Review: Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PS4)

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Title: Dragon Ball Xenoverse
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (4.79 GB)
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Dimps
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Golden Minecart Award Winner 2015
– Best Fighting Game (PS3)

Dragon Ball Xenoverse, or Dragon Ball XV, marks the fifteenth Dragon Ball game to be developed by Dimps on home consoles and it’s also the first Dragon Ball game to be released on current-gen consoles. In this game you play the role of yourself as a helper to future Trunks who has collected the Dragon Balls and summoned you with a wish to the great Dragon Shenron.

Gameplay:
Right off the bat when you boot up the game you are treated to an awesome rendition of Cha-la Head Cha-la (the Dragon Ball Z theme song from the Japanese version of the show). From there, you witness future Trunks, who has collected the Dragon Balls, standing in front of Shenron as he wishes you into existence to aid him in battle. From here, Shenron summons you and you are prompted to create your character from a selection of races from the Dragon Ball Z series.

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The Character Creation screen is not too complex, but you do have a pretty good selection of different attributes to make your character your own. I think the coolest part of the character creator is that the developers totally nailed the art and design style of the characters from the series, so much so that whatever character you create could easily fit in as an actual character.

One more thing to note about the Character Creator is that many of the costumes you find are fully customizable with regards to color. You can replace the pre-defined sections of your torso, legs, shoes, and gloves with different pre-defined color swatches. Some special costumes however, are not customizable, like Vegeta’s battle gear for example. Another great thing about the costumes is that you can change the colors at any time and save them for later. So, before you start a battle you can swap the costume out from your saved costume settings. This makes it very easy to save a costume, battle items, and special skills so you can have different pre-defined load-outs when going against different enemies.

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After you’re happy with your character you’re taken through some story cinematic and tutorial battles, then you’re free to roam around Toki Toki City, a world somewhere outside space and time. You quickly learn that the entire universe is in danger because it seems something is rewriting the events of the past so you were summoned to become part of the Time Patrol to correct the events of the past to ensure the future is protected.

Toki Toki City has three main parts: Plaza of Time, Industrial Sector, and the Time Machine Station. There is one other place within the Field of Time that is called the Time Nest and it’s where you go to play though the main story mode.

The Industrial Sector of Toki Toki City is what you would expect. This is where you go to purchase power ups, health regenerative items, costumes, and accessories with the Zeni (money) you collect. There seems to be a large amount of costumes and accessories to find and collect. Certain clothing buffs certain attributes and some are only wearable by certain races. The accessories generally do not do much. The only accessory that I’ve found to have a purpose is the scouter, which allows you to see both ally and opponent power levels as well as find hidden objects in the environments.

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The last main section in Toki Toki City is the Time Machine Station where you go to play through optional Parallel Quests (sub-quests) as well as play online with people all over the world.

The controls are pretty good and easy to master. You use one trigger to block, a trigger and button to pull off a special attack, and both triggers and button to pull off an ultimate attack. The face buttons do a heavy attack, a standard attack, and a throwing move (that I have yet to master). You use the Cross button to jump and you can fly freely at any time after jumping and moving the left analog stick. The right analog stick allows you to move the camera. You are able to lock onto enemies and switch between targets with R1 trigger and do a fast flying burst with the L2 trigger. You can also fire small Ki blasts in rapid succession, just like in the show, at any time with the Circle button.

… environments … look just like the TV show …
You have a main health gauge, a Ki gauge (for special attacks), as well as a stamina gauge. The Ki and Stamina gauges fill up automatically as time passes but you can accelerate the rate at which they refill by fighting with enemies.

As for content and story, the creators did a great job of making it like an actual, believable, interactive Dragon Ball Z episode. I really think the writers used a pretty creative way to come up with a reason for an unknown character to suddenly be in the Dragon Ball universe and be crucial to saving the world. While the main story takes you through pretty much the entire television series and part of the latest movie, as it weaves in the new plot of the video game, the Parallel Quests allow you to come at the story from other angles. For example, one of the very first battles you face is if Goku had failed to take out Raditz, allowing him to pair up with Vegeta and Nappa. When you go to the Parallel Quests, you get to play on the side of the Saiyans to beat Goku and company.

When playing offline in Parallel Quests you’re able to select your own character or any of the Dragon Ball Z characters you have unlocked. So if you want to take on the role of Frieza as he battles Goku on Namek you could be Frieza and bring along two members of the Ginyu force.

