Back at E3 2014, I conducted a slightly odd interview with the producers of the upcoming Dragon Ball XenoVerse, the latest game from the mega popular anime that as of 2015, finished a whopping 19 years ago. Talk about staying power! Anyway, while the producers did concede that the video games associated with the franchise could use some regeneration, the E3 2014 was not going to be the place where the revelations would be forthcoming. Instead, I got a much clearer picture of what XenoVerse is supposed to be about with a recent hands-on hosted by Namco Bandai.
Before going into the specifics, I want to take you back to 2010 with the release of Dragon Ball Online, which was the most recent drastic departure from the casual brawling formulas being churned out year by year. This MMORPG had players searching for dragon balls in an online-based environment (basically, the purpose of the series), training to compete in the Tenkaichi Budokai (the Wrestlemania of this world) and participate in other typically MMORPG activities, where your quests would be given to you by the head of the ‘Time Patrol’ – Trunks. It was pretty cool how you could choose your race (Human, Namek or Majin), class and appearance, adding a further personal touch. Unfortunately, the game did not make it’s way very far out of east Asia…
But it looks like this will be no loss now as Dragon Ball XenoVerse picks the ball up from where Dragon Ball Online left it, with returning developer Dimps taking their style of play first made renowned through the Tenkaichi Budokai series and adding a completely new online element to the game. The big tease of the initial game announcement was just how would we be playing through the story this time, and who was the mysterious red haired fighter that seemed to a spectator at the iconic battles from across the series.
Upon starting the game I had no indication of what was to come. I was shunted through three of the biggest battles that series protagonist Goku faced through out the series – Freiza, Cell and Buu. From afar, Trunks had been watching these battles and something did not seem right… Goku’s opponents were getting up after being knocked down. Cut back to Trunks and a mysterious female character discussing that something is messing with the flow of time…
From here the foreboding voice of Shenron calls you (the player) forth. And this is when the Online features first become evident. Your first act is to choose your own character avatar. There are even more ‘race’ choices now with Saiyans and ‘Freiza race’ added to the mix, and the choice of ‘class’ has been replaced with a choice between perference of ‘ki’ or melee attacks. After messing with my appearance, I took the Saiyan race for a spin. Upon completing the customisation process, my character was summoned by Shenron to a mysterious city that somewhat resembled Kami’s lookout and the hyperbolic time chamber but with way more going on.
Greeted by Trunks, he proceeded to put me through my paces with an initiation battle that also acted as a battle system tutorial. While a little different from the early efforts of Dimps, the overall scheme was easy enough to pick up and re-familiarise with. While this not Tekken or even Street Fighter, I hope that there is some log in the game that allows you to go through the finer details of the battle system because the tutorial was pretty basic.
Following this battle, Trunks revealed that you have been summoned to Toki Toki City, a place where all ‘time’ meets and a select bunch known as the ‘Time Patrol’ (boom! I knew there was a link…) are making sure that any false histories that are created are fixed before they become a problem. It was an exciting prospect to meet ‘famous and historical characters’ but at this stage there is no indication as to whether there will be alternative narratives explored.
In the remaining play time, I got to explore Toki Toki City. It became really clear early on that this will be your main ‘lobby’ for the action. As well as talking to the random NPCs, there were ‘chat’ options available, implying that other players will gather in this lobby as well. Across the lobby, you could see a grand assortment of online-centric features: from online battles, to tournaments, to leaderboards, to creating teams, which look like they will all be prominent features in the final game. And for all three of the people wondering, you can still do a bunch of things offline too.
So there we have it – Dragon Ball XenoVerse is taking the series in a much welcome new direction. Firstly, it will hopefully spruce up a story that has pretty much been told to death by now. And secondly, hopefully it uses the power of the latest generation of consoles to create a much more robust online framework, and what seems so far to be a much more technically proficient game as well.