Not since George Carlin gave a time travelling phone-booth to Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, has time travel been so important to the future of the human race. The difference with Dragon Ball Xenoverse is that while Bill and Ted were given time travel to inspire and create the perfect future, you’re trying to stop the future from unraveling into something horrible.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse sees the original voice cast of the anime (or at least good sound-a-likes) assemble to read some of the lines from this game. The other lines will appear as text only, but that is far from the biggest issue with Xenoverse; more importantly, I am getting ahead of myself. The story starts with Dragon Ball Z character Trunks standing before the dragon that appears whenever the seven dragon balls are brought together. Trunks is working as some sort of Jean-Claude Van Damme style “time cop” and he wishes for a superior warrior to help him fix a timeline that’s being unraveled by unknown forces. After you’re done putting together a protagonist with the game’s character creator, your create-a-character is brought forth as the answer to Trunks’ wish.
You’re quickly inducted into the order of the Dragon Ball time cops, and sent off to participate in a highlight reel of the Dragon Ball Z anime. Think of Xenoverse as a clips show or a “best of” album from a band. The time travel is just a loose narrative that barely holds together the idea that you’re going to start by fighting Raditz, continue onto the Ginyu Force, Vegeta is in there some place, and eventually you’ll take on heavyweights like Cell and Boo. While the game doesn’t follow the exact narrative as the Dragonball Z universe takes in the anime, the basic idea is that you’ll be given a procession of situations from the anime that have been changed somehow for the worst. You’re goal for every situation is to fix it by punching things as hard as possible.
Unfortunately it is not as exciting as it sounds. It’s true that one of the greatest pleasures in Xenoverse is the ability to pull off fighting moves that look like they’re ripped from the anime. It’s even better when those moves result in NPCs tumbling head over heels in the air for the length of multiple football fields. It’s even great that it all happens in front of a backdrop of large semi-destructible environments that look like they’re part of the TV show. Unfortunately, while the game does a really good job of getting you into the greatest fights of the franchise, the fighting itself is rather boring. The game’s biggest issue is game-play design that feels lazy since many of the fights boil down to beating up wave after wave of “extras” if I can borrow movie parlance. The fight that broke me was inside the Ginyu Force’s spaceship. After taking on and beating roughly half of the Ginyu Force, I was tasked with defeating 20 enemies; however, the game only tossed the same three forgettable sidekicks at me until they went down a combined 20 times. It was far more like busy work then exciting game design. To make matters worse that’s far from the only time that fights devolve into round after round of beat up the nameless sidekick.
The parallel quest mode is a bit more interesting since it mixes up the characters and situations even more, and it’s also not tied to the Dragon Ball Z storyline in any way. It’s basically a separate battle arena populated by the major characters of the franchise that you (and friends if you play online) can use to earn items in the game and increase your experience level. It’s very important to grind XP in Xenoverse because another smaller issue with this game is that difficulty level goes up and down like a rollercoaster. No matter who you are there will be a point in this game when you’ll have to go into the parallel quest mode in order to grind as much XP as possible. If you don’t, the sudden difficulty spike will take you by surprise and without mercy. Luckily these parallel quests are far easier since you can hire NPC characters from the game’s town, or arrange to play these missions online with other people.
Since it is the eighth generation of console gaming, there is a multiplayer mode that can be played with the person sharing your couch or online against people who’ve purchased Xenoverse. I could get more descriptive but it is kind of just there. It comes down to a 1 on 1, 2 on 2, or 3 on 3 ranked or unranked battles between you and the person(s) you picked a fight with. That said, the good news is that you’ll still find more than enough people playing co-operative and competitive modes online in Xenoverse.
Also, as I wrap this up, I should mention that the automatic lock-on feature is not that great. I found it hard to lock-on and maintain a lock on the guy I wanted to fight if more than three people were fighting at any time. On top of that, while it obviously doesn’t affect my review score I am still convinced that the lobby music for this game is stolen from one of the Mario Party games. If it really is an original work than my next theory is that it borrowed an illegal amount of inspiration from the Mario Party games.
In the end, Dragon Ball Xenoverse is the very definition of a 7 out of 10 game according to the review policies of CGM. People unfamiliar with games themed around Dragon Ball Z will not find much here to latch onto, but fans of the Dragon Ball Z franchise will not know what to expect from a twist and turned filled time travel story that will rearrange all of their favorite characters until those fans can put them back in order again.