As someone who has previously bought all nine DVD seasons, then continued on to buy the abridged Dragon Ball Kai seasons on Blu-ray and now ultimately rebuying all of the original seasons again on Blu-ray, I'd consider myself a pretty big Dragon Ball Z fan. So with that said, I tend to look forward to the various Dragon Ball games Bandai released over the years. The thing is, Dragon Ball games are always hit or miss. They're either fantastic brawlers faithful to their source material like the Budokai Tenkaichi games, and Raging Blast titles, or they're on the opposite side of the spectrum, like Ultimate Tenkaichi. So where does Dragon Ball Xenoverse fall on this tipping scale?
The biggest draw to Dragon Ball Xenoverse is its story mode. As someone who is familiar with Dragon Ball Z backwards and forwards, this was easily my most anticipated feature. Dragon Ball Xenoverse asks and answers the questions like, what if Raditz moved at the last second before having his armor smashed by Gohan's head, and what if he was able to shake off Goku to cause Piccolo's special beam cannon to miss him and yet still impale Goku? As a Time Patroller, you'll be tasked with figuring this out and making sure everything is set back to normal.
The game largely revolves around your custom created character that's summoned by Trunks thanks to the seven Dragon Balls and Shenron, in order to lend your strength righting the wrongs of time. It's a great premise that actually slightly alters the storyline I've watched countless of times. And even though you're still taking part in battles that are largely similar to the ones from the show, the inclusion of your custom character and how he fits into the story is refreshing to say the least. The sad thing here is that your character is a silent protagonist, and if there's ever a game based on a franchise that likes to yell everything they say that would benefit from a loudmouthed new character, it's Dragon Ball Xenoverse.
Say hello to my custom character, Sekihan
Though if seeing other real people online doesn't sit well with you, you can still simulate this in an Single Player environment, with NPC characters populated by other real player characters. So while you're recruiting computer controlled characters, they still belong to respective players online. Though, as expected, the online servers have been down since its launch today, so if you're planning on playing with your friends on launch day, you might have to give it some time. The few times it did work, it was really fun to see everyone's character running around and performing hilarious emotes with one another. The downside was, when the server went down, I got booted all the way to the main menu.
I've seen this screen more than I'd like to admit
There is no manual communication, so parents won't have to worry about their kids talking to strangers. All communication is done with preset text or emotes. You'll be able to clearly ask for others to join you in quests or challenge them to duels, with no keyboard or mic necessary.
My biggest issue with Toki Toki City as the hub is that there is no direct menu to take you from location to location. In a game where I may want to simply just battle 1-on-1 against a CPU, I now have to run all the way to the VS counter. If from there I want to tackle a story mission with Trunks, I have to run all the way to a different part of the hub through a loading screen, then another loading screen to Trunks' location. A much more elegant solution for those that want to simply get right in on the action would have been a pull up menu that allowed instant access to those features. Thankfully, Toki Toki isn't a large place by any means, but that should be an indicator of how annoying it is to have to run from place to place.
Toki Toki will also introduce various famous Dragon Ball characters like Raditz, who might ask you to help him with taking out Goku and Piccolo. Then there are characters like Piccolo, Vegeta, Android 18 and Krillin who will accept you as their student, allowing you to learn their destructive powers as you level up. What's cool about this is once you've chosen a teacher, you'll get encouraging sound bites from them after successful battles.
Going Super Saiyan is still just as awesome the 100th time, as it is the first
Speaking of battles, if you're familiar with the 3D focused games like the Budokai Tenkaichi series or even the Raging Blast games, then you'll feel right at home here. A few slight changes were made, including the complete removal of the Homing and Super Dash, which were incredibly useful moves in a game all about 3D flight.
If there's one thing for certain, Dragon Ball games tend to have complicated control schemes to manage the chaos that happens on the battlefield, whether it's flying in high speed, pulling off crazy Meteor combos, or blasting an enemy straight in the face with a Kamehameha. Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a delightful middleground, still giving players freedom to zoom around the battlefield, but with much more manageable control schemes.
What's different this time around is that combat isn't the only thing you'll be doing on the battlefield. While battling is still a large part of it, you'll also have the chance to scan the environment with your scouter and discover various materials to pick up, which can later be crafted into useful items. Battlefields are also split up into multiple sections, and you can teleport between them thanks to teleport gates. Sometimes missions will task you with defeating enemies that appear across the multiple battlefields, so you'll have to constantly switch between them.
For those that simply want to take their favorite characters and pit them in 1-on-1, 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 battles, can head to the Offline or Online battles counter and set the game up to their liking. The only caveat here is that characters and stages are locked down to story progression. That means you essentially have to play the main story mode if you want to have every single character and their respective forms available to you. I'm against this practice for fighting games, especially ones with such a crazy character list, as it makes it impossible for new owners of the game to invite their friends over for some good old fashioned brawls, since only a handful of characters would be unlocked.
The game has a ton of unlockable content, mainly customizable items for your character. But there's a downside to this as well. The store that sells new costumes and accessories don't allow you to preview what it looks like before purchasing them. Why?! If I'm going to spend the rest of my money on a new costume, I'd at least like to see what it looks like.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse looks absolutely fantastic. I've been playing the PS4 build, and the characters themselves look incredibly impressive. The game is complemented by a few anime cutscenes which go along with the main story mode. You can also play the game in Japanese, if you're a purist, or switch to English, though be prepared for some really bad lipsynching. While I always prefer Japanese over English in my anime games any day, Dragon Ball is where I make the exception. Most of the cast returns to reprise their iconic roles, most notably Christopher Sabat and Sean Schemmel. These two alone make the English dub so worth it, and they once again give it their all.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is not the perfect Dragon Ball game, but it innovates a franchise that has long needed a fresh perspective. And while certain aspects and mechanics make the game slightly more annoying, the core experience is as strong as ever.