The dragonball franchise is no stranger to video game adaptations. Truly a genre of their own, their high flying, energy blast slinging games have secured a place in the hearts of beat-em-up fans everywhere.
But there have been a lot of games released and it was inevitable that the games would become a bit stale. Re-releasing an entire new game to accomodate one or two new movie characters would eventually take its toll and there are, after all, only so many times you can fight Nappa and Vegeta or Raditz before you want more.
The ingenuity of Dragonball Xenoverse is that it gives every fan that grew up running home to catch THE NEXT EPISODE OF DURRRAGONBALL ZEEEE what they wanted: the chance to join in. And not in the sense that you control an established character; in this game you create your character and get thrown into the action.
The plot of the game is as follows: A pair of trouble makers are travelling through history, intervening in key moments in the Dragonball mythos, maniulating events and causing trouble. Resident time traveller Trunks has teamed with the Supreme Kai of Time (because theres a Supreme Kai for everything) and formed the time patrollers. The game begins with Trunks using the dragonballs to wish for a powerful ally to help him with apprehending the troublemakers and restoring continuity.
You start by creating a character from one of five races, the series staple Saiyans, Humans, Namekians, Majin and Frieza Clansmen, some of which have varying genders. After fully customising your character you can set out with Trunks and start fixing things.
Your character is customisable from the clothes they wear which afford stat boosts, to accessories which are cosmetic and the bread and butter of the series: the super and ultra finishers. You can also equip souls which offer boosts and trigger when certain criteria are met (using specific moves or bieng damaged enough). You’ll also find yourself able to be mentored by characters from the show who will teach you their incredibly destructive finishers.
Alongside the game’s main story, you’ll find a wealth of side quests or Parallel quests which afford new moves and equipment, offering interesting scenarios.
And the alternative scenarios are where Xenoverse shines. To outsiders, the relevance of both Vegeta AND Napa becoming Oozaru while fighting a half dead Goku would be lost, but to fans, it’s a nightmarish proposition. What if Frieza had skipped cycling through his forms when tormenting Gohan, Krillin and Piccolo and gone straight to his final form with Goku millions of miles away in space? I won’t ruin any others but needless to say if you’re invested in the DBZ-verse, these will make you smile.
And that is essentially what Xenoverse is, it’s a love letter to fans. It’s the embodiment of anyone who ever sat and drew their own original character and imagined them swooping in to join their heroes and fight the good fight. It’s effectively interactive fanfiction. Which is both an excellent feature for fans and can be a big turn off to people not already familiar with the characters.
And thats where the downsides to the game come into play. Where it may be a good question to ask why a non-fan of the series would pick this game up, earlier entries would at least offer a fun time to have a mess around. While the multiplayer aspects of the game can be fun (if the server holds up), whether it’s co-op or competitive, the single player has its own downsides which, again, a fan of the series would overlook but can be rage inducing. Battle with multiple enemies often end up with you bieng shot in the back or from above by enemies out of your line of sight. Enemies can and do often block your ultimate finishers, meaning you waste four blocks worth of hard earned ki firing your impressive screen filling blast into the distance. While the moves are quite balanced, many are incredibly tricky to land on the fly, meaning a lot of the time you’ll play it safe with straight beam attacks such as the Galic Gun, Masenko or the series favourite Kamehameha. Another downside of the game is that until you clear the game, you are locked into playing as one character with no option to change without deleting your character. I beat the game as a Frieza clansman and had a good time.
The visuals are stunning, with new animation created specifically for the cutscenes and your character fitting in seamlessly alongside the protagonists. Fights are fast, frantic affairs, with battles almost always taking to the skies with attacks hurled across the screen, launching your enemies before appearing where they were going to be and smashing them back or into the floor. Its incredibly satisfying to nail a finisher and see your enemies health be halved. More so if you use your mentors finisher and it triggers the Z soul activation where your mentor appears to boost the power of the attack (think the end of the Cell games, where Goku appears to help Gohan with his kamehameha).
All in all, if you’re a fan of the show, even if you’ve played every budokai game, you smashed Battle of Z and think you’re burnt out on dragonball, you owe it to yourself to try and play it. Non-fans of the show should either rent or give it a test run before investing.
Image from shonengamer.net