Like so many of my generation, Dragonball Z was one of my first introductions to the world of anime, and I have always had a soft spot in my heart for revisiting this world from my childhood.
However games set in this universe have become lackluster at best over the past few years, with formulaic fighting titles keeping the worlds of Dragon Ball a stagnant place to visit.
Now along comes Xenoverse with the aim of slipping a senzu bean to this tired genre. While it manages to put an interesting lick of paint over the top, the base game unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired.
Starting with the creation of your character; it is impressively in depth, insane anime hair styles and clothing, flashy and seemingly unnecessary scouter. All up for grabs.
Your race is customisable also, everything from Sayans to Namekians to the Majjin. Even your voice can be changed and chosen; your character will not speak often, which is never a huge issue. Other characters will speak however and this sometimes is.
Generally the English voice acting for any J action game is pretty substandard and this hasn’t changed for the latest in the Dragonball series. While is there is a certain hammy quality that is almost an expected part of this genres scripting, it is hard to become meaningfully engaged in the story when the dialogue you hear is gratingly over the top or just catatonically flat.
Skill progression is a strong suit in the game, with rich options for tailoring your fighter through various combinations of skill point allocation, equipment selection and skill unlocks. The combination of an impressive character creator and meaningful RPG elements gives a powerful incentive to explore the game world and progress through the game’s story.
Surprisingly, the narrative of the game is one of its stronger features, with a perhaps slightly tired but well executed premise. You are the most recent Z fighter to be recruited by Trunks to travel throughout time and correct chronological inconsistency, i.e. Travel to famous fights from the series and see the writer put an interesting twist on it.
Some of these battles pose genuinely interesting questions about the Dragonball world that we’ve all surely wondered at some point (why do villains with multiple forms never just skip to their ultimate form straight away?).
Your goal is to fight through the well known sagas of the show, but with events playing out in new and challenging ways which you must overcome in order to restore the original timeline. This premise allows you to play the famous sagas that you know and love without being just a dull rehash of these encounters; the alternate timeline element provides avenues for entirely new adventures never seen in the original anime.
Graphically the game looks great, with a crisp style of cel-shading which makes you feel like you’re genuinely playing an interactive version of the show, and having a character so thoroughly customisable being brought to life in such a vivid way is definitely a highlight.
However, where the game falls flat is unfortunately where it truly needs to be at its strongest, the actual battles which take place.
While the animation of each battle is beautiful, the gameplay itself is repetitive and shallow. Combat generally consists of button mashing until you are powered up enough to unleash a powerful energy based attack, and even these flashy super moves are not always as accurate as they should be.
The best fighting games have exceptionally tight and responsive controls but the combat of Xenoverse rarely feels like a challenge and at worst is simply frustrating. This is compounded by fairly unimaginative Level design which means many battles are a long slog against the same enemy types, which starts to erode at the joy of your characters progression as the game begins to feel like a grind.
Much like the original Dragonball Z anime itself, Xenoverse frustrates almost as much as it delights.
It is beautiful to look at, the ability to create your idealised Z fighter is sure to fill you with nostalgia for the show, and the RPG elements allow you to flesh this character out exactly as you’d like.
On the reverse of this, you must contend with subpar scripting, frustrating mission design and above all else, actually doing battle with your character will soon become a chore. While Xenoverse definitely powers this anime game world up a notch or two, it’s a long way from turning these games Super Sayan.
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