Dragon Ball: Xenoverse Review

Your wish has been granted

As an on and off fan of the Dragon Ball series, I must say that Dragon Ball: Xenoverse was nowhere on my radar. I loved the anime series growing up as a kid, and I loved the original Budokai series on PlayStation 2; it’s safe to assume that I was an avid fan growing up, but as the years past, I grew out of my Dragon Ball obsession. The last Dragon Ball game I played was Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, which is still in my opinion the best Dragon Ball game, I wasn’t a fan of the 3D combat that Budokai Tenkaichi implemented. A decade, and a dozen mediocre DBZ games later, Dimps (the original Budokai development team) have released Dragon Ball Xenoverse: the first entry on current-gen platforms and a step in the right direction. Xenoverse is a breath of fresh air and gives new life to this aging franchise. Xenoverse introduces a plethora of new implementations to spice up the formula. The online integration is clearly inspired by MMO’s, similar to the HUB world of Destiny as players can interact with one another and recruit others to tackle parallel quests (side missions). The character/skill customization and leveling system are very RPG-esque and cater to the addictive quality of level grinding and rare equipment/skill drops. Xenoverse is the best DBZ game I’ve played in a very long time, but it is by no means a perfect game. There is plenty of room for improvement.

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The graphics are vibrant and pay homage to the anime’s colour pallet

The story this time around has taken some altercations. The sagas I grew up with have been modified due to the fickle work of a malicious demon. Key events have been altered, thus changing the very fabric of time: Piccolo’s Special Beam Cannon pierces through only Goku as Raditz escapes and dodges the incoming blast, or Frieza defeating Goku, Gohan, and Piccolo, ultimately winning the iconic conflict. It’s up to Future Trunks and our custom created warrior to correct the jarred timeline and rightfully return history to its original course. The story isn’t revolutionary, but it definitely pulls a nice spin on the traditional tale and reinvigorates the aging lore. The art direction and visual style is audacious and vibrant, mirroring the tried-and-true colour pallet of the original anime series. The visuals overall are pleasant but are unable to match the graphical fidelity and aesthetic quality of other animated works such as Ni No Kuni. Unfortunately, Xenoverse does not borrow any musical scores from its television counterpart; instead, it attempts to stand on its own and flaunt an all new original composition, and for the most part, it delivers an electrifying punch that compliments the original’s musical ambience. The voice acting is sufficient, with the original voice actors reprising their character roles respectively. In terms of presentation, Xenoverse is a nice polished toy with new bells and whistles to attract both fans and casuals alike, but these enhancements will pose irrelevant if the gameplay is not as robust as its other counterparts.

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++ Easily one of my favourite moments in the entire game, Xenoverse is not afraid to be silly

Luckily, the gameplay is intuitive and fairly addicting, although I prefer the traditional 2D combat of the original Budokai series. Combos have been notably streamlined and super moves have been mapped to a specific trigger and corresponding button, similar to the control scheme of a console MMO. The combat didn’t resonate with me at first, feeling slow and clunky at best, resulting in constant button mashing. However, after many hours of battling foes, I began to understand its complexities; keying in correct button combinations resulted in exquisite animations that resembled the chaotic battles of the anime. The combat is simply addictive, albeit repetitive. Once Xenoverse’s rampant hooks are in you, it’s pretty hard to put the game down. At it its heart, Dragon Ball: Xenoverse is first and foremost a brawler. All the added flare from the RPG components don’t detract from Xenoverse’s true essence. Xenoverse features character creation in true RPG fashion; your character’s race, gender, appearance, equipment and abilities are all customizable. The character creation system isn’t as robust as Bioware’s repetoire, but it’s a nice addition nonetheless. Patrolling and completing quests will unlock new pieces of equipment and iconic super skills; striving to unlock Goku’s GT clothing or obtain that iconic kamehameha is the true addiction of Xenoverse as you want your character to be equipped with the best possible gear and abilities, just like any other RPG. Players can even be mentored by iconic characters such as Goku, Vegeta, or Piccolo, and learn their signature moves. Attribute points can be assigned to boost stats such as health and ki so you can build your character to your liking. Unfortunately there is no sense of exploration in Xenoverse, you primarily do missions. Missions task you with fighting against enemies, rewarding you with randomly generated loot, and then heading back to the hub world. I would love to play an open world Dragon Ball Z game, with engrossing exploration and character interaction. Enemy encounters could be similar to that of a turn-based fashion, shifting the encounter to the traditional DBZ fighting screen instead of the turn-based screen. The overall mission structure feels very incoherent and disjointed from the rest of the universe and from the other players that inhabit that world. Speaking of other players, the online integration for the most part is well done. You can interact with other players in the TokiToki hub world, recruit a team and cooperatively tackle the abundance of parallel quests, or just simply friend other players and send them gifts. Playing cooperatively with a trio of friends is always a blast, and since there are over 50 parallel quests, there is obviously no shortage of content. In tried and true DBZ fashion, Xenoverse also features traditional competitive local and online matches, the latter being extremely enjoyable. My personal favourite online match type are the ranked battles, reason being the two opponents will relatively be on the same skill level, resulting in a more reserved, but fair battle. If you win a ranked battle, you will gradually gain XP to achieve the next tier, but if you lose a ranked battle, you’ll lose more XP and your current rank will gradually decline. This back and forth experience intensifies each ranked battle. Another great new feature is the addition of 2v2 and 3v3 competitive matches which result in some chaotic, but rousing team battles.

