Rock the Dragon
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is the sequel to the original 2015 fighting role-playing game based on the long-running anime, Dragon Ball Z. If you’ve played through Dragon Ball Xenoverse, you’re already familiar with the intense 3D fighting gameplay. In fact, the game is very similar, incorporating nearly the same story and quests from the first game. While this may turn off players seeking a novel experience, DBXV2 is still the big update that fans were hoping for. And just like the characters in the show, Xenoverse has powered up and is as entertaining as ever.
The story takes place after the first game’s ending, though you wouldn’t think it based on the redundant premise. Two time-hopping villains mess with the continuity of the show’s timeline, and it’s your job as a Time Patroller to correct history. You fight your way through the main arcs (Saiyan, Frieza, etc.) in slight variations of the show’s canon. The differences from the first game include a bigger emphasis on movie villains, pacing alterations, and some new material. But otherwise, it very much feels like a retread of the original, which itself is a slightly altered retread of the show. If you have save data from the original Xenoverse, you can import your custom character, who while isn’t playable, has an important role in this “new” story.
This leads to the biggest reason to play this game: its extensive create-a-character mode. You get to play as your own avatar and fight alongside the show’s heroes. For many fans, it’s a dream come true, inserting yourself into the popular franchise, creating the Z-Warrior you’ve always wished existed. There are five races: Earthling, Saiyan, Namekian, Majin, and the Frieza race. You can customize gender, facial features, and voice, among other things. Going even further, your hero can equip many combinations of skills and clothing, so you could copy a favorite character, or mix and match styles. A complaint about the original game was that since clothing affected stats, you couldn’t dress how you wanted. The new “QQ Bang” item, formed by synthesizing clothing, does its best to offset that by giving you set stat bonuses regardless of what you’re wearing. Unfortunately, their stat outputs are somewhat random and require you to give up hard-earned clothing for a mere chance at a good QQ Bang. Finally, via a satisfying progression system, you can boost attributes like health or attack as you level up your character.
Once you’ve made your avatar, you can step toe-to-toe with the series’ biggest villains. Combat is just like in the show, which also means it’s unlike any regular fighting game. Most of the fighting takes place as you’re flying through the air, abound with intense martial arts and kinetic Ki energy blasts. The game does a remarkable job in making the action accessible while remaining satisfying. You can lock on and fly towards your opponent from anywhere within the large 3D arena at any time. Physical combos are easy to execute and only require a few button presses as opposed to other games’ complex combos. Likewise, performing hard-hitting super and ultimate moves is also simple. Meanwhile, Ki energy allows you to unleash a well-timed fireworks display to incinerate foes. And as long as you have stamina in your meter, you can perform mid-attack dodges and even run away for cover. The game’s all about taking charge of the playing field, linking combos to super moves, and preventing your opponent a chance to fight back. It’s amazing how faithful the game mechanics are to the flashy show.
Adding to the authenticity, the roster contains dozens of playable characters from the Dragon Ball universe. There are some noteworthy omissions, such as various forms of Frieza and Cell, but most mainstays are accounted for. Considering the show has over a hundred characters who could have been included, the 60+ number here isn’t bad. Additionally, developer Dimps has improved balance issues to ensure that each character is fun to use. For example, in addition to the iconic Super Saiyan transformation, each race now has an exclusive transformation, such as Namekians’ giant and Majins’ pure forms. It not only provides more options to more characters, but it also delves deep into the lore in a way that fans can appreciate.
Aside from the main story, there is a lot to do in the brand new hub town of Conton City. The city itself is a glorious hodgepodge of areas from the show. It’s like visiting a Dragon Ball theme park – there are replicas of Planet Namek, Capsule Corporation, and Kame House. If any of those names brought back fond memories, than you’ll enjoy exploring the vast hub full of references. The show’s characters are scattered around the hub, ready to become your mentor and pass on their signature moves and cheer you on as you win fights, or in hot-headed Vegeta’s case, insult you at every chance. New to the sequel are “Time Distortion” areas that have unique ongoing storylines, such as defending the elder Namek Guru by collecting the wish-granting Dragon Balls and rising the ranks of Frieza’s factions. While this isn’t a big deviation to the regular gameplay, it again brings the world to life, asking you to interact with all major races in a substantial way.
Parallel Quests, or what-if scenario sidequests, provide the bulk of side content. There are 100 Parallel Quests, though the number includes all 50+ quests from the first game. Regardless, that’s a large amount of content, and each one has a plethora of unlockable items and skills. This leads into the Xenoverse series’ biggest shortcoming: grinding. There’s a random element that determines what goodies you get following a quest. If you don’t get whatever you’re looking for, you have no choice but to try again and hope for the best. It’s a discouraging process when it doesn’t go the way you want. At least the drop rate is fairer compared to the original game’s, in which getting an item could take hours. As long as you perform hidden quest conditions and get high performance ratings, you have a better chance at getting desired rewards.
Multiplayer also returns and remains a blast. You can still fight others online in up to three-on-three battles. There are also co-operative Parallel Quests and brand new “Time Rift” challenges. In a Time Rift, you and five players take on a single opponent with the catch that at any point, one of you might become brainwashed or sent to another dimension. They’re interesting, though not a big leap in quality over the excellent Parallel Quests. Bringing the online community to life, you can interact with others and perform goofy dances in the hub, all in good fun. Overall, online is stable, though disconnects happen occasionally. It’s likely for this reason that the game sets limits on how much time you can spend in the online lobby.
It’s impossible to talk about this game without mentioning the gorgeous visuals. The graphics sport a colorful anime look that effectively replicates Akira Toriyama’s signature style. Cutscenes reenact classic moments from the show and new animated scenes accompany the game’s plot. The action-packed battles run at a slick 60 frames per second, with little to no drops in quality. Likewise, music is a spirited mix of rock and other upbeat tunes that give the game its energy. More importantly, the sound effects are authentic to the show. It feels satisfying to hear the iconic Ki blast, teleport, and charge sounds during battle. Finally, the voice acting is solid with great performances from the cast, though they’re a bit tough to hear at times.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is a love letter to the series’ biggest fans. Newcomers might not understand what’s happening, but fans will appreciate the high-octane supernatural martial arts. The attention to detail is astounding, from the lovingly made hub world to the cutscenes that recreate classic scenes from the anime. The story takes about 15-20 hours, but building up your custom character and completing quests easily quadruples that number. While grinding is unavoidable thanks to difficulty spikes and random drops, the wealth of content eases the process. Although there is a large number of repeated content, there’s enough in this powered-up sequel to convince Dragon Ball Z fans to fight once more.
A review copy of the PC version was used for this article. This review was originally written in October 2016 for Darkstation.
What are your thoughts on Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 or any Dragon Ball fighting game? What are your favorite licensed fighting games? What are your favorite fighting games in general? And if you love anime like me, share your favorite shows in the comments section below and let’s chat it up! I love talking anime AND games!