Title: Dragon Ball Xenoverse
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS3, PS4, PC (played on PS3)
Each new Dragon Ball game offers the same experience with buff men, their hair gleaming, shouting at one another while tossing about colorful rays of energy as if they were footballs until one of them passes out or the show hit its allotted twenty-two minute run time. The games released to pay homage to this classic of the Shōnen genre are often roughly the same as they more often than not focus on reproducing the experience of watching Dragon Ball Z, rather than trying to be a good game in their own right. This was especially evident in 2013’s Dragon Ball Battle of Z which brought both team-based combat and an utterly frustrating combat system that favored spamming the same moves over and over. Players were left praying to Shenron that your AI teammates would be smart enough to resurrect you -which they often weren’t.
Battle of Z was something of a mess. Dragon Ball Xenoverse, however, manages to stand on its own as a game that manages to both faithfully reproduce the frantic battles of its source material and still provide a gameplay experience that is both fun and satisfying. This all begins with the onset of the Xenoverse‘s story mode which calls upon the player to create a hero of their own design from one of five different races drawn from every corner of the Dragon Ball universe. Earthlings (Humans) and Saiyans are playable, of course, but Xenovese goes even further and offers the players the option to play as Namekians, Majin, and, in their first playable appearance, members Frieza’s race. The usual array of options to tweak a character are present including the ability to change height, skin color, eyes, face, and other features. Once complete the player is immediately dropped into the world of DBZ at the behest of fan favorite character, Future Trunks. His wish for a warrior from the future to appear was granted by Shenron and, thus, the adventure begins.
The “why?” of saving the world this time around differs from typical DBZ games. Most walk through the storyline of the manga for the ten millionth time, yet Xenoverse tasks the player with repairing damage to the universe’s timeline inflicted by a mysterious group of villains known as the Time Breakers. Their goal is to change the future by empowering history’s greatest villains so they might defeat Goku and friends. If this sounds like a piece of fan fiction, then that is because it really plays out like the plot of a lengthy fan work. This is by no means a bad thing, however, as it let the developers play with familiar portions of Dragon Ball canon without resorting to retelling a story most fans know by heart. This does, occasionally, lead to gaping holes in the story, such as the omission of several key villains such as Cell and Frieza, but it still makes for a fun ride while it lasts.
Fighting with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance comes standard but players can also take on secondary objectives known as Parallel Quests that are flavored as being minor rips in time caused by restoring the timeline to its proper state. These side quests start out fairly easy featuring one or two opponents at a time with meager amounts of health. They quickly become a hassle, though, as five or more foes join in over the course of fifteen minutes while attempting to balance the player health and their teammates as well. The difficulty spike, combined with the fact that the neat outfits and attacks given out as rewards for these quests being given to the player seemingly at random, makes Parallel Quests more a chore than a pleasure until very late in the game. Parallel Quests, frustrating as they can be, at least provides gamers with something to do long after the world has been saved and the credits roll.
Those who enjoy the DBZ franchise’s deep history will also enjoy all the fun references packed into the game’s various items and techniques. Obscure characters and plot moments are recalled in loving detail by the game’s development crew. Even very minor characters such as Baba the Witch or Wraps the Mummy have their outfits available for purchase, making each trip the game’s clothing store a trip down memory lane for those with familiar with the more odd and obscure parts of the franchise. In addition, all of these throw-backs make it possible to dress up your hero as a near perfect replica of several characters not playable normally in the game, which is a neat addition, especially for those angry about their favorite character missing from Xenoverse‘s mildly sparse roster.
The actual meat of Xenoverse is its frenetic combat, which is robust, if slightly annoying in execution. Once players arrive on the battlefield they are able to roam freely both in the air and on foot in pursuit of their foes. Burst dashes, which sends a character shooting off like a bullet in the chosen direction, makes travel easy despite the sheer scale of the stages. Upon meeting a foe, battle is carried out with a four-button interface, one each for normal attacks, heavy attacks, energy shots, and super moves, that can be strung together in developer Dimps best attempt at reproducing the feel of the DBZ anime and manga. For the most part, they are successful in this endeavor, as the sheer speed, animation, and overall look of Xenoverse feels as if it was lifted straight out of its source material. This is both good, as it is a DBZ game but also can feel cheap at times, as the large amount of health most Parallel Quest bosses possess makes the frantic gameplay more a slog than anything else.
Several attacks, including Goku’s Spirit Bomb and Frieza’s Death Ball, are so large in size that they become nearly impossible to dodge when spammed across the battlefield. This makes for matches both online and off that are far easier than they should be, and make Xenoverse an entirely unbalanced game under certain circumstances. This problem is most evident online where, more often than not, player’s repeat these attacks over and over to boost their ranking. If you can find a fair fight online though, Xenoverse is a fun ride that will be sure to last for some time as there are hundreds of techniques to find the perfect combination for each custom hero or heroine.
The absolute worst thing about Xenoverse is the fact that Bandai Namco felt it necessary force players into an Always Online state of play. This allows for the Story Mode’s hub world to be perpetually populated with players yet produces frustration as well. The necessary servers have seen a lot of downtimes thus preventing from taking part in Xenoverse‘s single player story mode. For the sake of the sanity of all of you who have yet to play Xenoverse, just a little tip. Disable your system of choices’ network connection. This will force the game into offline mode and allow you to play without fear of being kicked off in an important moment. An official statement on the manner can be found on Bandai Namco Europe’s Facebook page
For all its flaws, Xenoverse is still the best Dragon Ball Z game to come out in years. So if you are a fan of any sort, then you will likely love it. But if you are not, it might be best to look elsewhere for your fighting game fix. A full review will be posted soon.
More gaming news and reviews can be found by following @APGNation on Twitter.