Let’s just get this out of the way as early as possible – I don’t understand anime. Maybe it’s because I’m old, or maybe it’s because I’ve just never taken the time to sit down and watch it, but I see the word “anime” and my mind goes straight to ridiculous hairstyles, questionable sexual conduct and lots of shouting. However, I’m not afraid to learn – old dog, new tricks and all that – so here I am, writing a review for what seems to be at least the 200th Dragon Ball game, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2.
“But, Andy…what is Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2?”, I hear some other anime novices ask (and probably a few anime veterans, who just want to see me make a pig’s ear of trying to describe the story). In the absolute simplest terms, it’s essentially a 3D fighting game with a hub world inhabited by AI NPC quest givers and other human players. That is the simplest way I can describe it. Thanks and goodbye.
Oh…y-you want more? You want me to attempt to describe the story? Damn it. Ok, here goes. Shout-outs to Wikipedia, the back of the box and my mate Mick for a three-minute crash course.
You play a customisable new recruit – attached to one of five races – to the Time Patrol, a group of time travellers tasked with – you guessed it – travelling back and forth through time to ensure that the timeline remains unaffected by those who wish to change it for personal gain. The Time Patrol’s headquarters are located within the game’s central hub world, Conton City. Within Conton City, you’ll find a number of characters who will likely be familiar to fans of the series, many of whom will be your mission providers.
As for those missions? Well, finally, in looking at the core gameplay, we’re onto a topic that I’m comfortable with. For long-time fans of the Dragon Ball series, the combat will instantly feel familiar. For those new to the series, 2015’s Wii U exclusive Pokken Tournament – another Bandai Namco title – probably serves as a decent frame of reference, both being large arena 3D fighters with a wide array of opponents, plenty of bombast and a plethora of outrageously over-the-top special moves.
However, to dismiss it out of hand as a simple brawler on account of its cartoonish looks would be to do its fighting engine a great disservice. For whilst the temptation – what with the bright colours and huge explosions – may be to rush into every battle, all flaming fists blazing, there’s actually a surprising amount of nuance and strategy involved in the combat. You’ll quickly find yourself needing to maintain a balance, both between close quarters or long distance attacks and standard or special attacks which do more damage, but will quickly use up your ki (essentially your magic meter).
In fact, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is just a game of surprising depth all round. In addition to the combat variation and the now-ubiquitous role-playing levelling mechanics, the depth extends to dialogue – with a large number of greetings, phrases and emotes available at the touch of a button or two – and character customisation, which may not quite reach Fallout or WWE 2K levels, but still offers up more than enough to ensure that any two player avatars are unlikely to be exactly the same. Even your choice of race plays into all of this, with each one offering up some trade-off between speed, power, health and ki.
Of course, this being an anime game, you could argue that the presentation is almost as important as the gameplay and, in that regard, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 doesn’t disappoint often. Sure, many of the backdrops for your fights are a little bland, everything else from the introductory cinematics to the in-game engine itself, suggests that this is a game that’s benefitted from the lessons learned from those that came before it. No rough edges here with a sheen that’s befitting of the spectacle on display and the action itself maintains a solid frame rate, regardless of how hectic it all gets. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for the soundtrack, which I’m sure is authentic to the series, but just sounds like Sonic Adventure-style Japanese generic rock to me and quickly grated.
Look, I’m not going to make any grand claims about Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. It’s a competent title in its own right, but will be fairly impenetrable to most and can quickly get repetitive. As such, it’s difficult to justify at full price, especially at this time of year, but look out for it in a sale. If it drops a few quid, then it’s probably worth a few hours of your time.