It’s been a while since I made a conscious decision to buy a Dragon Ball Z game. Not because I thought they were bad, but because I felt like if I’d played one, I’d pretty much played them all. I thought there was only so much they could do to spice things up, until now.
From the jump, the whole idea of Dragon Ball Xenoverse stood out to me. Create your own warrior and work with Trunks and the Time Patrollers to restore the timeline of key moments in the Dragon Ball Z series. This concept presented a pretty ambitious challenge for developer Dimps.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is very unlike the Dragon Ball games of past. To me, it’s not just a fighting game anymore. It’s more of a Dragon Ball fan service experience that you can share with the world. Of course, fighting is the main element of the game, but it’s hard to think of Xenoverse as a game that would attract fighting game fans. The style of fighting in Dragon Ball Xenoverse is arcade like, in the sense that it’s pick up and play. It’s a button masher’s game with stylistic power beams that can be initiated without the need for a button input combination.
To pull off the ultimate and super moves such as Goku’s signature Kamehameha, you simply have to hold R2 and press either Triangle, Square, Circle or X, depending on which slot you assigned the move to. The only requirement to pull off these moves is that you must have enough KI in the energy meter.
Bashing Square or Triangle allows you to combo enemies at close range, but the number of combos you can pull off are pretty limited. L1 allows you to block, and Circle shoots out basic KI blasts. Thus, Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a pretty cheap fighting experience as there’s not too much skill involved in the mechanics. However, this game isn’t exactly trying to excel at being a great fighting game. At its core, Xenoverse is more of an action-adventure game, and the fighting is just the main layer.
The game begins with Trunks using the Dragon Balls to summon a warrior for help. This warrior is you, and as soon as the wish sequence ends, you’re presented with the character creation screen.
Dragon Ball Z fanatics will be ecstatic to know that there are five different races to pick from: Majins, Saiyans, Earthlings, Namekians and Frieza Race. Each have their own pros and cons. However, most people pick the Saiyan race because they’re the only race that has an exclusive transformation in the game. This is a let down because transformations are a huge part of Freiza’s race. It feels as if the developers opted to not include transformations for the race because they were too lazy to figure out a way to change your appearance mid match.
The Super Saiyan transformation is simply just a change of hair color and adding a glow, but a Frieza transformation would require a full appearance switch, and I feel like that’s why they avoided it. In my opinion it shouldn’t have been too difficult to allow players to design multiple versions of their Frieza character with increased power and then just switch to these models during the match. It may be asking too much, I’m no developer, but as a player it sucks that the Saiyans are the only race to benefit from a transformation.
Even with the lack of transformations for other races, it’s still cool to be able to select these races and try something different. Once you’ve beaten the game for the first time, it will allow you to create up to eight characters, which will share some of your retained skills and equipment. This encourages you to eventually try out all races.
Once your character is created, the show begins. Trunks will fight you to test your skill, which also acts as the game’s tutorial. Pop-ups will flash on screen, teaching you how to play. This can be annoying if you prefer to just figure it out on your own, but it’s more beneficial to read through the tutorial to fully grasp everything.
After this, you are able to explore the game’s hub world, known as Toki Toki City. You’ll be introduced to two different types of quests: Time Patrol and Parallel Quests. Time Patrol acts as the main storyline quest, and Parallel Quests are side quests that will allow you to grind for some of the well sought after items in the game. You’ll need to grind Parallel missions again and again to get everything you’re after, which means repeating the same missions over and over.
To make this experience slightly more pleasing however, you have the option of playing Parallel Quests online with friends or random players. Sometimes this is the best option, as the companion A.I in the single player Parallel Quests is abysmal.
Another nice element of Parallel Quests is that you aren’t forced to use your created character, you can select from any of the Dragon Ball Xenoverse roster that you’ve unlocked. Some of the favorites include Super Saiyan God Goku, Vegito, Super Saiyan 4 Goku, Super Vegita, Beerus, Brolly, and loads more.
While there is a nice selection to pick from, there are a few flaws in the roster. For example, instead of including Zarbon as one of Frieza’s associates, they decided to include Appule and Raspberry, two of Frieza’s weakest grunts. This is a waste of two character slots when most people would have been happier with Zarbon and one of Frieza’s other forms. We also could have did without Saibamen and Kid Cell.
Parallel Quests aren’t the only way to interact with other players. If the network is running okay, then you’ll be entered into a multi-player lobby where you’ll see other players avatars running around Toki Toki City and posing. You can interact with them via the chat window using a list of supplied sentences and phrases. You can challenge people to fights, trade items, invite people to join your team, or ask for help with leveling up. It’s a great way to meet others in the community, and I’ve found that randoms often turn into new PSN mates.
You’ll gain XP from completing Time Patrol and Parallel quests, and you can then spend points leveling up your character. You can spend these points on Health, Ki, Stamina, Basic Attacks, Strike Supers and Super Blasts. As you continue to play you’ll learn to spend these points on the attributes that compliment your play style.
Clothing and Z-Souls (which are essentially memorable quotes you collect from the well known Dragon Ball Z characters) will also add stat bonuses and deductions, so the trick is to balance all of this to match your characters strengths and weaknesses. You can even be trained by some of your favorite characters in Dragon Ball Z and earn the right to use their moves.
Though collecting items and building the perfect warrior presents an absorbing challenge that will glue you to your seat for hours at a time, Dragon Ball Xenoverse‘s biggest strength is its story. Instead of just forcing us to relive the same stories we’ve played over and over in previous games, we get a completely fresh angle that involves a little cliche’d time travel. Sure, time travel is the lazy way to create a story these days, but it’s done well in Xenoverse with its villains.
Mira is a demon created by female demon Towa, together they revisit classic Dragon Ball Z moments to manipulate the events that occur. It’s your job to fight the manipulations and eventually put a stop to Mira and Towa’s plans. But it doesn’t stop there. Your ultimate foe turns out to be Demon God Demigra. Demigra is determined to distort time to free himself from imprisonment.
What makes this story even more valuable to a Dragon Ball Z fan is the inclusion of brand new anime style cut scenes, which look straight out of an episode of Dragon Ball Z. Every moment retains that Dragon Ball Z excellence, even down to the humor, and it never feels inauthentic.
The story alone makes this game worth it for any Dragon Ball Z fanatic, but with the addition of an MMO-like hub world, co-op questing, and the ability to build your own unique Z-Warrior, Dragon Ball Xenoverse isn’t a game to miss out on if you’ve been having doubts about Dragon Ball games. Anyone unfamiliar with the series may fail to find the significance, but there’s plenty in this experience to keep Z fans satisfied for hours. There’s also more content on the way in the form of DLC, which some fans have been disappointed by. So far it has added Dragon Ball GT quests, characters, and items, but it’s up to you to decide whether you deem this new content worth it.
There are things that soured me on Dragon Ball Z, like some of the questionable roster choices, and the weak destruction physics. Some buildings and trees can be destroyed, but sometimes there will be destruction effects that happen and then disappear moments later. As a new generation of Dragon Ball Z games I would expect more in terms of physics. But these downsides weren’t enough to stop me spending hours grinding this game, and it won’t stop me recommending it to anybody familiar with the series.
This review of Dragon Ball Xenoverse is based on a retail copy for the PlayStation 4 which was paid for out-of-pocket.