When it comes to the Dragon Ball Z video games, Dimps has a tendency to jump all over the place in terms of quality. Their highest note is most likely Budokai 3, a game which showcases an incredibly fast paced and competitive 2.5D fighting environment. Burst Limit was their debut on the PS3 and Xbox 360, and while it was functional, it was extremely bare bones; lacking depth, longevity, and even story content from a series most have already seen to the end at this point. Another generation of consoles has arisen and as such, another Dragon Ball Z game will coincide with it. Dragon Ball: Xenoverse - cleverly titled to highlight the 15th Dragon Ball fighting game released on home consoles since the first Budokai "“ appears on the PS4 and Xbox One, PC and the 7th gen consoles. It sets out to be an incredibly ambitious project that has players creating their very own custom and personalized character spanning from 5 unique races and classes.
The story and premise behind Dragon Ball Xenoverse is intelligently designed around this create-a-character portion. Trunks discovers history is in disarray from two meddling foes altering history and changing the timeline. In desperate need of help, Trunks calls upon the Dragon Shenron to wish for a hero or heroine capable of aiding him in his quest across time. From here you may select your protagonist's race. As mentioned before there are 5 to choose from: Human, Saiyan, Namekian, Majin, and Frieza. All can be completely customized from the ground up with a decent selection of body modifications to choose from. From there you are then plunged into Trunks' Time Patrol Force, and as goofy as the name sounds, it's certainly a unique premise for a Dragon Ball game. Rather than going through the motions of the same arcs we've both played and seen, time and time again, Xenoverse shakes things up a bit by introducing the idea that the history we know is altered in some way. Simple changes like Radditz avoiding Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon bring about a new timeline that needs to be fixed so that history can run its course.
On the whole, it's fairly enjoyable to play as a Time Cop fighting through space and time. The downside is that it does fly by the entire series; entire seasons or arcs are covered in one mission. I understand the purpose is not to retell the series but to give fans a fresh change about it, but at the same time I feel that the developers could have definitely played more into this gimmick. Another gripe with this is the over-reliance on cut corners for the actual game's design and having the timeline breaks as an excuse or explanation. One of the most notably guilty sections for this would be when players fight Frieza. Most know he has four forms, five including his full power, and now six if we were to talk about the latest reveal for the upcoming Dragon Ball Z movie. In Xenoverse, Frieza quite literally announces that we would be shown all "four" forms, and then proceeds to jump straight to his final form. Trunks immediately defends this by suggesting this is alteration in history and we must fix it; only problem is we just end up fighting and defeating Frieza in that form, so we really aren't fixing anything.
Thankfully, Xenoverse isn't solely represented by the main story mode. There are also parallel quests that are additional time paradoxes that need completing. They are ranked based on overall difficulty, and you are also graded based on your performance and execution. These can be completed both online with friends or offline with characters you may select from the roster. A lot of these can be fairly simplistic but later quests are very challenging and are a good way to farm experience and zenny (the game's currency).
One of the most interesting approaches for how Xenoverse weaves online, offline and created players together is their hub world, and here is where the game starts to shine. The point of origin for the game is a mysterious city, ridiculously called Toki-Toki City. Most translations of Toki usually define it as hour, or time in English. So Time-Time City is our main hub world broken up into three sections so that players can navigate an industrial section to purchase upgrades and cosmetics, or participate in the story and online portions. Where this gets interesting is that if you are connected to the Xenoverse servers, and supposing said servers actually work, you can be surrounding with up to 200 online users, all using their very own custom avatars. You can meet up, form parties and take on quests together in teams of three. You may even face people online in chaotic 3-on-3 battles. It's a great way to not only remind you of the other people around the world that are taking part in this, but it also adds to the feeling of being a part of this interstellar/inter-temporal force. One tiny issue with Toki-Toki City is that characters can only walk about the city "“ almost unnecessarily slowing down the flow of the game. Each section of the world is separated by load sections, so you need to walk to those portals and walking just seems to make it a chore to do. The industrial sector in Toki-Toki City will let players upgrade and customize their gear and equipment along with buying healing items and buffs for matches, accessories and skills to further enhance your player's moveset. Clothing can be unique to certain player classes, but most will definitely work across the board. Some even resemble classic character outfits.
Xenoverse's gameplay is one of its strongest assets for me, though it is not without its share of drawbacks. Matches take place in large, open environments that have some degree of destructibility to them. The central strategy of your core combat is managing stamina and Ki. Moves you can either unlock or purchase can be assigned to preset combo inputs and will determine your character's fighting style. You can load them up with Ki blast attacks that can quickly deplete your Ki, or have a balance of offensive and defensive manoeuvers to answer most attacks. Goku's Kaio-Ken is an example of needing to manage your stamina as it is a move that will quickly deplete it the longer you remain in that mode. To build your meters you have light and heavy attacks mapped to square and circle on the DualShock 4. Players will also have access to ultimate finisher moves, taken from the series' memorable attacks like Final Flash or the like. As a whole, it can be very versatile as it is completely customizable, though you will more often than not find yourself using similar repetitious strings of light and heavy combinations earlier on. Players can earn experience to level up different attributes that can ultimately boost their performance in battle. As you continue through your journey, you will also meet classic Z-fighters along the way, and some even offer themselves as mentors for you to train under. Your mentors can give you additional moves and styles that mirror their classic fighting style.
When the battle system is good, you really feel like you're on the show "“ going from melee to ranged, and teleporting behind to catch an enemy off guard. Where it slips into the minor annoyance and frustration territory is the fact that most enemy patterns seem to rely on juggling you. In some cases where you're facing more than one opponent, you will be faced with some team-ups that turn an easily winnable battle into a swift loss. Skilled players will understand that this is a test to understand some of the more advanced mechanics to at least put up a good counter-attack. But still, one slip up could result in a crippling blow.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse won't win any awards for its visual presentation; that being said it is at least pleasant to look at. Models are cel-shaded to emulate an anime feel, and flying around levels looks and feels great. A problem here is that while this technique is best used to demonstrate an animated style, other games have been far more successful like last generation's Naruto Ultimate Storm series, or Asura's Wrath. The destructible environments seem slapped together, with debris disappearing as it's broken. All Ki blasts and finishers look great, though there is an obvious omission of some of the more highly stylized and choreographed finishing moves as shown in earlier games. The voice acting unfortunately really brings the presentation down, as characters will either sound like their anime counterparts or sound incredibly stiff and wooden from new hires. For those interested, they have also managed to include the Japanese audio.
Overall, Dragon Ball Xenoverse comes generally recommended to most audiences. Fighting game fans looking for time to kill will get some great pleasure from the battles and the online play is very well done provided the servers are actually functional. Toki Toki City was an interesting new concept for the series and one I hope remains in future installments. The game also surprisingly has a fair amount of depth with its lite-RPG mechanics and customizable skills and attacks to keep you finding new strategies for your character. A few hitches in the game's presentation and main story elements prevent Xenoverse from being the best representation of a Dragon Ball Z game, however fans of the series will undoubtedly play this and continue to support the game as more content is set to release post-launch.
|Great battle system.|
|The Time Force is an interesting premise.|
|Toki Toki City is very unique.|
|Relying on time paradoxes as an excuse for lazy developing.|
|Server connectivity issues.|
|English voice acting can be painful at times.|