Dragon Ball: Xenoverse marks the first manifestation of a Dragon Ball brawler on this generation’s most advanced consoles (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), and the noticeable uptick in graphical fluidity combined with a unique solo campaign seems to be just what this series needed in order to escape from its slump of mediocrity. Admittedly, Xenoverse isn’t a particularly great fighting game, or even an above-average one, but it’s clearly the best entry in this long-running franchise in quite a while. The introduction of a new central incidental arc that’s built around the player’s own customizable character gives the proceedings a freshness that’s been missing from past installments. Beyond all else, though, is the fact that the majority of Xenoverse’s hyper-stylized, high-flying, scenery-destroying battles, in accordance with being visually appealing, are actually fun to participate in for more than a few perfunctory go-arounds.
The game’s principal narrative takes a page from its source material’s obsession with extended time-traveling chronicles (remember Future Trunks?), casting players in the role a member of Eternal Dragon Shenron’s Time Patrol, journeying across the many forked timelines of Dragon Ball’s multiple sagas (11 in total), making sure important events happen the way they should. Fans of the franchise will get to relive and often mildly editorialize their favorite moments from the iconic anime/manga. The level of customization aids in deepening the overall experience, with dozens of appearance modifiers and a heaping helping of special abilities to put into effect. Even with the recurring presence of goofy music, clunky dialogue, weak AI, and an underwhelming hub domain in the form of Toki-Toki City, the distinctiveness of Xenoverse’s personalized Time Warriors should ease the preliminary objections of Dragon Ball loyalists and newcomers alike. Battlefield controls are smooth and forgiving; firing off routine energy blasts is just as rewarding as executing a flashy finishing maneuver. However, combat isn’t (and probably never will be) as complex as this property deserves, and an additional downside later materializes in the outfitting process, wherein the lack of a reliable preview section in the item-selection department essentially forces a blind-buy of equipment that may eventually be of little use.
Nonetheless, it can’t be said that Xenoverse is starving for any sort of generous bonus content, as its numerous play scenarios, sizable roster of 47 fighters, collectibles, and generally lag-free online support should keep wannabe Super Saiyans interested until Bandai Namco drops the subsequent chapter on store shelves and in digital marketplaces. While much of the game is simply the next logical progression from last year’s comparatively phoned-in Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z (a shift in developers from Artdink back to Dimps was unarguably the right decision), the exemplary degree of surface polish in combination with indispensable story-mode refinement makes for a final product that, for once, likely won’t have the Akira Toriyama faithful shaking their heads in stark disapproval.