NYCC 2014: Fighting The Good Fight In The Dragon Ball Xenoverse
I knew what I was getting into when I picked up the controller for the Dragon Ball Xenoverse demo on the show floor at New York Comic-Con. It's a Dragon Ball game, which means I'm going to be punching, kicking, and Ki blasting some poor sap right in the face numerous times until I win (or lose) the bout. All that remained to be seen was how Dragon Ball Xenoverse was going to do things differently... and the answer is, it's not.
Let me say this first: the game looks spectacular. The visual team on DBX should be quite proud of themselves, as this game looks like it was ripped right from the cartoons, then doused in a tub of HD goodness and splattered onto the screen. Even in heavy movement with lots of action the graphic remain crisp and clean and really impressive. Controlling a Dragon Ball fight has never looked so pretty.
Fighting in Xenoverse resembles that of the Budokai Tenkaichi run of games: the camera will be centered on your fighter, who then must run or fly around the arena, find the opponent, and engage in combat. One attack button focuses on quick combos, one on stronger attacks, and the third on Ki-based attacks. Holding the back right shoulder button before pressing a button opens up other attacks, including the iconic energy attacks like Kamehameha and Special Beam Cannon that fans of the franchise will be looking for.
After the visual upgrades and control changes, Xenoverse feels like a re-run of an old Dragon Ball Z episode rather than a fresh new game. I understand this is a demo, but instead of examples of the five create-a-character races the select screen was mostly characters from the original Saiyan Saga. Only the World Tournament and a random mountain area were able to host these brawls, with the World Tournament removing the "touch the ground and you're disqualified" caveat. Being from the Tenkaichi School of Dragonballing the camera tends to get hung up at awkward angles, at one point forcing me to stare at the cheering World Tournament fans than either of the fighters as they dueled.
I won't be surprised if Dragon Ball Xenoverse releases with much more depth than what was shown on the NYCC show floor, but if it doesn't, I hope the roster surpasses 200, because the in-fight gameplay feels very similar to other Dragon Ball games that have come before. I understand that my experience with the game is merely two one-on-one duels, my Piccolo to the computer AI's Nappa, but I also was introduced to the most central aspect to the game and I left underwhelmed. There could be a wonderful story mode following the entire Dragon Ball franchise, but we've seen that before. Perhaps there will be extensive customization options outside of the five create-a-characters, but we've seen that before too. The central fighting needs something new and different, and right now it's not there.
Dragon Ball fighting games have always leaned on fan nostalgia, allowing the DB faithful to control their favorite fights from the manga and TV show or letting them create and play out their own fantasy rivalries. Dragon Ball Xenoverse will likely do the same thing, as the fighting scheme is very similar to previous games and the roster will mostly feature the same characters we've fought with for years. The fighting is solid, the game looks wonderful, and the hardcore Goku and Vegeta fans out there will be wholly satisfied, but those looking for some depth to their Dragon Ball may want to wait and find out what the full game will offer before jumping right in.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse will be out in early 2015 on PlayStation, Xbox and PC platforms.