Dragon Ball XenoVerse PS4 Review

March 1, 2015

At this point, thirty years into the Dragon Ball franchise’s long history, we’ve had countless Dragon Ball games spun off from the series, most of them variations on the fighter genre, from Budokai to Burst Limit. At first glance, Dragon Ball XenoVerse would appear to be yet another entry among their ranks, but there are a couple of key points of difference that may make the title stand out for the Dragon Ball faithful, even if they aren’t fully exploited.

I mean that about having to be a Dragon Ball faithful too – having a knowledge of the series’ canon and events is essential to getting the full value out of the plot. The chief premise of XenoVerse is that it presents classic Dragon Ball fights and scenarios – but not as you know them. A mysterious force is altering the past, as monitored by time agent Trunks, turning the victories of Goku and his allies into defeats. The situation becomes so dire that Trunks summons the great dragon Shenron with the Dragon Balls to wish for an ally to help him go back in time and set things right – that’s where you come in with your player-created character.

This sounds like the set-up for a great alternate universe caper, like Biff’s future from Back to the Future Part II, or Yesterday’s Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but in practice the narrative doesn’t quite work as well as either of these tales. In the main plotline, you’ll generally be shown a re-created familiar scene from the original Dragon Ball Z cartoon, until a certain character’s eyes glow red signifying a sudden boost in strength or will, altering the events. Your character is then required to step in and assist the Z fighters to win the battle as history records. Rather than the timeline shifting radically, you’re given isolated incidents which are quickly solved. These sometimes lead to amusing situations, such as a much more convoluted body-swapping situation with Captain Ginyu, but overall the premise feels like a missed opportunity. Some of the side missions end up being more entertaining, occasionally siding you with the bad guys in order to give the good guys a long awaited beating.


That aside, the other unique aspect of XenoVerse is how dissimilar it really is to past fighting games, bringing it more in line with something like Dragon Ball Online. As you create your character with their undoubtedly food-related name, picking from several races including Human, Saiyan and Namekian, you’re able to load them up with special attacks. Basic light and heavy attacks are always at your disposal in a rather limited branch of combos, but as you progress through the main storyline and side missions, you unlock new attacks which can be performed at the expense of stamina, along with ultimate attacks taught to you by major characters (Piccolo, for example). This has the effect of making the game something of a half-breed – you can punch and kick with limited effect, but your real strength comes from the abilities you equip in battle which are essentially on cooldown timers, as your stamina builds up. It’s an online RPG masquerading as a fighter, if that makes sense. Combining this set-up with flying as well at times feels clunky – with tougher enemies you’re less engaged in a tense battle, but more whittling down their HP while you try to get into position. You can form small parties with AI allies, or other online buddies, to take with you into missions, or even explore fields to grind for EXP – much like Destiny, except not quite as seamless as wormholes connect the various arenas you can visit.

The online game feel is further reinforced by the hub world, Toki Toki City. Composed of three major areas, the city condenses most of the RPG elements into one area – with characters to chat to, missions to take on, shops for armour and skills, online lobbies to join for battles, and so on. It’s a nice way to present features that would normally be relegated to simple menus, but it takes a little while to get your head around what each area is actually for, and how they’re used for side quests, grinding, mentoring and so on.


Perhaps where Dragon Ball fans will find the most enjoyment in XenoVerse is in the attention to detail. There’s a large library of animations your character can perform, from a good-natured thumbs up to the poses and pirouettes of each member of the Ginyus, and they’re all excellently true to character. Depending on which characters you take into battle, and which you  fight against, dialogue changes accordingly, with an impressive range of banter that makes each encounter feel unique and appropriate. The anime-style cutscenes that convey major plot points are a nice addition, similar in style to the Battle of Gods movie, and the graphics themselves are a crisp 3D approximation of the Dragon Ball Z world – even if they aren’t  massive leap from the previous generation.

Dragon Ball Xenoverse is an odd cross-breed of a game, and it won’t necessarily appeal to everyone. If you’re looking for an online quasi-MMO style experience, sort of like Destiny, but set in the world of Dragon Ball Z, then there’s a fair chunk of content here to get stuck into. However, it’s certainly not as fluid or as immediately rewarding as the best fighters the series has offered in the past. It’s an interesting experiment, both in premise and gameplay concept, and one which doesn’t entirely pull it off. But, in a series already crowded with so many similar entries, it’s nice to see a few fresh ideas, which does count for something.


Different take on Dragon Ball gameplay | Crisp visuals with new anime cutscenes | Loving attention to animation detail


Can feel clunky and dull compared to other fighting games | Alternate timeline plot not fully exploited

Overall Score: