By Ian Boone. This is Load File, where we digest the latest in video games. This week, Ian’s playing catch-up with Dragonball Xenoverse, published by Namco Bandai for Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
The seven mystic Dragon Balls are brought together again to call upon the divine serpent Shenron. With an already complicated history being tampered with by ne’erdowells, the Dragonball universe wishes for a champion… and its you!
Dragonball Xenoverse gives players the opportunity to both create a new hero in Akira Toriyama’s beloved series and take part in the pivotal battles that will preserve its time stream. I am ashamedly rather new to the Dragonball Z phenomena, but after binging the series on through to “The Buu Saga,” I’ve pined for a worthy game adaptation to reenact all that epic.
I’ve been warned away from so many of the previous games, but with warm early impressions (and because it touts a next-gen version), I decided to give Dragonball Xenoverse a try.
Will history be saved? Will Vegeta ever think I’m skilled enough to teach me another move? Can the woefully under-prepared servers stay up long enough for me to review online? Find out next time on… never mind, this ain’t no shonen. More after the bump.
ITS OVER 9,000… DIFFERENT STYLES OF POINTY HAIR!
As mentioned before, the Dragonball Z history is under threat due to a tampering of key historic fights. The Time Force, led by an older Trunks, seems powerless to do anything but watch. The only option is to wish for a hero, and so your character creation begins. To begin, only one character slot is open and available, so get it right!
Humans, Saiyans, Namekians, Frieza, and Maijin races are available for your build. A lot comes with this decision, as stats and racial bonuses differ (also some moves and equipment are restricted to a certain species). Base stats like stamina or ki can be improved upon as players progress in experience or with gear, but being a Super Saiyan still requires being at least a Saiyan to start with. It is still at least that difficult.
There’s a cornucopia of options in this amazing Akira Toriyama character generator. Any set of facial features he’s ever doodled is featured here, so one can carve out as unique an avatar as Toriyama’s vision supports. I chose not to stray far from home, choosing a Human to avenge all the poor Earthlings that always tend to get flattened or forced to the sidelines during these skirmishes.
Once the hero is named and saved, she or he is immediately thrown into a tutorial fight against Trunks. Moves and Super Moves are pretty easy to dish out and combo with the face buttons, and enough combat mechanics are juggled that Xenoverse can be easily placed in the realm of action brawlers. Every character at the onset has superhuman abilities such as flight, short-range teleportation, energy blasts, minor invulnerability to fatal strikes, and that’s all before getting to what’s been selected for one’s Supers. In true anime style, many fights will be speeding blurs of energy where you can punch and zap one another.
Four Super Moves can be mapped out to the four face buttons and activated by pressing them in combination while holding the R shoulder. This category will consist mostly of the trademark special attacks of the series (like the Kamehameha, Meteor Strike, and more). Some of them are more passive, like striking a pose to boost stats or triggering a transformative state. Even more powerful Ultra Moves can be triggered using both R and L shoulders and a correspondingly mapped face button, but these consume a ton of the Ki energy that all moves and super abilities seem to take.
Once you’ve grasped enough of the basics (enough to beat Trunks and move on, anyway), your character is free to explore the hub of the Time Force: Toki Toki City. From here a player can set out on Time Patrol missions that follow a chronological annotated version of the Dragonball Z timeline. For brevity’s sake, these missions focus on the key battles and skip details from the show, such as characters spending months in space travel, or training in the afterlife to come back from the dead.
The adversary of these story arcs, be it Cell, Frieza, Raitz, or whomever, will typically be boosted way beyond historic power levels by the nefarious time villians. Its up to the players to even the odds by joining forces with the heroes of each story. Battle conditions can shift quickly when enemy reinforcements show up, and sometimes foes will aggravatingly draw on unseen strength to heal up and kick any thoughts of comeback the hell out of you. Yup, this is Dragonball, all right.
When Time Patrols wrap up, more Parallel Missions become available back in Toki Toki. While fixing the space-time continuum is fine, dandy, and important, these Parallel Missions might offer even more crucial gains by awarding new moves and equipables when certain ranks or criteria are met. Time Patrols unlock some new characters and award experience, but otherwise they provide no direct reward.
Gaining experience will give you three points to spend between six different character stats. Laying these down wisely will mean the difference between chiseling out a skilled fighter or employing a helpless sponge. Clothing and armor will also affect stats (and look stylish). Equipping Z-Souls can give a wide range of affects, and begin to offer huge stat boosts across the board before long.
Once your character is dripping with finery and ready to face the masses, there are thousands of other players online to battle against. Even at predictably slower times of the day, the streets are choked with fighters. A Dragonball MMO was all people ever wanted, it seems.
Dragonball Xenoverse accomplishes a lot of fan service, and has finally given the franchise an entry on par with the much more successful Naruto Ninja Storm series from the same publisher. Combine the persistent roleplaying mechanics that suck away your precious time (with hours of stat-cracking and equipment tweaking) with the explosive action of Dragonball Z in a halfway competent form, and I’ll be mostly delighted.
Classifying it as a brawler frees Xenoverse from some of the scrutiny I’d afford more serious fighting games, but it doesn’t excuse from some of the exploitable stuff in the game. A simply timed three-button mash can keep a grounded foe stuck in an endless loop. Or the teleport-evade move. Who’d try to break a combo when a quick button push and a small bit of Ki pops the player behind the target, open to attack?
The missions leave a lot to hope for. Fighting one strong enemy or a bunch of squabs is how most of the action is doled out. While that may be true to the Dragonball Z series, it makes for repetitive gameplay.
If you’re a fan of DBZ, Dragonball Xenoverse is definitely one of the better games to spawn off from the show. It’s plain fun to soar with classic heroes and villains and slam it out in three-dimensional combat. I’m all about preparing for the day when we see what Dragonball Xenoverse will inevitably evolve into. Because, as sure as a Gohan follows a Goku, that day is coming.