, and I never did daily missions. If a tournament or something was approaching, I might participate, but those were once a month at best. The rush of summoning felt hollow, rooted purely in nostalgia for “better” days. I started working more, and had less time to dedicate to the grind. My money started to go to more productive investments; equipment, software, and subscriptions aren’t cheap. If I had to chalk it up to anything, though, it’d be that I found other outlets that fulfilled the same rush, and began engaging more extensively with those. I played Dokkan less; I biked more. I dropped the grind and I picked up running. In the end, the game slipped my mind completely.
This… was kinda different. I decided to write this piece as a response to myself. I wound up logging back into the game in early January, and I bought a few stones to summon while they were discounted. It was then that I realized just how hollow it all felt. There was no rush, no excitement, no hype, and I was a little confused. I needed this to help me piece together why I felt this way, because otherwise I might have just kept on going in pursuit of that nostalgic rush I got so many times in high school. I don’t want to go down that hole again, and I’d rather avoid seeing others do it as well.
Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle is a decent enough phone game, and it has a lot to give to Dragon Ball fans in much the same way One Piece Treasure Cruise does. However, it’s also a money and time vacuum, and one that will not stop until you give in. If you’re gonna give it a shot, don’t give it your money and especially not your full attention, like I gave it mine.