Sweet As Syrup: Dragon Ball Xenoverse 1 Review

You know what I love? Quests, epic quests that entangle our hero in a grand mission to save world, his girlfriend, or fulfill some kind of arbitrary task. Another thing I love is the Dragon Ball anime series. What happens when you combine epic questing with Dragon Ball? You get something akin to Dragon Ball Xenoverse, a game that is a mix between RPG, fighting game, and MMORPG. It’s a game that mixes several genres together in an attempt to make something wholly unique.

I’ve made it no secret that I love the Dragon Ball franchise. While I gave up on the series for a while, a couple years back, I found myself getting interested in it again. While I can definitely say elements of this show haven’t aged well, it’s still still an entertaining watch. The games are definitely where I find my interest in nowadays. So, I thought I’d take a look at Xenoverse, which is undoubtedly my favorite Dragon Ball game.

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It’s Casper The Unfriendly Ghost Saiyan!

Background Information

Dragon Ball Xenoverse is an action RPG/ MMORPG / Fighting game made that was released on both the previous generation of consoles, as well as the current one. The game was original advertised under the code-name “Dragon Ball New Project” and was officially released in February of 2015. The game became a huge hit, selling over 3 million copies world-wide. It sold so well, that a sequel was released the following year.

Plot

Unlike most Dragon Ball games, which tend to retread the same old tired plot-lines, Xenoverse takes a unique spin on the formula. The game takes place in the future, over a hundred years after the end of the original series. The adventures of the Saiyan warrior Goku, as well as those of his family and friends are long over. However, an evil is stirring and starts altering history.

This results in major alterations affecting the primary timeline, to the point where several key members of the original cast end up dead. The time-travelling warrior known as Trunks has joined a futuristic police squad known as “Time Patrol” in an attempt to fix the altered timeline. The purple-hair warrior realizes that he’s in over his head and decides to call for some reinforcements.

Apparently, ordinary help is out of the question for Trunks. Instead of doing something logical like putting out a “Help Wanted” ad, Trunks decides to gather the seven magical Dragon Balls. Using these, he summons the dragon Shenron and summons your custom character to his time period. From there, you are sent out to various parts of the Dragon Ball timeline, in order to fix all that has been altered.

It’s not a super original plot, but it definitely is an entertaining one. All of the “What If?” scenarios presented by the game add some much needed variety to the game. After all, there’s only so many times you can tell the same Dragon Ball story-lines over and over. Considering this game was made in a time when Dragon Ball games were mostly rehashing the same tired plots year after year, it was a much welcome change of pace.

Thankfully, Xenoverse does mix it up quite a bit. It re-purposes elements from a game I previously review, which was Dragon Ball Online, and managed to do something unique things with it. Cut-scenes in this game are packed with all sorts of action, shenanigans, and surprise twists.

However, even though I enjoy the attempt at a new story, it sadly lacks the finesse of a common Dragon Ball arc. The story took me about 10 hours to beat, including grinding and sitting through all the cut-scenes. The story is just way too short, to the point where I felt that I wasn’t getting the full experience. Scenes from the show would play out in background dialogue, robbing me of the experience of viewing them through cut-scenes or game-play.

The plot is really nothing to write home about, but it does manage to freshen up the Dragon Ball franchise. As previously mentioned, Dragon Ball games had a tendency to play things a bit too safe. Having a game that at least attempts a new story is definitely something I can appreciate. While the plot feels like its written primarily for fans of the show, I thought it was definitely entertaining. Not good or fantastic, but enjoyable enough that I don’t often find myself skipping past cut-scenes.

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Moral of the story: NEVER TRAIN WITH CELL!

Gameplay

This is the bread and butter of what makes people love the Xenoverse series so much. The gameplay on display is definitely entertaining, but not without its faults. Let’s go over the good first, that feels like the best place to start. Xenoverse plays like the fully 3D dragon ball fighting games that have come before it, most notably Budokai Tenkaichi 3. You control a singular character, and can have up to two allies fighting by your side.

