By Tyler Lubben / March 12th, 2015
As I said, the big reason I was so drawn to this game in the first place was the promise of seeing re-tellings of the classic Dragon Ball Z storylines. In this respect, I was… mostly satisfied. Through the Saiyan, Ginyu, Frieza, Android, Cell and Buu sagas, all the way up to the recent Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods movie, the game does offer some interesting changes to the plotline that the Time Patrollers must correct. Granted, these “changes” usually didn’t amount to much more than making the villain stronger than they should have been, but there were times when this created some interesting developments. Things like members of the Ginyu Force surviving longer than they were meant to or giving Hercule a much bigger role in the Cell saga made for some interesting and unexpected changes. For once, I didn’t actually know what was going to happen next as I continued through the game. The trade-off here, as you might guess, is that the normal storylines as the TV show presented them are gleaned over quite briefly. XenoVerse very much assumes players have already watched the show, and those who may have never seen Dragon Ball Z (if such a thing is even possible) will be very much in the dark. In that case, players new to the franchise may have to hope that the Time Patroller plot could do a good job to keep things interesting. Sadly, it was when the game diverged from the show’s plot points and started telling the original story with Trunks and the Supreme Kai of Time that I started to get bored. This part of the story just didn’t hold me nearly as much seeing the changes in the normal timelines. The main reason for this, I think, is that I didn’t find Trunks and the Supreme Kai of Time to be nearly interesting enough to carry the narrative the way they were supposed to, making for a pretty boring plot. This means that, while I found the early sections of the game incredibly engaging, the third act — when the timeline was fixed up and the original narrative came to the fore — was much tougher to get through.
Unfortunately, as much as I would like to tell you about the game’s online multiplayer, that is not something I was actually able to experience. Every time I started up the game, I would get an error message saying that the XenoVerse servers were down. As such, with only the offline single player mode available to me, I wasn’t able to actively meet and team up with other players online. Other players’ avatars would still appear around the city, but they were just static, non-interactive NPCs – nothing more. From what I can tell, it appears as though Bandai Namco underestimated the response that fans would have with XenoVerse, and their servers were quickly overwhelmed with the number of players trying to connect. While they are apparently still working to remedy this, it’s quite unfortunate that, over three weeks after the game’s release, players are still having such difficulty connecting.
While that may leave online-only players unhappy, there is still a local two-player battle mode for those who bring a friend along. This is where the World Tournament arena I mentioned earlier comes into play. Here, you’re able to play as your Time Patroller, as well as any characters you have unlocked in the story mode. You don’t have the same freedom to change the abilities of the canon characters as you do your Time Patroller, but every alternate outfit that you unlock for them does change their stats and abilities, so there is at least a little variety in how each character plays.
I can’t speak for the last-gen versions of the game, but XenoVerse on the PlayStation 4 looks utterly fantastic. The character models are wonderfully smooth and detailed (even if their mouths don’t move to the words they say), and the effects of the characters’ attacks are great to look at. There’s also a bit of camera blur when zipping around the sky or when two combatants clash for a couple seconds that helps keep the action fast and frantic. Even little things like throwing a Destructo Disc and seeing it leave behind a huge gash in a wall was a nice detail for the devs to add. Attacks look suitably brutal, too, as the action will pause for just a split second when delivering a hard hit, putting that much more emphasis on the action.
My feelings towards the sound, on the other hand, were a bit more mixed. While I thought the sound effects – the energy blasts, punch sounds and the like – were spot-on in relation to what you’d here from the show, the music itself left a lot to be desired. Not that it was particularly bad, but, given all the melee combat, energy blasts flying around and copious amounts of powering up, it was pretty rare that I could even hear the music, let alone tell you if it was memorable (aside from Cha-La Head Cha-La when you start up the game, obviously). The only track you’re really going to hear in any meaningful capacity is the Toki Toki City theme which, while relaxing enough, isn’t particularly enduring. I did enjoy how the background instrumentals and tunes would change depending on which shop you were patronizing, though.
Overall, I was… mostly satisfied with the game. The gameplay was fast-paced, and the story was interesting enough (at least the first 2/3 of it) to keep me wanting more. Plus, the character customization and leveling up features had me much more engaged than if I was just given control of Goku or the other Z Fighters again for the umpteenth time. However, being locked out of one of the main features of the game and some clunky interface issues (why couldn’t trainers just show up on the dang map?!) did more than a little to put a damper on the experience. It may not be the best way to spend $60, but, if you’re a fan of the TV show and want to see some interesting new takes on it, this will be right up your alley. Plus, with a 20-hour story mode and the promise of many more if you want to level up and take the fight against other players online (whenever that may be) it could very well end up being more than worth it in the end.
Review copy purchased by the author.
Dragon Ball XenoVerse is available on Amazon:
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