Dragon Ball Xenoverse
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: February 26th, 2015
Price: $99.99 AU – Available Here /$59.99 US– Available Here
Dragon Ball Xenoverse was announced by Bandai Namco early last year who promised to bring Dragon Ball to next gen consoles and for the first time, the PC platform. They also promised an original story and often teased us with trailers and screenshots featuring a mystery fighter who would later be revealed to be a product of the first expansive character creator to feature in a mainstream Dragon Ball title. To raise the hype even further, Xenoverse also marked the return of Dimps, the studio behind the praised Budokai titles from the PS2 era. With all this pressure does Dragon Ball Xenoverse manage to live up to its expectations? Read on to find out.
Warning there are slight spoilers ahead but nothing that hasn’t been covered in previous news. Sort of new villains Mira and Towa are upsetting the normal flow of time to gather energy for some unknown reason. The Supreme Kai of Time and Trunks from the Future have summoned your created character to be a Time Patrol Warrior and go back in time to make sure history plays out as it should. Because of these events main villains and even allies often come under an evil spell that increases their power and forces you to fight them. A more sinister evil is also lurking in the shadows.
For the most part, Dragon Ball Z fans will get a kick out of the story. Sure it is fairly poorly written, power levels are fairly inconsistent with the show (particularly your created character) and I am sure someone could poke a lot of holes in the story (there is a sequence towards the end that will have you just saying ‘what the…’), but if you just take it for what it is the story is a fun ride and the references and few plot twists that occur are enjoyable as are some of the more light hearted moments. Needless to say, those who don’t know the show well are going to be very confused as to what exactly is going on as entire story arcs are skipped, characters come out of nowhere and there are often references to events you don’t see in the game.
While the story is different in parts, this is basically the original story with your own created character thrown into the battles especially in the games earlier stages. Don’t expect any branching paths to occur as this is an all linear story. That being said it is refreshing to have a change of pace and perspective from the regular Dragon Ball story mode we have seen in the past, especially for those who have been playing these games for a long time now. There are no difficulty options however the difficulty scales as you continue the story and if you complete a few parallel quest in between missions to level up or bring some items into battle you should be fine.
The in game cutscenes here, particularly the ones that show a preview of the changes in the saga are very well done. Sadly the same can’t be said about the anime like cutscenes which look very cheap and poorly drawn as is the intro. Some cutscene transitions that take place mid battle are also awkward, where say you might be fighting Nappa and then when he reaches a certain damage point a cutscene initiates and Nappa is suddenly in an entirely different outfit to what he was a second ago.
Apart from the main story, there are over 50 parallel quests that all contain their own mini story and are normally based upon what if scenarios such as Guldo taking the admission test for the Ginyu Force or the Saiyans revolting against Frieza. Many of these stories have you fighting alongside those who are normally enemies and you can pick any combination of teammates you wish. These add some great variety to the game and each mission includes bonus conditions you can complete for better drops. These Quests have a lot of dialogue occur during them which is often personalized according to who is on your team or who you are fighting, and characters will also comment on your created characters race which is a nice touch.
To be blunt, the fighting is good but a fair ways off being perfect. I would place the depth of the fighting engine at a little less than halfway between the Tenkaichi series and the old 2D Budokai fighters. We now have two attack buttons for light and heavy attacks which can be charged to gain guard break status. There are standard ki blast that can be rapid fired by holding down circle and can also be fired while moving. Throws are back (and look great) and there is also a strong knock away attack you can perform by holding both attack buttons. You can lock on to your enemy and switch between targets with a flick of the right stick. The lock on system works well although on some occasions your attacks won’t launch in the direction you intended.
Movement feels great as you fly about the arena and you can also ascend and descend at will. Defensively you can block, parry (which requires practice and timing), or teleport which requires a fair chunk of stamina if you are not guarding. Each character also has an escape move they can perform for a high stamina cost, although it seems the CPU in story mode isn’t limited by that restriction. The defensive and offensive options can lead to some pretty interesting back and forth during fights which makes up the core of the combat along with combos.
Stringing combos together is fun and players can teleport after a combo to ‘ping pong’ their opponent and catch them with another combo if they time it right and have enough stamina. The strings are easy to perform and can also lead into super attacks or ultimate’s pretty safely if you have enough ki. The system is very easy for beginner’s to get into as they can mash square all day and perform some cool looking attacks. For those that want to push the fighting system to its limits you will probably do so relatively quickly and unfortunately, you may not be satisfied with the level of depth offered here once you do.
While the fighting is good the character creation feature is hands down the games biggest draw. Players can create their own Human, Saiyan, Namek, Frieza Race or Majin Buu character (with applicable races having a female/male option) and change nearly everything from hair, facial features, height, body mass, tops, pants, shoes, accessories and even voice. The number of clothing options is stunning, with some clothes and accessories taken from pretty obscure characters such as Korin’s staff or Uub’s clothes from the end of Dragon Ball Z. The same can also be said for special attacks. There are definitely some weird exclusions such as the inability to change your aura or have a Saiyan with a tail or even change the colour of the clothes you unlock unless it is an original costume for the game, but these are minor complaints in the wake of a very well done character creation system.
The RPG leveling system is simple yet solid, allowing you to increase 3 points in any of the 6 stats each level up allowing you to build a character that suits your play style may that be rush down, ki management, defensive etc. A great feature Dimps added is the ability for your own created character to have up to 8 alternate outfits which can easily be switched between so you can make different move sets and outfits that suit different missions or battle types and easily switch between them in Toki Toki City or at the character select screen.
