On My Shelves: Dragonball Xenoverse


I've been a fan of Dragonball for… Holy sheep, over 26 years now. The intensity of my fandom has varied, and I am very far from blind to the various flaws of the series, but it's such a very fun over-the-top series in many ways – and its newest incarnation on TV, Dragonball Super, has done a lot of work to address some of the prior installments' flaws.


Because of this, and because I realized I only had one fighting game for the PS4 in the house, I decided to check out what the Dragonball franchise's fighting games were like now. I've played quite a few of them, starting waaay back in the SNES/Super Famicom era (yes, when you used to have to go in and snip the tabs on the console so that you could play the imports), and they were usually fun fighting games. They never really quite gave you the feel of fighting like a Z-warrior, but really, could you expect any game to accomplish that?


Holy Kami-Sama, yes you can.


Dragonball Xenoverse, first and foremost, finally handed me the chance to feel like I was fighting in a Dragonball episode. Float into the air and then blast forward, up, down, around at blazing speed, unleash an awesome barrage of kicks or a quick energy bolt, dodge or parry your foe's oncoming blast, or, once the battle's pushed you, summon your true power and hurl an awesome ki-powered attack at your enemy… this is the first time it felt like I was doing these things. The interface really works well, allowing me to integrate the movements and attacks in a manner I've never really managed before.


The game's also clever in a very different way: it allows you a way to become much more personally involved in the game, by creating a custom character – who can be one of any of five races – Human, Saiyajin, Freezer's species, a Majin (like Majin Buu), or a Namek-seijin like Piccolo. Moreover, all the design options for the characters make sure that you end up being a very appropriately Dragonball-ish character.


In keeping with Toriyama's own penchant for multilingual, multi-meaning puns, as well as naming his characters after mundane things (food, underwear, etc.), I decided as an author to name my female human character "Novela"; in English that could be "novella", a shorter form of novel; "Novel" also means "new", and this would definitely be a new character in the universe; "Novela" in Spanish means a long-running story like a soap opera ("telenovela" is what soap operas are called), and of course "Nova" is an exploding star, which certainly is something appropriate for Dragonball!


Your character is then drawn into a very Dragonworld-appropriate adventure – summoned by Shen-Long to help Trunks, who has been finding something interfering with the key events (read: battles) of Dragonworld's history. You're tasked with finding these flaws in time and fixing history… and, hopefully, figuring out who's doing it and why, before the whole universe suffers the consequences.


The story didn't, I will be the first to admit, match the deep and engrossing character complexity found in Persona 4 Arena and its sequel – but hey, it's DRAGONBALL. For a fighting game based in the most ridiculously overpowered universe ever written, Dragonball Xenoverse actually handed me a pretty darn good story, and the fights – feeling as they did like a good Dragonball combat – actually made the story more immersive, as Novela found herself facing increasingly dangerous and competent adversaries.


In between major story arcs, you can also do other sidequests/minor time repair events which can themselves earn you more items, more skills, or just fun encounters – and you can also find yourself a student of anyone from Piccolo to Number 18 to Mr. Satan himself!


The game is not entirely without flaws; for one thing, I think it's rather annoying that you have to finish one play-through of the story mode just to be able to unlock the ability to make more custom PCs. It's also odd that it apparently limits you to only 8 of them; possibly that's related to the online-play options (which I did not examine, as they require Playstation Plus to use).


The overall music isn't bad at all… but if you're going to use Cha-La, Head Cha-La, the iconic opening of DBZ's early seasons, why in the world are you using a really weakly played, anemic version instead of the original??


It's also kinda clunky to get to the Player VS Player mode – you literally have to walk your character over to the Tenkaichi Budoukai arena and then ask to get into the tournament – and then do a little fiddling to get the other controller registered. However, once you do, it is indeed quite a blast to get into a battle there on the Budoukai stage!


Overall, this was a fighting game well worth my type – it was basically pure fun, with some actual story that kept me engaged all the way through. I'm looking forward to seeing how its sequel, Dragonball Xenoverse 2, picks up from there!


Your comments or questions welcomed!