Seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t know about Dragonball Z at this point? The manga series by Akira Toriyama was a monster hit in Japan, and managed to become a colossal success in the West, helping to inspire Anime’s rise in popularity in the late 90s. The series has spawned multiple TV series, movies, and had a huge impact on pop culture in general. And not to mention games, of which this is the fifteenth, helping to justify calling this game Dragonball XV, or Xeno-Verse.
The story of Xeno Verse, which was developed by Dimps and published by Bandai Namco, follows a member of a group called the time patrol called Trunks, as he recruits a warrior from across time, namely the player’s created character, to help stop a demon from disrupting time by interfering in the events that made up the Dragonball Z storyline. Fans of the series will be very familiar with the story by this point; every game since Budokai in 2002 has followed the iconic battles beat for beat, with little to no variation of the treasured story.
However this time around the game takes on a what if style, and explores classic events if they had taken another direction; for example the body swapping Ginyu accidentally trades bodies with the player instead of the protagonist Goku, who asks you to use your new disguise to infiltrate the enemy ship to retrieve the dragonballs. By the way, hearing Ginyu’s deep voice coming from a pink haired girl is surprisingly hilarious. It’s refreshing to have a new story and villains at last after fifteen games, though the game seems to be of the mind that you know the story going in, so I fear that newcomers may find themselves lost.
Gameplay has you fighting opponents by flying around, firing energy blasts and sending them flying, mixing in special moves from the series like the blinding solar flare and the iconic Kamehameha.
The ability to fly around at high speeds and disappear behind your enemy make fights extremely fast paced and exhilarating; it really pushes your senses to the limits and makes for a fantastic gaming experience. Energy attacks are done using your ki bar, while vanishing and fast movement consumes stamina, so you have to balance when your speed and techniques accordingly.
You can also team up for three on three fights, coordinating and healing your allies, while switching between different enemies. As a result you can have multiple fights going on in one map, making everything feel much larger in scope.
The games big new feature is the ability to create your own fighter; players get to choose between a Human, Saiyan, Namekian, Freeza clan or Majin character, each with their own stats and abilities, like the Saiyans having high attack but low health, but are granted a power boost after being revived after falling in battle. You collect new abilities from the shop, which unlock as you progress through the game. While other moves are achieved by interacting with masters from the series like Vegeta and Krillin, who will teach you their moves and give you items from time to time.
You can buy new clothing items from the series to deck out your new character, ranging from the armour worn by the Freeza soldiers to obscure outfits like the uniform worn by Krillin as a child and even Bora’s outfit. If you know who that is, props are due and given. However you can’t view outfit piece before you buy them, so you need to recall that outfit from the show to have an idea. One of the best parts of the game is walking around and seeing the different characters people have come up with; it’s like every Deviant Art Dragonball OC is all in one place.
Speaking of which, the game revolves around a hub world, where you visit shops, enter the different battle modes and recruit players for your missions. It may feel familiar to those who played Destiny, though while that game limited your appearance, the customization in this game is much more vast and makes for an interesting experience.
The games biggest strength, as well as its biggest flaw is its aesthetics. The game looks fantastic; the lighting and use of speed lines make fights feel much more epic and fast paced than they already were. All the colours pop and the characters look fantastic, displaying a full range of emotion and even showing damage as the fight progresses. The issue however is with the sound design. Music at times is absent, making scenes feel very stilted and awkward, while other sounds like special attacks are obnoxiously loud.
Also at times characters will say strange things, like Goku proclaiming that he will get his body back, even though his body hadn’t been stolen yet, and during one fight he declares that the wrong character is dead. The tone on the other hand is very light hearted and fun; you can be fighting while characters on the side lines are having a rock paper scissors tournament. The writing feels pretty natural and embraces the goofy nature of the series it’s based on.
The pacing of the game is another negative in my book. It starts up fantastically, throwing you right into the fight with Freeza to have you get to grips with the game out of the box. But then it goes really slow, with the first few minutes of the game coming down to “talk to people in the home world”. Why!? It serves no purpose and the character you have to talk to say nothing of any real importance. After that you have to play the story to unlock the ability to make any more characters by beating the game, and the world doesn’t have any other players running around until after the game is completed. Why lock stuff like that off? It feels pointless; it doesn’t prolong the experience and add anything, so why!?
I am disappointed however by the lack of local play in this game. You can’t even play together on the same screen in a local match; the only way to do it is via the world tournament, and even then there is only one lame map. It’s also not possible to swap between custom characters at the character select screen. It would be one thing this game included no local multiplayer at all, but to have it present and screw it up is unavoidable. This is the kind of oversight that costs sales. If you want to focus on online multiplayer, fine, but why include local only in the tournament?
I miss the more complicated nature of the previous games, but it’s impossible to deny that I had so much fun with this game. I don’t like the direction the series has taken, but as a stand alone product this game kicks ass. The fighting is fast paced and exhilarating, while looking fantastic. However the lacklustre local multiplayer, numerous polish issues and connection issues at launch drag the game down.
However you can still have a lot of fun in designing your unique characters and playing through an interesting story mode, which puts a new twist on the classic Dragonball story. I hope that they find a way to incorporate the more complex Tenkaichi fighting system from previous games, while focusing more on local multiplayer components in future games, but for now this is a solid online experience that I had a lot of fun with. However this is an online multiplayer experience, so don’t go expecting any fun couch co-op with this game. I recommend waiting until the servers are up to code before picking this one up.
Rating: 6/10 (8/10 once connection issues fixed)
+ Fast paced and engaging fighting system
+ A ton of character customization options
+ Awesome graphics
– Multiple auditory misfires
– Lack of local multiplayer support