Dragon Ball XenoVerse Review
Words: Erlingur Einarsson
The madder, more frantic, more absolutely bonkers, the better. That’s a Dragon Ball Z game. Much like the eponymous anime series, they operate on a very simple premise. Narrative elegance or gameplay innovation be damned, if it’s colourful, moves fast, has limbs numbering at about four and shouts a lot, it probably qualifies as a character in a DBZ incarnation. And that’s just fine.
Dragon Ball XenoVerse certainly greets the player in true DBZ fashion. As soon as you start the game, you’re tossed headfirst into a battle in Age 762, featuring you, an enemy, and a mysterious onlooker. As soon as you mash the poor, unsuspecting controller until that enemy is dispatched, you’re warped five years forward, where a new hapless victim presents itself. However, as a third frantic melee wraps up, the mystery character unveils itself, in the process altering the course of history, and thus setting up what will be a Time Patrol game. Oh, you can create your character now, by the way.
Dragon Ball XenoVerse hooks you in with a great premise. The storyline is an original one, conceived especially for the game. Bandai Namco has embraced the capabilities of an eighth-generation console by throwing all it has into an immersive, full-3D environment, with enemies coming at you from literally all directions in suitably hectic fashion. A social arena has also been created especially for XenoVerse; Toki Toki City, where you travel around to talk to NPCs, kitting yourself out and – most importantly – taking on offline and online quests and Time Patrol missions.
But despite all that promise and this dollop of an aperitif, Dragon Ball: XenoVerse leaves a disappointingly bland aftertaste. Despite a grander ambition than most other DBZ offerings, which must be commended, Dragon Ball XenoVerse’s problems are simply too numerous and hindering to ignore. First of all, let’s revisit the opening statement. For a game franchise that trades on its insta-mashing delirium, XenoVerse’s cutscenes are both too many and much too long. For the first two hours of playing the game. Actual in-battle gameplay will total about ten to 12 minutes. This is not an exaggeration, but a terrifyingly sad reality. Thankfully, due to the frontloading of information and the depth of story depleting quite quickly, these will grower smaller and further between as the game wears on.
Then there is Toki Toki City and all it stands for. The idea of a whimsical little village in which to wander around for quests, info, interaction and character customisation to stand in for the alternative option of simply providing a menu is intriguing. However, the execution is absolutely godawful. In order to go from the mixing of items and potions to selecting a quest, you must run around a needlessly spread-out, three-pronged cityscape, without the option of shortcuts or speeding things up in case you actually want to just play some goddamn Dragon Ball. And if that’s not enough, then the Toki Toki City environment is inexplicably static, given how rich and interactive the battlefields are. In a battle, your souped-up Saiyan can fell a tree a mile away by summoning an almighty ball of luminous energy and throwing it at the enemy, while hovering in mid-air. In Toki Toki City, he can’t jump over a park bench. In one part of the game, you’ll feel like a god. In the other, you’re barely capable of simple interaction with everyday items. And unfortunately, you’ll have to spend way to much time in the latter. Oh, and the music in there is probably not too far removed from being stuck in a Japanese shopping mall elevator for all of eternity.
Good job, then, that the gameplay is somewhat entertaining and rewarding. While the button-mashing element will become repetitive quite early on, the choice of different types of missions keeps things interesting – for a while, at least. Camera moves jar a little at times, such as when impeded by environmental barriers, but the action is suitably frantic for the most part. Co-op battles against numerous enemies are the most fun, where you have to choose your position, stay constantly vigilant and combine several tactics to succeed. Just dashing to the next enemy and mashing the X and Y buttons won’t cut it, kids. Well, not always, at least. There is also a refreshingly wide array of playable characters on offer, or over 40 in total, and their different specialities really do affect the gameplay for each one.
Finally, though, credit must go to the fan service shown by the developer. It’s a definite nod to the immense fan-art community found online, with choices in character customisation and even some all-new creations. It’s also a clear indicator of who this game is for; if you’re not a diehard Dragon Ball Z fan, XenoVerse almost certainly won’t turn you into one.