Dragon Ball is an enduring series. Because of fans’ continued interest, the corporate machine has kept churning, resulting in endless merchandise – including yearly games. The problem is, recent incarnations of Goku and company’s adventures have not been that good.
Trying to fix this mess, and taking advantage of the continued fan adoration, Namco Bandai has created Dragon Ball Xenoverse - a game that gives a new twist to the saga of the Z Warriors.
In recent past, Dragon Ball games have lacked a story mode. Dragon Ball Xenoverse aims to correct this but, more than that, it attempts to do so in an original way rather than retreading old ground.
The History of Dragon Ball Xenoverse mode sees a group known as the Time Breakers throwing a wrench into the space-time continuum, causing history to be rewritten. Luckily, Trunks finds the Dragon Balls and is sent through time to prevent the impending catastrophe. This is where you enter as The Future Warrior. After creating your hero, you arrive in Toki Toki City and begin you journey through the history of Dragon Ball.
Story missions are a succession of battles that have you struggling to aid the Z Warriors and correct the time line. It is a set up that allows you to revisit pivotal moments from the series, including the confrontation between Goku and Raditz that ended the life of Goku.
This story mode abandons many key characters to focus on less famous members of the cast - but after two decades playing as the core heroes this is a welcome break. And don’t worry, if you absolutely must play as Gohan or Piccolo, they are on hand in other modes.
To expand this new fiction there is the Parallel Quests mode. These side missions tie into the main plot, expanding it with additional battles and adventure elements to reveal additional characters and artifacts. All of which proves more interesting than even the main modes of other recent DBZ installments.
The classic Versus and World Tournament modes also return in Dragon Ball Xenoverse. This is where characters like Goku return to the active roster to make up the cast of 47 characters that you can use to battle your friends locally or online.
Struggle with strategy
Dragon Ball Xenoverse aims to have more natural approach its many systems. Forget the clunky old menu, because here everything is accessed by walking or flying around Toki Toki City.
The city has four different areas, each with interactive points that correspond to the game modes and options. In addition, if you are online, the usual non-playable characters are replaced by other players who you can talk to and team up with (in every mode except the story).
Although there some adventure game elements, Dragon Ball Xenoverse's main focus is its 3D arena combat. Taking from classics such as the Budokai Tenkaichi series, the action is easy to control but has intricacies that are tough to master.
Basic attacks include a light and heavy attacks, a ki attack, and a block... plus of course the special and super attacks that are now common in fighting games. These last to options are more tricky to execute, and spend ki – ensuring you can’t just spam out your more powerful attacks, and must pick the perfect moment to use them.
Unlike brawlers such as Street Fighter, characters have a level of customization, and sometimes you must prepare before a fight. This includes leveling your character, and equipping additional powers and objects. Powers may enhance your abilities or add entirely new skills to your repertoire. Objects are expendable in combat, but can provide boosts exactly when you need them.
Playing as The Future Warrior, you are able to build your character from scratch to play through the story. This includes selecting from five races (Majin, Saiyan, Human, Namekiano, and Freeza), gender, and physical appearance. Also, if you like customization, you can unlock clothes for your character throughout the adventure to show off to other players in the Toki Toki hub city.
Visually, Dragon Ball Xenoverse maintains the great cell-shaded graphics of previous games. However, though there are some slight improvements in the shading of the characters to make them look better than in other titles, they still pop-out from the background unnaturally. If you're accustomed to the franchise this might not bother you, but new comers may wonder why there isn’t a more cohesive world look.
Talking of technical issues, the camera is also worth a mention – with the tracking sometimes getting a little crazy as you switch targets. This is particularly tricky with multiple opponents, with you sometimes losing sight of your character during fraught moments.
While these visual elements undermine the game somewhat, the soundtrack more than redeems it. The catchy music really adds to the anime style, while the great dual English and Japanese voice work lets you pick how you want to experience the game.
The best of DB in years
I’ve given up on finding the ultimate Dragon Ball game; today I'll settle for a fun, replayable product. This is exactly what Dragon Ball Xenoverse provides thanks to its multiple game modes, MMO design, and good fighting controls.