Dragon Ball XenoVerse review for PS4, Xbox One, PC

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Dimps
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1-6
Online: Yes

I think the last time I genuinely enjoyed a Dragon Ball Z video game was with Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 on PS2, which released in North America just a little over a decade ago. There?s been plenty of Dragon Ball titles in between now and then, but few have come remotely close to hitting the high bar set by the Budokai series of games. Dragon Ball XenoVerse, which released this week on PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, manages to get surprisingly close. More content filled than a standard DBZ fighter, and relying more on alternate history timelines than retreading the same, Saiyan, Frieza, Cell and Buu Saga stories, XenoVerse marks the first DBZ title worth playing in quite some time.

So what is Dragon Ball Z XenoVerse? It?s a mix of RPG and fighter elements, featuring a small hub world where you?ll interact with known DBZ characters like Vegeta, Piccolo, Trunks and other fan favorites. You?ll be able to earn currency, purchase items, unlock character costumes and special abilities like Goku?s signature Kamehameha, and engage in both optional and main story quests.

dragon ball xenoverse 02The whole thing is wrapped around a story that features future Trunks attempting to correct mistakes in the DBZ timeline, kicking off with Raditz narrowly dodging Piccolo?s Special Beam Cannon in his pivotal battle with Piccolo and Goku years before. Trunks pulls your user-created character out of time to help him correct these errors in the timeline, done so by progressing through story quests, optional parallel quests, and often battling against the characters featured in each event. There?s some light exploration, and large 3D environments to both run and fly through, but by and large the core mechanic here is fighting.

XenoVerse?s combat system features light and strong attacks, blocks, throws, and a host of powerful specials and supers to perform. Your user-created character can switch out most special and super attacks in-between missions, with most moves being culled from existing characters. Basically, you can mix and match abilities at will, along with earning skill points to enhance attacks, defense, health and other attributes. Completing both base mission requirements and optional fights can also net you character specific costume items, like Piccolo?s cape or Raditz? battle armor. At the onset of the game you can choose from multiple races to create your character, along with a pretty extensive list of skin/hair color options, hairstyles, and default costume colors.

dragon ball xenoverse 04The level of customization here is one of the best aspects of XenoVerse, allowing you to create and define a character that stands out as pretty unique. You can also play online and off, opting to do battle with the CPU or other player controlled characters. When playing missions offline  you can also select A.I. controlled partners from previously unlocked characters, taking along favorites like Kid Gohan into battle with you. The A.I. is competent enough that they?ll successfully whittle away an opponent’s health, but not so powerful as to win a fight for you.

The actual battles you?ll engage in can be pretty fun and varied. Sometimes fights can be a bit uneven, pitting you against multiple foes at once. The controls make it easy enough to lock-on to opponents, or switch between them whenever necessary. The use of a lock-on feature might take a bit of the skill out of playing, but it really feels necessary here due to how huge the environments can be, and how you?ll often need to switch from on-ground combat to flying through the air. While locked-on you can helpfully zoom to your opponent quickly at the expense of a stamina meter, which also dictates how often you can teleport dodge, similar to the Substitution Jutsu found in modern Naruto fighters. These functions help keep battles from feeling like tedious, drawn out affairs, keeping you locked into fights and forcing you to keep your offense up instead of constantly running away or chasing down opponents.

dragon ball xenoverse 01XenoVerse also doesn?t make use of complicated Street Fighter style inputs, again keeping in line with other modern day anime fighters. You can string together basic light and strong attacks for different effects, like launching characters skywards or knocking them to the ground from mid-air combat. Specials are done by holding in the right trigger on most control set-ups, which bring up optional commands for your face buttons while pressed, You have a segmented bar of energy for performing specials, with each command eating up one section of the bar. Supers are done by holding down the left and right triggers, again giving optional inputs for the face buttons, but performing one of these attacks will entirely deplete the gauge used for special attacks.

The basic mechanics of combat are simple enough that even beginning players will be able to jump in and pull off some cool looking stuff. There?s still some possibility for high-tier play with blocks, parries, and throws in the mix, which will appeal to the crowd that needs a bit more substance from their fighting experience. But overall I think the developers have really struck a pretty solid balance here, making XenoVerse a game that just about any type of DBZ fan can jump in and enjoy.

There are a few aspects that could use some refinement. While I understand the desire for hub worlds in games, I feel like the world used for XenoVerse is largely useless, and most of the interactive stuff in the hub world would be better suited for menus. There?s a number of NPC?s in the hub world that you can talk to, but very few that have anything interesting to share. Occasionally you?ll come across an NPC offering a side quest, but even that could be presented via a menu. Basically, I feel like the hub world is a waste of the players time, offering needless filler between battles and story content without any real reason for existing. And while XenoVerse isn?t a bad looking game, the hub world isn?t lively, or detailed enough to warrant exploring.

dragon ball xenoverse 03Also, while I love the inclusion of both vs. and co-op multiplayer modes, the co-op aspect could be handled better. When joining an online vs. room, you have the option of sticking around for more fights. But when joining co-op you?re booted back to the hub world (and away from the online parallel quest shop) after finishing a match. Also, co-op victories don?t carry over to offline, so there?s very little benefit to completing the co-op missions. On the positive side I like the 1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2, and 3 vs. 3 options for vs. multiplayer. I also found it easy enough to search for and find players in both modes, even if the servers seem to be a bit wonky during launch week.

Overall, I think Dragon Ball XenoVerse is a definite step-up in direct comparison to the last decade worth of subpar Dragon Ball video games. XenoVerse is pretty packed with content in its single player mode, and the optional co-op / versus modes are just icing on the cake. You get access to the large roster of characters you?d expect to see in a Dragon Ball game at this point, while also a decent amount of customization options for user created characters to boot. As a moderate fan of the anime, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed XenoVerse, and I suspect you will be too, provided you have any affinity for the source material.

Grade: B+