Initially debuting as a very popular manga, the Dragon Ball series is just about as synonymous with the word anime as any other. This has led to the expansion of the franchise over the years, including an incredible number of video games. The US finally jumped into the game in 2002 with Dragon Ball Z: Budokai and saw annual releases up until a couple years ago. After numerous years of mediocre entries in the series, the developer of the Budokai series, Dimps, has returned to reclaim the lost glory of the series with the ambitious Dragon Ball Xenoverse that looks to finally reset the status quo for the first time in many years, while also adding in some MMO style elements.
Easily the biggest complaint that has been made about the long running Dragon Ball video game series is that gamers are basically playing through the exact same story every single time. Just about the only changes that have been made over the years have been the addition of movie stages and those based on the original Dragon Ball and GT, though those have even been somewhat overdone by now. Dragon Ball Xenoverse turns the story completely on its head however, by inputting a brand new player-created character into the fray.
The general Dragon Ball Z storyline is still intact overall, with the Saiyan, Frieza, Cell, and Buu saga of course, but now a group of time travelers are going through the time stream and trying to mess everything up in Dragon Ball Xenoverse. Your custom character is tasked to be a Time Patroller and put a stop to these history altering situations. This really makes the game feel much more personal than any other in the series, as it far surpasses anything done with the character creator and implementation in the previously released Ultimate Tenkaichi.
Allowing players to choose between five different races, three of which offer male and female versions, provides much more diversity in the game as well. In fact, each of the races and even genders have different strengths and weaknesses, proving that the choice is not purely for superficial reasons. Otherwise the custom options are rather lackluster and basically results in most characters of the same race looking very similar to one another, though that is kind of part of the charm of the Dragon Ball series itself. One customization option in particular was a nice touch for fans of Dragon Ball Z Abridged, as the voice of the series’ fan favorite Nappa was added as a voice option for custom characters.
Complete with little nuances like that voice option, the overall presentation in Dragon Ball Xenoverse is very solid. The cutscenes are gorgeous, especially when they utilize the fully animated ones compared to the in-game graphics. Full of voice actors that players will recognize from the most recent series recordings, they do a good job at keeping the game energized as well. The presentation department that is quite lacking a lot of time is the sound mixing though. Often times the game is way too quiet with nothing but background noise present during conversations, which is either a glitch or a terrible decision on the developer’s behalf.
The controls found in Dragon Ball Xenoverse feel almost like a back to basics setup in some ways, while completely switching up the formula in others. The basic attacks are as you always remember them, complete with the ability to lock on that was added in some of the more complex games. However, Dimps has also switched up one gameplay mechanic that almost feels like something right out of a MMO.
Rather than require players to input long combo strings to execute the various super attacks or ultimate attacks in the game, the whole process has been much more streamlined. By simply holding down RT, you will find a list of four super attacks that each mapped to one of the four face buttons. By hitting the corresponding button, your fighter will instantly use the chosen attack, as long as you have enough Ki. This is fantastic, as it allows you to string together regular combos and super attacks much more effectively than ever through the use of essentially hotkeys.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is most definitely a step in the right direction for the nearly annual series
While the gameplay is pretty easy to learn, it is incredibly disappointing that Dimps chose to forgo a true training mode in Dragon Ball Xenoverse, outside of the limited moves taught at times. A tutorial or training mode should be an absolute requirement in all fighting games, especially one that has introduced some new mechanics to a long running series.
The combat does feature a number of flaws as well, the largest of which is the wonky camera. Any Dragon Ball game is naturally very fast paced and the one-on-one battles typically do run effectively. However, when taking on multiple enemies at a time, especially in the missions where you have to take out like 20 total, the camera will be your absolute worst nightmare. The ability to lock onto characters is present, but it will at times randomly unlock and cause you to take major damage that one could never see coming with the camera turned the opposite direction.
To better prepare yourself for these potential difficult battles as a result of the camera, the custom character can be outfitted with equipment, items, and power-ups known as Z-Souls within the game itself. With online integration being a major focus in this game, armor choices mean a lot more than just stat boosts, but also are there to look good. Sadly, there aren’t as many different designs as there could be, which makes it seems like a lot of characters online are wearing the same equipment, similar to the aforementioned similar looking characters.
Nowhere near the level of something like Destiny, this game implements an massively multiplayer online element to a genre that typically is rather simplistic, though it still can be played completely offline as well. This MMO environment offered in Dragon Ball Xenoverse allows players to easily match up with other players that they come across in Toki Toki City. Players are not only able to challenge one another in the overworld itself, but also able to pair up for what are known as Parallel Quests. Providing the ability to match up with custom characters like this is a first for the series, unless you count Dragon Ball Online that only released in a few countries. It is rather simplistic, but a good first step for the future of the series with online implementation.
The Parallel Quests come secondary to the main story, literally serving as sidequests where you must complete various tasks, including defeating specific enemies or collecting Dragon balls. By fulfilling the requirement you can earn special rewards, ranging from capsules to collectibles like costumes and special attacks. These side missions are excellent ways for anyone to break up the story mode itself, while also being able to become stronger in the process, whether it is being done with the computer or with other live characters. In addition, the Parallel Quests also extend the length of the game a lot without feeling like they are solely there for that purpose.
Choosing to go with a more MMO setup in Dragon Ball Xenoverse does have some major drawbacks as well though. The Dragon Ball video games series has always had a major focus on being relatively simple and quick to play, especially when involving multiplayer. However, players cannot expect to just put this game in for the first time and be able to square off against a friend right away. Instead, there is story mode progression required before getting the ability to play versus. It would have been much better to just have the ability to enter the simple modes like that from the start menu, but instead you have to travel to one specific part of Toki Toki City to do so. This takes away precious gaming time that makes it hard to just pick this game up for five minutes at a time and play, as in the past.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is most definitely a step in the right direction for the nearly annual series, though there were still some missteps along the way. The choice to move towards a somewhat MMO setting is unique, even when played completely offline. The story is much improved over any recent entry, but is still deeply rooted in the familiar one that has been presented for more than a decade. While it does have its flaws, Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a must play for fans, as it easily has the most potential of any recent game in the series. That said, it should serve as an excellent blueprint for future entries in the coming years.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse
- Available On: Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Published By: Bandai Namco Games
- Developed By: Dimps
- Genre: Fighter
- US Release Date: February 24th, 2015
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "Dragon Ball Xenoverse is definitely the best Dragon Ball game in years, though certainly not without its flaws, which shakes up the typical formula and is bound to shape the future of the series."
- Much improved gameplay
- Relatively fresh story that still maintains the classic characters and setups that players love
- Main focus on custom character
- Online implementations
- Wonky camera
- Inability to access simple modes within start menu