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Aside from the various NPCs within Toki Toki City there are also both the heroes and villains from the Dragon Ball series. These main characters appear randomly throughout the city and when you meet them some will give you a chance to unlock a special Parallel Quest, while others offer to become your master. If you take on one of the characters as your master, he or she will comment on your fighting abilities as you go on quests and as you level up. At certain points your master will invite you to spar with them and if you are able to meet their objectives, they will teach you new skills.

There is a very wide range of skills in the game. Some skills are Ki blasts like the famous Kamehameha to Vegeta’s Galick Gun, while others are used to escape tough situations by temporarily immobilizing your enemies for a period of time. You can take four standard skills, two ultimate attack skills, and an evasive skill into battle. The trick is to balance longer-range Ki blasts with shorter range energy ball blasts and knowing at which time you can do a charged Ki blast to hit your opponent with maximum force. If you shoot your Ki blast too early, you can risk getting attacked before it’s charged up but if you shoot too late, your opponent could be long gone and you’ve just wasted a blast by shooting it at nothing.

Each time you complete a quest in the main story or a Parallel Quest, you’re given a score from F to A, S, and Z (highest) and you gain experience. The higher the score you get on a level, the greater you will be rewarded. Each time you attain a new level, you’re given points that you can use to increase your character’s skills and attributes. There are six different attributes you can spend on your character: Max Health, Max Ki, Max Stamina, strength of Basic Attacks, strength of Ki Blasts Supers, and strength of Strike Supers.

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The story missions themselves are almost the same as Parallel Quests in that you have an objective and go into an area where you can freely move around the environment and fight enemies. You can use your scouter, if equipped, to find hidden items and materials in the level as well as pick up equipment or costumes from the enemies you fight. Parallel Quests, on the other hand, have up to three objectives, each of which is unlocked by doing specific things within the level. If you simply go in and finish the first objective, for example defeating Goku, you might get a mission complete. However, if you happen to beat Krillin before beating Goku it can change the mission and allow you to continue fighting after you’ve beaten Goku and fulfilled the first objective.

The different areas you visit in the main and Parallel Quests are areas from the television series and the movies. The environments in which you fight are yet another awesome aspect of the game. Each area usually has at least one warp portal in it that may or may not be unlocked depending on whether you have completed the objective in the immediate area or not. The cool part of these environments is that they look just like the TV show. It’s so awesome to fly around in one of the futuristic cities from the show or on Namek collecting the large Namekian Dragon Balls.

… The colors are bright and bold …
Another awesome thing is that the different environments are partially destructible. Certain things within the environments can be destroyed, such as boulders, buildings, cars, etc. Others have temporary damage before they are repaired before your eyes (like if you shoot a Ki blast into the ground, there will be a temporary crater but it doesn’t stay there). It would be cool if all the damage that you do to an environment is permanent for that mission, but I suppose there’s so much going on there probably aren’t enough system resources for it. Plus, the game is really about fast-paced frenetic battles so I suppose it really doesn’t matter in the end.

I did find that the game is pretty tough and there aren’t any difficulty levels to choose from. I got stuck a few times on certain bosses but I was quickly able to grind a bit and face them again after I had leveled up.

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Visuals:
The visuals of this game are simply gorgeous. There is still just a hint of anti-aliasing on the lines around your character but for the most part this game is silky smooth. I’ve played for hours now and the only hint of slowdown was due to the server lag when I was playing multiplayer.

The colors are bright and bold and seem to match the color pallette of the TV series. The various worlds within the game are fairly detailed with some locations being abandoned futuristic cities.

Overall the visuals are great and are what you would expect to see if you’ve watched the show.

Audio:
The audio quality is also pretty excellent and the use of surround sound is good too. It makes good use of the back speakers and it’s easy to hear someone fly up behind you or hear a blast coming at you from the left or right.

The game comes with both English and Japanese audio tracks and I believe many of the Funimation voice actors are voicing their characters. I’m not familiar with the Japanese voice actors, I’ve yet to watch my Blu-rays of the series in Japanese, so I can’t say for sure if they were brought on board to voice their characters in the game.

I haven’t been able to beat the game yet (I’m having too much fun grinding and playing Parallel Quests) but it doesn’t seem like Trunks is being voiced by the regular actor. He might be for the story scenes but the voice he makes when you talk to him in Toki Toki City sounds completely different and weird.

The music, especially the intro music, really got me pumped when I first started up the game. It’s just awesome. Overall though, the music in Toki Toki City becomes a bit repetitive but the good news is that you don’t spend too much time there.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This part of the game is kind of a sore spot. In one way it’s been so much fun to play online but the game has been plagued with server issues since it was released. I think Bandai Namco probably did not think it was going to be this popular. I’ve been keeping up with their social media and they are aware of the issue and they’re working on stabilizing the online experience. As of this writing the PS4 and PS3 online issues are said to have been fixed but I have not been able to really confirm this for myself.