However, some missions are special, and will occasionally pair your with three to four other allies in order to square against a really powerful enemy. Action unfolds in the third-person, and mainly focuses on a two button combat scheme. You can do light attacks and heavy attacks, and string them together to pull off some sick combos. It’s a stupidly simple system, but it’s easy enough for most people to get the hang of. Toss in things like grappling, ki blasts, and special attacks, and you have a simple system with a fair bit of complexity.

Unfortunately, combat can get super repetitive after a while. Sure, you have new moves and characters being thrown at you to spice things up, but I won’t deny the fact that it starts to feel stale after a while. The fact the combat feels like it relies too heavily on button-mashing is a rather large detriment to the game itself. It definitely doesn’t stop the combat from being fun, but it does water down the experience a bit.

What makes combat so fun is the insane amount of super moves you can pull off. Every playable character has his own set of special moves that he/she can use in combat. This can range from moving so fast you create a large blue hurricane, to even tossing miniature meteorites at your hapless opponents. Each set of moves is tailored to how that character fought in the show. For example, Frieza has access to his “Death Ball” attack, and has a combat style focused on both speed and power.

There are about 57 characters in this game, if you include DLC as well. There are also a ton of different forms, costumes, and move-sets for each character. This increases the amount of playable characters quite a bit, and adds some variety. The characters you can choose during combat level up with your character. The stronger your character is, the stronger the characters you play as will be. It’s a nice little touch that makes it so other characters you decide to play as are just as viable during battle.

The game’s main draw is its custom characters. Xenoverse allows for an insane amount of customization options. It’s easy to lose 10 minutes just messing around in the character creating, making something that looks absolutely silly and weird. Want to make an orange Namekian? Go for it. Want to make a Saiyan with silver skin and green hair? Go nuts. The game is just insane with the amount of bizarre characters you can make.

There are five different races to pick from, each one coming with its own specialties and limitations. Certain races have different advantages over others, such as different starting stats and access to race-exclusive abilities. Most characters handle the same out of the gate, but eventually become varied enough to stand out from the other races. For example, Frieza’s race is extremely fast, while Majins can use magic-based special attacks.

Character customization does have it limits though, especially in the amount of hair-styles and faces your characters can have. I hear that the character options are much better in the sequel, though I have yet to play that version. Regardless, what’s here is definitely welcome. The custom options go beyond just creating his look, you can also choose from a variety of outfits and different skills to use.

Sadly, the costumes have locked stats. You can’t change the stats, so you’re sometimes stuck with outfits of your favorite characters with abilities you don’t want. It’s definitely one of the weakness this game has, though it’s from the biggest offender. The biggest problem comes from online. Battles online against other players are largely unbalanced, with characters having builds that are broken and overpowered. While certain moves and abilities have been dulled down, a fair bit of attacks still remain stupidly strong.

This completely destroys the flow of online combat with other players. It gets worse when you factor in the insane amount of lag that occurs if you enter a match with another person that has a bad connection. Worse still is the game’s difficulty spikes near the end of story mode. Characters become stupidly overpowered, and gain the ability to spam ultimate attacks to an insane degree.

This gets worse in the “Parallel Quests”, which act as this game’s version of side-quests. The last few PQs are so immensely broken, that they are near impossible to beat offline. Characters can gang up on you constantly and bash you into a bloody pulp, using both overpowered energy attacks and cheap cornering tactics. This isn’t me being bad at the game either, this is legitimately broken in terms of difficulty. Thankfully, most of the really hard stuff is completely optional.

Another complaint I have is with the city itself, which is more of a small hub than anything else. It’s only three areas, which are strung together by loading screens. There’s not a whole lot to do in the city, aside from take quests and buy items. Thankfully, despite this game being an MMORPG, you are never gouged by micro-transactions. Sure, there is DLC, but you don’t really need it to beat the game.

