Dragon Ball Xenoverse Review (Xbox One)
Time to blow the dust off of that Dragon Ball Z fan fiction you wrote when you were twelve— Dragon Ball Xenoverse lets you bring that Mary Sue self-insert to life and team him or her up with Goku, Vegeta, and the rest of the Z Fighters as you use time travel to fix divergent moments in DBZ's history. This may sound perfect, but after a few minutes of playing this piece of Popo you’ll want to chuck it in the Dead Zone where it belongs.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse's story is simple: some bad jerks are breaking history, and Future Trunks and the Kai of Time have tasked you with putting it all back together. To do so, you'll create a character from several different races, from Saiyans, Namekians, Buus, and the oh-so creatively-named Frieza Race, giving you extensive hair, skin, facial, and gender customization options where applicable. Once you've got your DIY Super Saiyan, you'll progress through Dragon Ball Z's most famous sagas, making occasional pit stops to complete Parallel Quests, impossible what-if scenarios that put you on the opposite side of famous battles, like teaming up with Frieza to defeat Gohan, Krillin, and Goku.
Tying all of this together is an MMORPG-esque format, complete with level-ups, equipment, and a hub town filled with other players running around and striking fusion dance poses together. While you'll get a good laugh out of seeing the many in-jokes and oddball characters people create, like Frieza's cousin, Kyle, or a bald super saiyan named PITBULL, this MMO format and the hub town take away far more than they add. The town's drab-looking and overly large, and for some reason you respawn at the entrance after every side quest, so if you want to retry a failed mission or go do another one, you'll have to walk back to the side quest area and select a new one over and over. In true MMO fashion, rewards are kind of random, so you'll have to complete the same mission multiple times if you want to get every new skill or piece of gear it has to offer. Plus, the Xenoverse servers are prone to making you crash to menu at random times.
Once you get into story missions, things aren't any better. These battles are often more a test of stats than skill, meaning that you'll have to grind up doing frequent side quests if you want to have the numbers to beat your foes. The dialogue has typos galore (the most egregious of which being Trunks asking "Will do go the time patrol?", a question you'll see dozens of times during a playthrough), and all in-game dialogue refers to your character as male even if you're a lady.
Whether you're off in a parallel timeline or brawling it out in a story mission, you'll spend most of your time either aimlessly navigating empty areas or duking it out with DBZ's biggest baddies. Though combat fares better than Xenoverse's MMO trappings, it's still not without a huge pile of frustrations. The combat controls are overly complicated and will leave your fingers aching from holding down the trigger buttons for such extended periods of time. The camera goes completely berserk at different angles, or in even slightly enclosed spaces. Enemies have far too much health, and mission objectives are far too repetitive; defeat Evil Hercule one mission, then defeat him again in the next. The characters all look great in action; Goku's super saiyan hair has never been spikier, and your many Kamehamehas, Destructo Disks, and Spirit Bombs explode with fantastic flair, but the base fighting is just a little too sloppy to satisfy.
While Dragon Ball Z's never been famous for its high-quality writing, Xenoverse has managed to somehow slither in below the fan base's already-low expectations. Xenoverse's main storyline is absolute gibberish if you're not well-versed in Dragon Ball Z. You're generally thrown in the middle of random scenarios with no set-up as to who anyone is or what's happening, and large chunks of time will get skipped between missions. Xenoverse assumes you already know DBZ's story like the back of your hand, so if you're not the hardest of hardcore fans, you'll probably end up more confused than anything.
Xenoverse brings back most of the original Funimation voice acting troupe, and while regulars like Sean Schemmel and Christopher Sabat ham it up with perfect flair for main characters Goku and Vegeta, several of the other voice actors give less than stellar performances. The backgrounds look terrible, like something you'd find in a game from 2010, and the music is some of the most bloodless filler you'll find this side of a grocery store.
It's hard to believe that a game where you could create a custom super saiyan hero and team up with two Gokus and Raditz to fight a third Goku and Piccolo ends up being so disappointing. For every one thing Dragon Ball Xenoverse gets right it gets ten wrong; even longtime fans (like yours truly) will have a hard time wanting to push through the layer after layer of sloppy, stupid choices and mistakes made here. Fans have been wishing for the perfect Dragon Ball Z game for a long time, and Dragon Ball Xenoverse makes it clear that they'll need to collect the dragon balls again and wish for something else, because this thing sucks harder than Yamcha.
This review was based on a purchased digital copy of Dragon Ball Xenoverse for Xbox One.