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Dragon Ball Xenoverse Review

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On 03/31/2015 at 12:00 PM by Jon Lewis

A promising new beginning.

For fans of Dragonball Z, or anime style brawlers.

If there is anything I’ve learned from being a DBZ game fan over the years, it’s that an anime fighter/simulation sequel is nearly always better than the original. They usually clean up the formula the second time, as in the case of 2002’s Dragonball Z Budokai, which was followed up by sequels with enhanced graphics and tightened gameplay. 2005’s Budokai Tenkaichi provided a blueprint for its sequels to later refine the gameplay and expand to one of the biggest and most diverse rosters in the series. If you ask me, it’s a safe bet Dragonball Xenoverse 2 will probably be an amazing game. Of course, that is not too helpful to us at the moment. Right now, we have Dragonball Xenoverse, which leaves me wishing they could’ve done it right the first time. 

By now, most people are all too familiar with Goku’s battles with his brother Raditz, the evil Frieza, the time traveling android Cell, and the demonic Buu. Xenoverse takes the narrative in a brand new direction. It skips the recaps and lets the player become directly involved in the DBZ story. In this one, fan favorite character Trunks leads a force called the Time Patrollers, which are in charge of making sure the Dragonball timeline stays intact. After being tampered with by an evil force, Trunks uses the Dragonballs to summon the player character to go back and fix the timeline. This lends for varied versions of familiar events, which is a breath of fresh air for fans such as I. 

The campaign is kicked off with a create-a-character feature. This character can be one of many races from the series: human, namekian, majin, saiyan or the frieza race. After creating your character, you are thrown into the main hub, Toki Toki City. Here, you have access to everything from versus missions, online tournaments, side-quests, story missions and even shops. 

At these shops you can purchase special moves and equipment for your fighter to make him/her more unique. Want him to have a sword on his back? Sure thing! What about Goku’s famous Gi? Sure! Unfortunately there isn’t a large amount of brand new and unique equipment with customization options (like color) but the option still leads to interesting looking fighters. 

Toki Toki City is a hub not only to you, but many other players online. As in Destiny’s Tower, players can congregate and interact at Toki Toki City so they can team up and take on missions or just try and do the fusion dance in perfect sync. While ambitious, one of the biggest issues with this game is that the connection is greatly unstable. My playtime has been down just as much as it’s been up. 

At the base of the experience of course is the combat. Xenoverse introduces a brand new combat system that on its face is reminiscent of the Budokai Tenkichi series. The Tenkaichi series featured third-person, over-the-shoulder combat where the player had free reign over the map. When engaged in combat, each character had a pool of regular and special attacks that, when mastered, could lead to huge, freestyle combos. Xenoverse is similar, but a lot less refined. Xenoverse has your typical light, strong, and ki attacks along with your special and ultimate attacks. Finding the best combos with your character can be tricky due to the EXTREMELY vague move list. Not only that, but combat is generally more clunky and less precise than its more established predecessors. A lot of the time the camera is a huge problem. It often gets stuck in places that make continuing combos very difficult. Also, attacks don’t seem to lock on to enemies the same way that they did in other games. While there is a lock on button, the slightest movement makes the opponent look like they will fall out of the combo. This is due to the fact you can be fighting against 2, 3, or even 5 enemies at a time. While the ability to have large-scale, multi-character battles is fine, the loss of precision while in one-on-one combat is sorely missed. 

It took me a considerable amount of time to figure out the best ways to optimize my offense in the game, and when I did, I ended up having a surprising amount of fun. The combat engine seems very limited, but once you figure out all of the potential combos you can pull off, you gain a sense of control that is pretty satisfying to pull off. In time, I was able to find loops, teleport strings, and even some team combos (when playing online) that made the otherwise clunky combat fun. Defense, however, is another story. Block speed is generally slow, and teleporting doesn’t seem as reliable as it could be. When fighting some CPUs, it’s very hard to get a good combo going due to combo breaking techniques that the computer can spam. This makes fights way more frustrating than they should be. It’s a good countermeasure to accommodate for multiplayer bouts, but it still remains a bother. 

Playing co-op was also a fun surprise. I expected co-op battles to be annoying, and though battles are a lot more hectic, they are quite enjoyable. While it took me a considerable amount of time to play with working servers, once I actually did I was able to play in pretty lagless co-op matches with players online. They also make up for the poor partner AI when trying to complete the parallel quests. 

Parallel quests are this game’s version of side quests. In between story missions, players are encouraged to do these quests to level up, gain new items, and unlock characters. Each quest has a list of different and unique prizes that are normally very handy for players, such as special moves and even coveted transformations like Super Saiyan. Unfortunately, this is hindered by the fact that the prizes are completely random drops. Some parallel quests have conditions that raise the chances of you getting said items, but even then it’s completely random. After spending three to five minutes doing a quest, you’re just as likely to get nothing out of it as you are to get something. It’s a bit of an unfair grind, but luckily it gets easier as you get stronger, making it somewhat bearable. Going forward, I would like a better loot system. 

Xenoverse has a ton of content. It’s got most of the important and fan favorite characters from the series, including some from Dragonball GT, Battle of the Gods, and even some original characters. It has a lot to unlock, tons of sidequests, and a fun (yet silly) story. Unfortunately, the clunky combat, unstable online and uneven difficulty make the game a little bit more of a chore than it should be. Budokai 1 and Budokai Tenkaichi 1 were similar in this regard, but eventually paved the way for Budokai 3 and Tenkaichi 3, among the most beloved anime sim/fighters. This entry shows much promise, and makes me excited to see what improvements they will make for its sequel. But that’s the future. From where I’m sitting, the best I can say is that Xenoverse generally succeeds in more areas than it fails, and for many fans who have been starving for a new Dragonball game to dive into, you might as well give this a try.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

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All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

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