All things considered, I definitely had fun with the game’s combat and character creation. Sure, the combat can get dull pretty quickly, but its insane amount of different specials moves makes up for it. While the online play could use a lot of work, it’s still a fair bit of fun to work alongside friends and strangers to beat tough missions. If you can get past the grind-y nature of the game, the very low item drop-rates, and the insane difficulty spikes, then I think you are in for a good experience.

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Definitely not Kansas anymore.

Visual Stimuli

The game looks fantastic, truly fantastic. The art-style definitely captures the look and feel of classic Dragon Ball Z, while adding a bit of its own flavor to the mix. Despite the good graphics, facial animations are pretty awkward. Everyone looks overtly creepy every time they smile, almost like they are faking their smiles in a strange sort of way. Backgrounds look pretty nice, even if most of them are completely static.

The soundtrack is pretty solid, having a fair bit of tunes that sound like they would fit right in with the show itself. The game’s sound-effects are also pretty nice, having the right amount of punch to them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were lifted from the show itself! The game seems to run pretty smoothly, though there have been times where I was randomly booted from the server. Also, certain moves can cause the frame-rate to chug considerably. An example of this is the Blue Hurricane move, which can cause the frame-rate to dip considerably.

Special attacks look flashy and powerful, just like how they are in the show. I especially love how certain attacks can cause damage to the area, it’s such a nice attention to detail. One of the game’s biggest faults come in both the voice acting and the translation. Funimation’s usual top-notch voice cast is playing the Dragon Ball cast, but it seems they lack direction. It was like Cell’s voice actor was told just to ham it up, so he rolled with it.

Several other characters just seem to say things they wouldn’t normally say, which can definitely get distracting. It has a certain charm to it, but it leads some scenes to feel pretty awkward at times. I can’t tell you how jarring it is to complete a mission where the villains of hell invade, only to be greeted with your mentor saying “I would totally hug you, if that was a thing I did!” It’s not terrible, just rather jarring.

Still, the voice cast is solid overall. The main problem with the game comes in the spotty translation and bad grammar. For some reason, the dialogue in this game is peppered with all kinds of spelling errors. From multiple commas in a single sentence, to words being improperly spelled. It’s very distracting, especially to someone like me, a person who gets distracted easily by such nonsense.

Translation overall feels a bit spotty, with voice-acted clips never really matching up with what the text-boxes are saying. Couple this with the aforementioned bad grammar, and you have dialogue that just feels tacked on. So, while I can say the game looks nice, it suffers from some issues in terms of both voice acting and translation. Direction-less voice-acting and multiple spelling errors pepper the game, but it doesn’t distract too much from the overall package. The game still looks and sounds great, despite its various hiccups.

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Ginyu Force: Only the silly may apply.

In Conclusion

Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a game that lets you make your own character, partner up with your favorite mentor, and live that ultimate Dragon Ball experience. However, its translation and voice acting issues, its repetitive gameplay, its broken loot system, and its huge difficulty spikes will turn a lot of people off. While I find these to be big weaknesses in terms of game design, I still feel this game is awesome and very unique.

After playing Dragon Ball Fusions, I didn’t think I would find a game that could top it. While Xenoverse plays more like a typical Dragon Ball fighting game, it somehow manages to do enough interesting things to keep it fresh. That’s why I can say that it is definitely as sweet as syrup!

Recommending this game is a hard thing to do, since it is mostly made with Dragon Ball fans in mind. If you’re a fan of Dragon Ball, I recommend checking this out. However, if you’re looking for a balanced fighting game experience, I suggest you check elsewhere. All in all, I can definitely say I had fun with this game. I hope to one day pick up and play Xenoverse 2, since I hear that the game manages to improve on a ton of faults with the first. Anyways, thanks for reading, and have a Super Saiyan day!

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