Dragon Ball Z Xenoverse
There are approximately seven thousand Dragonball Z games, all of them based on stretches of the four hundred thousand episodes of the television show. Their quality has fluctuated wildly over the years – sometimes even within a specific series, as any Budokai fan will happily tell you if you mention their least favorite title – and it’s understandable that many might approach another new Dragonball Z game with trepidation. While the last console generation had a few good games based on the series, a follow-up to the relatively limp effort of Dragon Ball: Battle of Z doesn’t sound like the most exciting prospect.
“Xenoverse actually feels like proper fan service”Luckily, Dragonball Xenoverse is better than Battle of Z. Way better. While it’s true that every Dragon Ball game is pitched as something “for the fans,” Xenoverse actually feels like proper fan service. Instead of simply presenting a list of fights from the show to reenact, Xenoverse lets players create their own character and… okay, hop through a list of fights from the show to reenact. However, things are a bit more meta this time around, as the person showing you the list of fights is Trunks, time-hopper extraordinaire, and your job is to prevent some metadimensional villains from screwing up the Dragonball Z canon. There are some fun twists and gags within the missions that acknowledge that you’re basically replacing Goku in a lot of these moments – Xenoverse‘s version of the Ginyu Force fight is particularly funny – and overall it’s a surprisingly inventive return to a story fans have relived dozens of times at this point.
But how does it play? The recent Dragonball Z games have ditched Budokai’s traditional 3D fighting game setup in favor of an over-the-shoulder style of play, which is unique, if confusing to get a hang of. Xenoverse is much the same – fighters are dropped into large arenas in which to duke it out with a set number of basic attacks and several equippable special moves, activated by holding down a trigger and pressing a button. While it’s perhaps not as technical as a “real” fighting game, mashing generally won’t get you anywhere, and mastering the controls yields godlike results. It’s a great stab at building a Dragonball Z game from the ground up, complete with all the fighting, flying, and teleporting one comes to expect from the series.
“Xenoverse’s hub world and internet play essentially turns the game into Phantasy Star Online with Dragonball Z fights”Still, the same has been true about the series through Raging Blast and Battle of Z – Xenoverse is not the first game to be presented in this style. What makes it so much more engaging is the way the rest of the game is built. Xenoverse‘s hub world and internet play essentially turns the game into Phantasy Star Online with Dragonball Z fights, a combination that is exactly as addictive as it sounds to anybody who enjoys both of those properties. Missions can be repeated to earn higher scores, money, and loot, and playing with other human-controlled partners can be a blast. The offline hub world is rather sparse and soulless, especially when compared to running around online through the crowds of goofy user-created characters and finding people to run missions with is a wonderful experience.
The character creation is what helps drive the persistent experience. Initially, the options seem rather limited – you’re given a decent handful of Akira Toriyama-styled body parts and hairstyles to choose from, but Dragon’s Dogma it ain’t – progressing through the game provides a huge array of options for developing your fighter. Special moves of all types and powerful traits (called Z-souls, natch) can be found and earned, along with tons of different clothing options and accessories. It’s a dream come true for anyone who used to doodle Dragonball Z characters in their notebook margins – or if you wore one of those silk Goku bowling shirts. I won’t tell.
The online elements of Xenoverse make a formula we’ve seen several times now feel all the fresher. It’s fan service in the best sense possible – it feels like a celebration of the series, rather than another simple regurgitation of the Frieza, Buu, and Cell sagas. While it’s not really much of a looker, and non-fans won’t find much here besides a series of fights, there’s a ton in here for fans of the series to dig into and enjoy.