Apart from fighting, players will be spending most of their time in the hub world of Toki Toki City, running between the three sectors, buying clothes, interacting with others, taking on missions and more. This is a great hub world and although a quick travel menu might have been appreciated, running through the city seeing everyone else’s Time Patrol warrior is pretty cool and lets you see accessories and costumes you haven’t unlocked yourself yet. You can also find mentors such as Vegeta or Piccolo (and 10 others) that give you unique missions and skills once you complete them as well some characters that will give you gifts. I imagine a lot of people will have heaps of fun goofing around doing one of the 40 poses you can do in the city.
The game has a wealth of online options. You can complete any of the Parallel Quests alongside two others in online co-op (an offline mode is also available with A.I. partners) and there is also online vs. which allows up to 6 players to fight at once in two teams of three, as well as standard ranked one on one. There is a World Tournament Mode that also lets others spectate as well as player matches up to 3 vs. 3 and 1 on 1 ranked matches. Unfortunately many cheap strategies are being utilized already but Bandai Namco have shown willingness to patch such issues, already releasing a patch to help stop one popular exploit.
The graphics in this game won’t blow anyone away but they are the best graphics seen in a Dragon Ball game to date. The character models are a highlight, being well detailed and on point to what the character’s look like in the show. Super attacks are another strong point, with ki attacks like the Kamehameha being fun to pull off and looking devastating. Some strike attacks are also visually impressive, particularly the Super God Fist which gives a great close up of your fist connecting with your opponents face and the impact looks flawless.
Stages are big and look pretty good but are a far cry from what they could like with the power of next gen consoles. The cel shading on the stages isn’t as good as it is on the main cast and water looks flat and barely makes a splash when characters come in and out of it, making me question why they bothered including water in stages at all. The 21 stage roster is probably the best we have had in a Dragon Ball game to date and accurately captures locales from the show.
Stage destruction is limited to smashing only through certain rocks and buildings and while seeing a myriad of small craters appear on a building after a barrage of ki blast is awesome, the damage unfortunately fades away after a second. I do give the developers props for finally incorporating dynamic damage into the maps though. Small ki blast give off a nice explosion when they connect while larger ki attacks such as the Spirit Bomb feel pretty empty and lifeless on impact with the opponent which makes me miss the cinematic ultimate attacks we have had in past games.
For the most part combat does look good although it does have a slightly ‘stiff’ feel to it and can sometimes look pretty clunky as characters tend to get stuck in their hit animations, particularly at the top of the stages, or get sent flying by a kick that clearly didn’t connect. That is not to say I ever felt cheated by a hit box, it’s just the way the combat looks at times. This is in no way caused by performance issues, as I have yet to experience a single frame drop in my entire time with the game which is impressive as the game runs at full 1080p. The game runs at 30FPS on PS4 (it will run at 60 on PC) however it is very smooth and I can’t imagine anyone having an issue with the performance.
Another flaw with the visuals is that mouths don’t move at all a lot of the time while characters are talking or just hang open without any movement while a character is yelling either during a mid battle cutscene or transformation. This makes characters look ridiculous at times and takes away a bit from the fantastic models. On a similar note, your created characters hair will not spike up when they turn Super Saiyan which in my eyes is a blatant disregard of the source material. The number of hairstyles is fairly limited and the traits of a Super Saiyan are one of the most recognisable sights in anime history, so the issue definitely deserved the attention of the developers in my opinion.
Audio is definitely one of the biggest mixed bags in this title, with a host of volume and sound effect problems that bring down the voice acting, variety and soundtrack. Players will most likely find the background music for battles much too quiet among all the sound effects, but luckily Dimps has given us separate controls over the volume of music, sound effects and voices. I found having music at 80% and sound effects at 40% was a good fix.
While the volume issue is an easy fix, the games sound effects are easily it’s biggest let down. From being overused to just poor sounding or even missing, the sound effects fail to emulate the sound of the show as past titles have done. The ‘big hit’ sound that sounds similar to a home run bat smash in Smash Bros. is the biggest offender and accommodates way too many attacks. Some actions have no sound effect such as when you perform a recovery off the ground after being knocked down. A lot of big ki attacks sound identical and don’t replicate the sounds they made in the anime. A Supernova from Frieza sounds just like the Kamehameha for instance. There are also some strange audio errors such as Goku acting like he’s about to fight Yamcha when he comes up against Beerus for example.
As for the voice acting for the most part it is really good apart from a few nuances (Trunk’s practically yelling HEY! to you every time you speak with him for example). Funimation dub fans will be happy to see some original voice actors returning for certain roles such as Android 18, Perfect Cell and Jeice who have reverted to sounding like they did in Dragon Ball Z as opposed to the Kai dub. The entire cast give great performances apart from a few awkwardly or halfheartedly delivered lines here and there. The voices chosen for Towa, Mira and Demigra are both very well chosen and acted. Fans of the Japanese voice cast will be pleased to find the voice toggle option available from the menu right at the start.
Another highlight is the soundtrack, which is definitely one of the stronger mixes for a Dragon Ball game we have seen in recent years. The music does a great job of conveying tone in the story mode and accommodating battles apart from a few strange choices where more relaxed songs are played during seemingly intense fights. While still composed mainly of electric guitar riffs there is a healthy mix of techno, violin and more epic sounding boss like music mixed in to add some variety.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is one of the most inspired Dragon Ball titles in a long time however it is not without its flaw and mediocrities. The biggest draw card no doubt is the create a character option, which provides massive variety in how you customise your warrior. The story is refreshing for long time fans but does feel disjointed. The fighting system is fun and accessible but those looking for true depth will look elsewhere. The graphics shine in some areas and are just O.K. in others and while the music and voice acting is solid the sound effects really let down the entire audio package. Dragon Ball Z fans will no doubt love the game despite it’s inconsistencies and lack of polish but there may be just enough wrong with Xenoverse that makes it hard to recommend for those who are simply curious about the franchise.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.