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Character creation is a great addition, adding longevity as each race plays differently

Local multiplayer in general has been stripped down substantially. Not only can you not complete parallel quests locally, you can only play 1v1 local matches and only on one map. For all the fantastic competitive and cooperative game improvements Dimps added to Xenoverse, it’s a shame that none of these enhancements were implemented to the local multiplayer. The online component of Xenoverse is fantastic, when you can get it to work. Since launch, there have been some massive server issues, and they unfortunately still exist to this day. Half the time I can’t even connect to the server and enter the online hub world. Whenever I try to enter a party or lobby, 90% of the time I’ll get an error message telling me the party is full when I can fully see that it is in fact not. On top of that, the game will kick you out of the server for no reason and return you to the title screen. Luckily the game does offer an offline mode, where other player’s characters can be interacted with as NPC’s, and you can tackle parallel quests with AI controlled characters. So if you’re looking to solely embark on the single-player journey, then these server issues shouldn’t really concern you, but if you’re looking for a great online DBZ experience to share with your friends, you can have it but be prepared to have it taken away from you every now and then. My biggest frustration with Xenoverse is its random reward system; Xenoverse’s reward system is randomly generated, so not only is the dropped item random, but the chance of anything dropping at all after a battle is random. You could complete the parallel quest with a Z ranking 50 times and that Super Saiyan skill you so desperately want may never drop. Granted once you obtain that item you’ve endlessly grinded for, the uplifting feeling that ensues is extremely rewarding. Another pressing issue of Xenoverse is its disappointing character roster. Yes Xenoverse thankfully has Goku, Vegeta, Cell, Frieza, Majin Buu and other classic characters, but it’s definitely lacking some Dragon Ball greats such as Android 19, Cooler, Dabura, Supreme Kai, and Uub. Their spots, unfortunately, have been taken by the likes of some extremely irrelevant characters such as Raspberry and Appule. GT favourites such as Pan and Kid Goku GT have been reserved for DLC and should be released March 2015, but it’s a shame we’ll have to cough up extra to play as them.

Why couldn't you be released day and date?
Why couldn’t you have been released day and date?

Despite Xenoverse’s frustrations and disappointments, it’s still an addictive experience and a great game. Dimps are most definitely headed in the right direction; they have many great ideas that were executed fairly well for the most part. If they are able fine-tune the edges and build upon and expand on Xenoverse’s foundation, I believe that a sequel will not only be an amazing Dragon Ball game, but an amazing game period. Easily sinking in over 40 hours, I still have the itch to jump back into Xenoverse and complete any unfinished business. Whether it be locating the remaining dragon balls, trying to unlock more skills and equipment from parallel quests, or just jumping into a ranked match, there’s always something to do. Maybe I’ll even create a new character and embark on the journey once again, this time as a Majin. As I previously noted, Xenoverse was never on my radar prior to release, but it just so happened to be the Dragon Ball game I’ve been waiting for. Dragon Ball: Xenoverse is far from perfect; it has a copious amount of server issues, its reward system is frustrating at best, and its lack of local multiplayer options is disappointing, but I still keep coming back. I just love the RPG mechanics, the addicting nature of reward drops, the visceral combat, and the intense ranked matches. I love Dragon Ball: Xenoverse, probably more so than the average person.

Dragon Ball: Xenoverse 

8-stars

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