I have to hand it to Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 for tapping into the latent dreams of people who spent their teenage years drawing Goku on their notebooks. A lot of games offer the ability to create an original character and take part in an established fictional universe, but most of them don’t allow you to feel like what you’re doing impacts the already pre-determined narrative world in any way.
Xenoverse 2, meanwhile, allows you to participate directly in some of the series’ most crucial battles, “fixing” anomalies in time to set the stories of the Z Fighters on the correct path. It’s like somebody at Bandai Namco realized how fulfilling it would be to be able to play out that one fanfiction you wrote when you were 13 involving your favorite character's long-lost twin brother.
OK, maybe Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 doesn’t go quite that far, but it’s still a pretty fantastic concept: You get to make a custom Dragon Ball character in one of five of the series’ main races (Human, Saiyan, Namekian, Frieza’s race, and Majin) and join the Time Patrol, a collection of colorful heroes who gather in Conton City and are dedicated to the preservation of the Dragon Ball Z timeline. Under the guidance of the Supreme Kai of Time, your characters will travel across the sprawling timeline of the anime and manga series, looking for things that a set of time-traveling villains have meddled with and setting them right. Generally, this involves a lot of the energy-amassing, ki-blasting, and high-flying fights for which the series is known–though not always.
The adventure encompasses a single-player story campaign that takes you through most of the DBZ saga (with a few extra twists, thanks to a crew of shady villains and resurrected classic foes), a whole mess of optional Parallel Quests that can be taken on either single-player or online, or a different set of single-player side quests. The latter has you doing things like fighting for a faction in Frieza’s army or training to be the next Great Saiyaman,and training sessions with DBZ heroes and villains that can teach you new skills. To round things out, you can play multiplayer fights versus the CPU, local friends, or online opponents. Suffice to say, Xenoverse 2 is jam-packed with both on and offline content.
Of course, it doesn’t really matter how much content there is if the game isn’t fun to play. Fortunately, Xenoverse 2 has a solid–if not particularly deep–fighting engine that provides a good foundation for the rest of the game to build upon. The controls feel solid and responsive, and the default button layout allows easy access to all your normal and special attacks, as well as crucial guarding and dodging maneuvers when necessary. You can customize your warrior with special gear, helpful consumable items, and a set of combat skills you purchase, acquire in quests, or learn through personal training. By equipping a custom loadout and using the special abilities innate to each individual race, you’ll develop a fighter that both looks and fights the way you like in a way that feels fun and rewarding.
By equipping a custom loadout and using the special abilities innate to each individual race, you’ll develop a fighter that both looks and fights the way you like in a way that feels fun and rewarding.
One of the game’s big selling points is the size and feel of its hub city, Conton. Here, you can go shopping for gear at a bevy of stores, interact with online players and NPCs, and see a bunch of favorite Dragon Ball faces. You can get around town on foot, with Capsule Corporation machines, or–eventually–via flight. However, a lot of times, the hub’s massive size feels like a detriment. It’s a chore to go from place to place when they all seem so far away from each other; at least there's a fast travel option.
Conton City is just a small part of the copious fanservice this game delivers to fans of the franchise, however. Xenoverse 2’s visuals are stunning, particularly in the in-engine cutscenes during story sequences. Characters are rendered to an uncanny resemblance, and the attention to detail seen in the various locales is equally impressive. The action runs at a smooth 60 frames per second, making the fights feel fast and dynamic.
Beyond the visuals, however, the games includes a lot of fun little jokes and exchanges between various characters that fans will appreciate. Bringing certain characters to specific Parallel Quest battles can result in some funny dialogue that reference events in the anime or amusing “what if” scenarios. It helps add to the feeling of being an active part of a big, fictional universe that the game captures well–even if, for some bizarre reason, the English voiceover varies from the subtitles shown on-screen, which happens peculiarly often.
Eventually, though, the game’s overall grind will start to wear on you. The lack of depth in combat can make things feel repetitive, and while changing up your loadout can help freshen things up a bit, it doesn’t change up the base gameplay significantly. The game will sometimes try to shake things up by giving you missions with different objectives beyond just beating up your opponents, such as finding the Dragon Balls in a level and keeping them away from pursuing enemies.
Lag can be a bit of an issue if you want to battle with or against online fighters, though it’s seen some improvement with a recent patch.
These stages are usually a miserable experience, though, since the game’s engine doesn’t seem built for much beyond combat and very basic exploration. (The camera isn’t exactly your friend when you need to find small objects in big, open combat arenas, either.) It’s more fun to play quests online with a group of other warriors, though not all quests can be tackled this way–story mode is strictly single-player only. Lag can be a bit of an issue if you want to battle with or against online fighters, though it’s seen some improvement with a recent patch.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is among the best games to emerge from this beloved franchise. It looks stunning, has a solid gameplay base, and gives people who love the series a way to feel like they’re a part of this big, beautiful universe. Though it has its share of problems, I was really surprised at how much fun I had with it. I might not be the die-hard Dragon Ball fan that many others are, but I can tell through the exquisite attention to detail and the wealth of content that the folks behind Xenoverse cherished the series every bit as much as the fans they’re selling it to.