Rock the Dragon.
When I was a kid, Dragonball Z was more than just an manga/anime- it was an inspiration.
I learned how to draw to some degree just so I could draw the characters from the DBZ universe. Also, I have no qualms admitting that I actually practiced the kamehameha and tried to turn super saiyan at least a few times.
Sure this was when I was a little kid under ten but it was a big deal. Even after the series had all but ended (lets not talk GT), I carried a torch for it in my heart and albeit to a lesser degree, I still do today.
So you can bet your dragonballs that I’ve played my share of DBZ games over the years but after about a dozen or so in the course of two decades, I stopped playing them.
They all seemed like the same game with slightly prettier graphics that told the same story I’ve seen dozens of times.
However, Xenoverse caught my interest not only because it’s the first DBZ title for the new hardware but because of how they were putting a twist to the formula by adding a fully integrated online world and adding a brand new story, never told before.
After a good deal of time saving the universe back and shooting Special Beam Cannons at random assholes, I can say that while enjoyable, this is a title with some glaring fundamental flaws.
First of all, the visuals are what one would expect for the modern age of consoles and this is easily the best looking DBZ game on the market.
The character models animate quite well and it all runs rather smoothly without too many framerate dips, even in the heat of the battle against multiple foes.
The combat is rather simple with the usage of the traditional ki meter that governs the use of special moves and a stamina meter that determines what movement based abilities are available.
Flying through the air at incredible speeds and clashing against my enemy with a full 360 degree angle of mobility/attack felt satisfying and appropriate for the source material.
While the camera puts its best effort to stay behind the player character at all times, there were some instances where it gets caught up in the geography. Luckily, these instances were infrequent and didn’t deter too much from the action.
What actually broke the flow of action the most were the AI’s rampant use of an “Evasion” move that would put an end to my attacks mid-combo and there was very little I could do to keep this in check.
Add to that the super armor that allowed them to take my attacks without flinching added an artificial difficulty that made many of the fights feel frustrating and drag out for a lot longer than they needed to.
The big fundamental change for Xenoverse compared to all the other titles in the genre is the online connectivity and the use a central hub.
Whether it’s the intent of the player to check out the vs mode with a buddy locally or just play through a story mission, everything must be done through the hub by walking to the kiosks associated with the modes.
Given that the Xenoverse servers were in a constant flux of dead to dying, I often had to unplug my PS4 from the internet just to play the game. Even when the servers were working, it took over a minute to log on. While it’s nice that they were able to set up an area where I could check out the other characters people have created and meet up with friends to do missions together, it just wasn’t working properly and I wished that they settled for a simple set of menus instead.
The story mode and in truth, the entirety of the experience begins with the creation of a custom character. There were five races to choose from each with their own strengths and while I felt it was most likely overdone, I just had to make a Saiyan.
I mean, who doesn’t want to go Super Saiyan!?
The basis of the story revolves around a pair of time traveling evildoers and spoilers aside, it’s the DBZ take on Back to the Future to some degree and shenanigans ensue.
It’s certainly nothing revolutionary and won’t win any awards for narrative but as a long time fan of the series, I had a good time seeing history being rewritten along with my efforts to make things right again..
Each story missions rewarded me with levels/attribute points which I could allocate to fit my play style. I also earned zeny I could spend at the various shops to buy new items/skills/clothes/accessories and it was always my first priority to check the skills shops regularly to see if there were any moves I wanted to learn.
I also took a mentor and went through their challenges to earn special moves and items which further improved my character’s arsenal.
Learning an iconic move like Special Beam Cannon and using it for the first time in combat was exciting and I greatly looked forward to trying out each of the new skills I acquired.
The online modes (when the servers were up) worked without much lag and is the certainly the preferred method to tackle the patrol missions as the AI partners do more to ruin your experience by constantly breaking your combos/juggles than help.
I had very high hopes for Xenoverse with all the risks they were taking with the tried and undeniable, tired formula.
Even though their gamble with the online connectivity and a few fundamental mechanics fell flat on its face, as a long time fan to the series, I found the experience pretty enjoyable all the same.
Fun Tidbit: The online vs mode is fun with up to 3 on 3 combat. Just don’t assume it will make it to the main stage at EVO because it’s horribly unbalanced and more of a casual experience.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.