The dog days of summer have lingered for a while now leaving the city feeling muggy as shit. This is the type of humidity that feels as if you’re swimming through air, your underwear drowning. Then again it’s also nice to see the sun since I’ll miss it come late September. (American) Football season is upon us meaning another year of intense TV watching, panic filled smartphone glancing, and the unyielding and personally crushing disappointment that is fantasy football. However there are still a few weeks till regular season begins and I’ve got time on my hands with some days off from work. In that time the new Dragon Ball Z movie came and went recently, feel free to peruse my not-quite a review here. And since the film put me in a Dragon Ball mood, I figured it was a good time to dig back into a game I’ve saved since February.
Game 2: Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PC, PS3/4, X360/ONE)
Released: February 24, 2015
So what is it? The most recent installment in a long line of hyper-mediocre Dragon Ball Z games. Like Dynasty Warriors, it’s fan base will believe anything to keep their addiction going. How does one even reach hyper-mediocrity? It’s an interesting phenomenon but one that happens to franchises that drown in its own sea of shameless cash-ins. Many of the DBZ games have either been bizarre amalgamations of lesser fighters (the Budokai series stands as brighter gems of the bunch) or weird RPG projects. This game falls into the later category. Dimps went in a different direction with Battle of Z which mixed simple beat-em up combat with a hefty coat of flashy graphics. While Metacritic doesn’t have many kind things to say about it, it still filled a void in mimicking the frenetic action of the anime. Xenoverse carries Battle of Z’s simplicity and puts expands it to an online world. Better yet, one experienced through the eyes of your own custom character.
What if I don’t watch Dragonball Z? Then you will most definitely not give a flying fuck about this.
So why the hell should I play this? Truthfully this is a package intended only for the DBZ faithful. The type who have subjected themselves to too much psychological abuse by knowingly paying for shitty games. In a way it’s akin to developing stockholm syndrome. “If I buy enough of these, at least one of them has to be amazing, right? Maybe then they’ll finally let me go?” Some sad shit, truly. I’m here to argue Dragon Ball Xenoverse is the best to date in a franchise which seldom does anything different. It’s also like proudly proclaiming your the tallest midget, if that makes sense.
So let’s pretend your an ardent DBZ fan. You may be asking why you should even bother with this? I’m with you on that you shouldn’t pay full price ($59.99) for this one. However Xenoverse has managed to find a compromise between providing the non-stop flashy beams with signature attacks of the show while keeping combat simple and quick. The roster is fairly big with 50 characters, some alternate versions of the same character, so you can set up your own dream mash-ups very easily.
Moreover the biggest appeal to Xenoverse is the idea you can create your own fighter for the first time in franchise history. Xenoverse’s story weaves in and out Z’s story lines and tasks your custom fighter with protecting the official timeline at the behest of Trunks and the Supreme Kai of Time. In ture DBZ movie history, the story is lame but there’s entertainment in finally seeing something different in a DBZ game for once. Besides, the true point of Xenoverse is to provide a platform for everyone to show off their own Gokus. In a game where five unique races are now available (Saiyans, Earthlings, Buus, Frieza Race and Namekian) each with their own unique buffs and hundreds of fancy, colorful moves to perform every soul is inevitably drawn to making some kind of bootleg Goku. Yes, you can go Super Saiyan. No, you can’t go Super Saiyan 3 or 4.
Playing the game’s various quests online is where this all works and survives by. Offline missions are extremely tedious and some are downright annoying without at least another person’s help. Especially early in the game when you are still developing your new fighter and want to level up on the quick. Each time you level up you allocate points to either boosting the energy bar, health, stamina bar and general speed. These points are also buffed by certain race bonuses, like the Saiyan’s general boosts to everything but mostly physical attack, or the Namekians’ ability to regenerate health independently.
At higher levels the game because a series of bit-sized fights rarely going on longer than seven minutes with either crushing victory or hilariously embarrassing failures. Every mission is limited to 15 minutes and early experiences will likely see time-outs. High level missions become massive seizures in the making. The lock-on targeting is mandatory at all times since it’s very easy to lose track of the action without it. Online fights between players are also somewhat broken thanks to the abuse of Female Earthling types: characters too small and hard to hit with most normal attacks, but also benefit from a constant supply of refilling energy which fuels the fuck you beams. However when playing with more open minded players, it’s fun to settle fantasy fights with strangers in a really dumb flying brawler. Who would win in a fight: Broly or Yamcha? The possibilities are truly endless!
Sadly the world isn’t influenced at all by these crazy energy beams being thrown around. When firing off a 100X Kamehameha Wave at a building, you’d expect it to stop existing instead of leaving a quarter sized dent in the building which vanishes after three seconds. This is something no Dragon Ball Z game has managed to capture yet: a sense of scale and destruction all these heavyweights cause when they fight. I hope maybe Dimps (or anyone else) is given time, money, sleep, food or whatever is required to make this happen should Xenoverse get a sequel. We want to see the world shake when Beerus is throwing giant spheres of energy into the ground.
With all that said, it’s not a great game. It’s a decent game for the single-minded. It’s not even one I can recommend to people who don’t own Dragon Ball figures somewhere in their house. If, though, you’ve already sullied yourself playing past games, Xenoverse is the closest the franchise has come to replicating the frenetic fights of the anime. Fans looking for deeper experiences might as well keep playing Budokai 3 or drawing shitty fan-fiction. As much negativity I’ve pumped into this article, Xenoverse still puts a dumb-ass grin on my face to spam Kamehameha beams at people after coming back home drunk.
Mandatory Score: 6/10