The biggest gripe that I have about the online is that there is no way to explicitly turn it off and play offline. There is a workaround where you can sign out of the PlayStation Network and disable your Internet before you boot up the game. The game will finally error out and allow you to play offline but I would much rather have a menu option to choose to play offline.

… get a bunch of folks and play the Parallel Quests …
The reason the lack of an offline mode is a big problem is because regardless of whether you are playing in the multiplayer lobby or not, the lobby (Toki Toki City) is always online. If you go to the standard lobby, the characters in there are NPC versions of players from all over the world. So if the Xenoverse servers are offline or overloaded, you can get kicked out of the game at almost any time without warning. It’s very annoying. I can understand and forgive that the servers are overloaded but it’s hard to give a pass to not having the ability to explicitly play offline so I don’t have to deal with getting kicked out of the game every five minutes.

With all of the bad aspects of the online being said it’s now time to talk about the great part of it. When it works, the online is really cool. As I alluded to before, you start up the game in either online multiplayer or regular lobby. Everyone who plays Xenoverse, including yourself, will have a chance for their NPC to travel to other people’s games while you’re signed off. While you’re away, your character can still be leveling up and earning you money and items if (s)he does a lot of battling.

When you’re signed into the Xenoverse service you can favorite various NPCs and gift items to them and others can do the same for you. I did see one thing at the top of the NPC profile where you can commission them to fight with you, but I have not figured out where exactly in the game you do it.

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The multiplayer lobby is where all the characters running around are controlled by players in real time. While you’re in this mode you can form teams and solicit people to come and help you fight. Unfortunately, you cannot play the story mode in co-op but you can get a bunch of folks and play the Parallel Quests together. You can also send game invites to your friends and they’ll be whisked directly into the quest screen with you if they accept.

I have had an absolute blast with the multiplayer in this game. I’m mainly an offline gamer but for this game I’ve been playing online a great deal since it’s so easy to get with a group of three random people and do some leveling together. One night, a player who was at level eighty or so was inviting me into quests that were far ahead of where I was at the time and I was gaining tons of money and experience — it was awesome.

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There are also one-on-one and two-on-two player battles that you can do. I think I’ve only won maybe twice before the power players (people at level eighty) totally kick me to the curb each time I try to battle with them.

There is also a World Tournament mode that you can play with a friend and possibly over Share Play but unfortunately I have not been able to try this out. There is a dialog box that pops up for local play which says that you must have at least two DualShock 4 controllers so I do not know for sure if it does split screen or what. It also looks like the game is going to have online events and tournaments in the future so it’s shaping up to be a very exciting experience with a lot of room for expansion.

Overall, when it’s working, the online plays without a hitch. Three players can get into a quest and I’ve only witnessed one or two slowdowns and only gotten dropped from a match one time. There is voice chat and it seems that a lot more people are using it than in other games I’ve played online. I also haven’t had a bad experience so far, which is pretty surprising.

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Conclusion:
Overall, Dragon Ball Xenoverse is just an awesome experience all around. It makes you feel like you’re actually playing the TV series. The way you can just jump and take off flying towards your opponent feels awesome. If you do a couple of combo attacks, your opponent will fly across the battlefield, hitting the ground, tumbling until they are stopped by a giant rock, building, mountain, or what have you. All of the sounds, actions, animations, and moves are spot on with the series. If you love watching Dragon Ball Z, and ever wanted to experience the world of Dragon Ball, this is the game for you, it is simply fantastic.

Aside from the slight difficulty and the spotty online, I have been having an absolute blast playing this game. For the past few weekends since it came out I’ve been up very late, sometimes till Four in the morning, playing Parallel Quests with random people. Even during the week it’s been hard to put the game down and I’ve stayed up plenty of nights playing till Two.

If you are a Dragon Ball Z fan, you’re definitely going to want to pick this one up. The fighting is so good and so enjoyable. For you RPG fans, there’s plenty to collect and level up. For everyone else, if you like brawlers and flying around doing battle in the air, I would highly recommend this. Just be aware, if you never watched the show and plan to see it sometime, be sure to watch the series before playing otherwise it’s pretty much played out within the game.

As a new fan of Dragon Ball Z, and this being my first Dragon Ball game, this has hit all the right spots: it’s a great brawler, it makes you feel like you’re a part of the Dragon Ball universe, and it’s just downright fun. I highly recommend it.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

 

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