Very few franchises have ever had the staying power or international presence as the Dragon Ball series. Not only has it been responsible for introducing many of us to the anime genre, but it has also been influencing artists, writers and developers for almost 30 years. Now, as those who have grown up with the series are making products to introduce Dragon Ball to a whole new generation, we are seeing gaming experiences based on it that we could have only dreamed of 20 years ago. The latest of which is Bandai Namco’s new Dragon Ball XenoVerse, a loosely constructed RPG, built around the fighting mechanics made popular by the Budokai series.
What is It?
Put together under the premise that the linage of the main Dragon Ball cannon has gone awry, XV puts the player in the shoes of a new hero created by the player. Who must fix a number of time anomalies with the help of Trunks and the Time Patrol, a group that goes back in time to fix the outcomes of some of the series most memorable moments that have been mysteriously set off course. Sadly, while the premise does seem interesting, it becomes overly obvious that the premise is little more than a vehicle to take the player through a ‘greatest hits’ album of the biggest fights or bring together opponents who wouldn’t normally meet on the battleground.
This isn’t to say that the match-ups aren’t entertaining, but they do feel like they are something that could be done in a much more streamlined fashion than the oddly placed RPG mechanic it currently sits on.
As you develop your character and take him or her through the 12 master quests and 55 parallel quests, you are able unlock over 200 different skills and 400 pieces of equipment, all of which gives you do get a great sense of the depth inside XV. But, besides the ability customize your fighter, everything outside of the fighting mechanisms feels like it relies more on quantity over quality.
No Fly Zone
Looking a great deal like any other MMO hub, players will be able to run around the city of Toki-Toki, a futuristic location divided up into multiple segments that contain the standard fare of shops, quests and NPCs. While being able to see all of the different variations of characters and interact is a great way to see the drastic departures each character can take, the lack of interact-able objects and options in the hub leaves everything feeling overly spread out and empty.
On top of that, being unable to fly while in Toki-Toki has an odd effect on the tone of the game. Instead of binding together the high octane matches that are key to a Dragon Ball fight, with the ability to build and develop your character as if this were an RPG, it instead becomes its dividing line. Moving between a furious battle set in the skies, to being landlocked and having to jog to a shop to pick up a new pair of shoes, makes it look like two different games glued together.
It’s easy to see that XV is supposed to be built around a community, as there is the ability to create groups, challenge friends and random people to bouts, and even get some help on a difficult quest online. But, besides giving players a place to do their favorite Ginyu pose together, everything could have been streamlined in a menu system that would cut down on the needed play time significantly, while keeping players where the action really is, the fights.
A Fighter at Heart
Ultimately, the reason you are going to enjoy XV is for the fighting system, and its ability to dynamically recreate what many of us have loved about the anime for years. Having never gone too deep into the past Budokai titles, I felt like I had come into XV with a bit of a handicap, as the game’s tutorial feels a bit short, leaving a lot of the mechanics to be learned by trial and error. Fans of the previous titles may have no issue with this, but gamers taking their first step into this 3D brawler will have some major hurdles to figure out on their own.
Building off of a combination of basic attacks and a mixture of R2, L2 and face button combinations, players can chain together attacks that can flow into each other, creating battles that look like they were ripped straight out of the anime. Determining the type of attack to use to follow up another is a bit more complex, but can be very rewarding and is exactly what you would see out of a 2D fighter. It was this level of dynamic depth that kept me playing and looking into what was possible long after I had already gotten a good sense of what the game has to offer.
Dragon Ball XenoVerse Review - More Yamcha Than Goku (PS4) - PlayStation LifeStyle
As much fun as it was to be able to use one of the 47 characters available on the roster, trying to develop my own fighter was surprisingly what I kept going back to. Whether I was trying to study under a specific character to unlock more abilities, or training to level up, I realized I wasn’t just creating a character, but one that felt like it really did belong in the world of Dragon Ball, and that alone is a massive accomplishment by Bandai Namco.
Sadly, while your character may start to feel more and more like your own addition to the universe or XenoVerse, the cooperative AI for teammates leaves a great deal to be desired. During moments when you are having a 3-on-3 bout, your teammates can sometimes just stand there and watch as you get double-teamed. Which is only amplified by the games inability to handle multiple targets without having to constantly switch targets, and even then the system is clunky at best.
Looking the Part
It;s impossible to tell if it comes down to the fact that XV uses the game’s existing content to populate the various types of races you chose from, as well as many of the armor pieces coming from known cast, but on a visual level everything comes together quite nicely. At times I almost wished things looked a bit more flat to match its anime heritage a bit better, but ultimately it is still a beautiful game — except when walking around Toki-Toki. Unlike the fights which are generally filled with cliffs, bodies of water to fight in and the ability to use a scouter to view power level, the hub world is conceptually barren as it crutches on its community to make it interesting. Thankfully, it does tie together servers around the world quite well, so it is possible to get some international competition without having worry about much lag.
One thing that’s unmistakable, was the quality of the voice overs in XV. While it is nice to have the ability to choose between both the English and Japanese dialog, both of them are utterly terrible. Having tried both for an extended period, it become almost impossible to stand, forcing me simply play in mute with subtitles, just so I could get through more of the content offered. While I do not watch as much anime as I used to, I still cannot stand cheap dubbing, and XV has some of the worst I have heard in a long time. Bandai Namco, please just hire Team Four Star next time.
Enough Fan Service
Having been a fan of Dragon Ball and of fighting games, I have always wanted to really get into one of the games, and I really thought that XV was going to be that one. But, after putting some time with it, I still find it difficult to break past its barrier of entry to reach a level that many fans have already gotten to. The RPG elements of the game really do hold back it back, as they feel under developed and tacked on, but the solid fighting mechanics and the ability to create something unique is a great draw that may keep me coming back just to be able to go Super Saiyan.
So, while fans of the series will find a great deal of content to keep them entrenched into the world of Dragon Ball, anyone who hasn’t had a history with the seasoned mechanics will undoubtedly find themselves button mashing their way through the confusion and hoping for the best until things make sense. While anyone who doesn’t know anything about the history of the series, or just been away from it for some time, will be completely in the dark through most of the experience, as it does rely wholeheartedly on your understanding of who is who, but, also given that the story is far from the reason anyone is going to want to play this, I guess that doesn’t matter all that much either way.
Dragon Ball XenoVerse review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.