Sadly, it’s pretty rare to find a licensed game that will be interesting to fans of the original franchise. It’s even more rare to find one that will interest people who aren’t fans. And it’s exceedingly rare to find one that a non-fan will play and then immediately want to take in all of the original franchise because it works so well. It’s the kind of game you’ll only find once in a blue moon, and during this moon, that game is Dragon Ball Xenoverse.
Xenoverse is sort of a cross between a fighting game and an RPG. The plot has two unknown beings traveling through time and powering up Dragon Ball Z’s worst villains. The DBZ character Trunks, now a Time Patroller, gathers the titular wish-granting Dragon Balls and wishes for a powerful ally to help him in his time of need. This ally is your custom character, and Trunks tasks you with traveling through the timeline of DBZ, helping Goku and friends fight off these buffed enemies. The plot works better than one might think, and the characters are just as compelling as they’ve always been.
The core gameplay is similar to past DBZ fighting games. Fighting takes place largely in the air, though you can fight on the ground too. You have basic melee attacks as well as ranged ki blasts, and these work more or less the same way for everyone. Each character also has their own Special and Ultimate attacks, which take up a certain amount of ki. As is typical for fighting games, the ki meter fills up when you hit or get hit by enemies. You also have a stamina meter, which lets you dash or briefly vanish to avoid an attack. It is far from the most technical fighting game, which makes it more inviting, though it may disappoint fans of some of the earlier games.
Everything works quite well, though it does take some getting used to. After a few battles you won’t have too much trouble, and there are plenty of characters to unlock and use in addition to your custom hero. The game is split into a number of modes, and each have different rules in terms of what you can do. Time Patrol is the main story mode; your character works with Trunks to fight in many of the key battles of DBZ, fixing any changes in time.
It’s a nice primer to the series, and there is some variety in the missions. I think if you don’t know anything at all about DBZ, you might have some trouble following along, but you should be able to pick up most of it. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s one of the best way I’ve seen to add story to a fighting game. Your character’s connection with Trunks plays a big part in this, especially because the plot unfortunately doesn’t really let you have a connection to Goku or any of the other characters.
There are typical fights as well, of course, and they can be one on one, two on two, or three on three. The other major mode, though, is Parallel Quests. These side missions can be played alone or with others, and they have a variety of rewards depending on the level of your success. Often these missions have you teaming up with the villains of the story, though they can also be far from anything in the main plot. You can play as any of the characters in the game here. These parallel quests add a lot of replay value, which is quite nice, because the story isnt that long. But they also hint at one of the game’s biggest issues.
Again, this may be mostly a fighting game, but it has a big dose of RPG as well. This means you have to do something that many RPG players hate: grinding. If you try to go through the story stages one by one, you’ll get stuck. Grinding is necessary, and depending on how you choose to make your character, it can take a long time. The Parallel Quests are entertaining enough that it never gets too dull, but it can be a bit of a pain. Another plus of the Parallel Quests is that they reward you with new ways to customize your character.
Character customization is huge in this game, which is one of its greatest strengths. At the start, you can choose your species, sex, and appearance. Characters can be Saiyans, Earthlings (humans), Namekians, Majin (Buu’s race) or members of Frieza’s race. New clothing and accessories can be earned in Parallel Quests or purchased in the hub city, and they affect your stats in addition to your appearance. You can also equip Z-Souls, which give you various abilities connected with the show’s characters.
Though basic attacks can’t be changed, your character has access to almost all of the Super and Ultimate attacks that the other characters use. A few can be purchased in the hub, but many of the most iconic abilities must be won in Parallel Quests or learned from the various DBZ characters who appear in the hub city. Between all of this and changing your stats as you level up, your character is very much your own.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a great game, and I would like to leave it there, but there is one more thing that needs to be addressed. The story mode features a few missions that force you to protect other characters for the duration of the battle, and if they fall, you need to start over. These missions can be infuriating, especially when you have to protect two people, and they really kill the momentum. Fortunately, there are only a few of them, but make sure to be prepared.
Despite that, Dragon Ball Xenoverse is still an excellent game. Though it may not impress hardcore fighting game fans, or people who have never heard of Dragon Ball Z, it’s a fun and interesting title for everyone else. Even if one doesn’t know a lot about the show and its plot, the gameplay and characters are compelling enough on their own. For fans of the show, Xenoverse stays true to what makes it great without simply rehashing what we’ve seen before. Add in excellent character customization, and Xenoverse has everything you need for a fun celebration of all things Dragon Ball.
You can change the future!
Gameplay - 10/10
Story - 9/10
Challenge - 8/10
+ Excellent new story
+ Solid but easy to pick up mechanics
+ Character customization
- Protection missions