|System: PS4*, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Pub: Bandai Namco|
|Release: February 24, 2015|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Cartoon Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
When I heard that Dimps, the same guys who developed Street Fighter IV, were going to be making the latest Dragon Ball Z game, Dragon Ball XenoVerse, I was excited. For a very long time, Dragon Ball Z games have been nothing more than casual button-mash fests looking to cash in on the Dragon Ball fanbase, but Dimps made some of the early Budokai games, which were actually semi-decent fighting games, and I was hoping to see a return to that formula in XenoVerse.
Unfortunately, I did not find a competent fighting game in DBX. What I did find, however, was fanfiction, and lots of it. While you’d think that would be an instant turn-off, it’s actually charming in a way. It shows that Bandai Namco knows its audience, the same audience that draws a million fan made DBZ characters and showcases them on DeviantArt as characters that may even be more powerful than Goku. To that extent, DBX is exactly the game the Dragon Ball fanbase wants. I’ll admit, even my own embarrassing fan fiction impulses were satisfied, and I didn’t even know I had them.
Dragon Ball XenoVerse actually has a totally unique story, rather than simply rehashing the events of the DBZ saga again. A pair of time bandits are wreaking havoc throughout DBZ history by manipulating the events of the timeline such that the future we all know and love never occurs. Then again, the future is Dragon Ball GT, so I’m not quite sure who the good guys are.
You are a resident of Toki Toki City, a city outside time and space where the greatest warriors of the world converge. In other words, it’s the hub world of the game. Trunks, seeing the devastation to the timeline, makes a wish on the Dragon Balls for someone to help him set history right, and BOOM, you showed up.
Here is where the game’s major draw comes in. The main character of this story is none other than you, or at the very least, your created avatar. You’ll be able to choose from a variety of different races, like human, Saiyan, Namekian, whatever the heck a Frieza is, and more. Each race has different stats which vaguely mirror their abilities in the show. Saiyans, for example, get more powerful every time they come back from near death, while Namekians can slowly regenerate health. You also get to choose your sex, male or female, with males hitting harder and females being quicker. I think tying stats to character gender is a little tacky, as it means you can’t make exactly the character you want without somehow effecting their stats, but that’s only a small annoyance.
Then you get to trick out your character however you like, adjusting body dimensions, clothing, hairstyle, and the like. Unfortunately, the character creator falls a little short in this regard. Most of the clothes that you have to choose from are just pieces of other characters’ outfits. So when you are done you kind of end up looking like a mish-mash with a scouter here, a scarf there, and maybe an orange gi and Android 18’s jeans. For those of you who are taking character creation seriously, this will be a disappointment, but I personally feel there's a campy tongue-in-cheek self-awareness to the character creator. It sort of forces you into making a character that really does look like the carbon copies you find on DeviantArt, and that's amusing.
Also, the wonderful voice of Takahata101, a.k.a. Ghost Nappa from Dragon Ball Z Abridged, is available for character creation, complete with a ton of inside jokes about the series. If there was anything that proves the dev team had the fanbase in mind when developing DBX it’s this, and every single character I make will feature this voice, period.
Once you've perfected your fanfiction masterpiece, you are off to save the timeline. The majority of battles you fight will be either major boss encounters or “what-if” moments. The former are basically just the iconic fights from throughout DBZ history, except you are there on one side or another to make sure that they end up right. The latter is much the same as the “what-if” battles from other DBZ games, putting you in fan fantasy scenarios like “what if Vegeta didn’t kill Nappa?” Once again, you are called in to make the timeline right. Sorry, Nappa.
Most of these battles are team battles that take advantage of DBX’s new fighting engine. You control your character from a behind the back perspective, just like most recent DBZ releases, and unfortunately half of the match is just locking on to your opponent and flying around, also like recent DBZ releases. However, since multiple characters are fighting at once, battles take on a little bit more depth. If you all rush in and attempt to punch your opponent in the face, you’ll interfere with each others' combos. However, if you let someone stand back and fire energy blasts as another rushes forward for heavy damage combos, you’ll find that you can decently stun-lock most opponents.
In single-player modes, when you team up with DBZ’s greats, this feels very rewarding. In multiplayer modes, however, it’s less so. Multiplayer matches feel incredibly and undeniably cheap. The game is a button masher to begin with, but the right combination of moves and teamwork will give you next to no opportunity to retaliate. You’ll find yourself hammering on buttons, hoping that you’ll manage to get one hit in, and that’s not fun at all. As usual, the game shines more for it’s single-player mode, rather than it’s multiplayer.
The story of the single-player campaign itself is interesting, but it too smells of fanfiction. The motivations of the villains are kind of forced, even for DBZ antagonists, and the battles you fight are very obviously chosen for the sake of letting you experience every big DBZ moment, rather than to support a greater narrative. It will keep you playing the game, just to be able to see what wacky thing happens next, but I wouldn’t say that you ever get invested in the plot itself, or the ending. This might be one of those games that you end up putting down for long periods of time, or that you abandon before you beat.
While there are far more characters than really should be in a fighting game in DBX, just like there are in every DBZ game, there are some strange omissions. Majin Vegeta and Baby, for example, are totally missing from the roster, even though the plot touches on their storylines. Notable characters from DBZ movies are also missing, although that’s not as bad since these characters are a more obscure.