Many franchises of old are seeing a bit of a resurgence as of late and Dragon Ball is no exception. The series has been on the up and up, seeing two successful feature films, a mobile game, endless merchandise, and the start of a brand new anime series. Home console games are no exception.
Following the largely successful Dragon Ball Xenoverse, Bandai Namco has been hard at work on the follow-up: Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Boasting several improvements over its predecessor, it’s being called the “biggest Dragon Ball game yet.” But did they succeed?
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 puts you in the shoes of a Time Patroller – a special agent tasked with the hefty responsibility of keeping history as it should be. The storied history of Dragon Ball always seems to be under threat and it’s up to you to set things right. Remember: time travel is technically illegal here.
The game’s story plays out in a mission-based structure of sorts. Once you create your character and stroll around the main hub area of Conton City for a bit, you’ll be acclimated with a pair of deities overseeing your journey: the Supreme Kai of Time and the Elder Kai. It’s through them you’ll progress through the main scenario as you see fit, taking on main quests along with various training and side missions as you grow your character.
Taking place two years following the events of the first game, Xenoverse 2 begins with history starting to change once again. The villains behind these happenings – Towa and Mira – have gathered up a new crew of bad guys from the various Dragon Ball timelines to carry out their deeds. Naturally, you’ll need to stop them, traveling through the series’ key moments in the process.
These key moments offer up some alternate takes on established events. For example, when you travel to Planet Namek, a certain other character ends up swapped with Captain Ginyu rather than Goku. You’re also thrust full-force into a number of iconic fights, some of which plays a bit on the emotions. Several scenes in particular were surprisingly sentimental as a longtime fan of series. It’s a shame, however, that once again a Dragon Ball game is rehashing too many elements we’ve seen before rather than creating something entirely new.
Xenoverse 2’s gameplay is where it really sets itself apart. Drawing upon a pseudo-MMO world and mission structure – you can even interact with online players here – the game features a number of activities such as side quests, challenges and training. Side quests in particular can drop new gear and items with decent, but not brutal form of randomness involved. The best part in all this though, is the ability to play as Dragon Ball characters from the series. As you make your way through the main story more familiar faces become available, featuring all your favorite variations on Goku, Gohan, Trunks, Vegeta and so forth.
Battles take place using 3D models across a 3D space and require a number of button presses performed in real time to execute actions. Sure, you can mash buttons to sling together combos, but you’ll need a good grasp of your available abilities and resources to get through your fights.
Similar to the series proper special abilities use up ki, a resource that can be expended quite quickly. Stamina also comes into play as it backs your evasive and defensive actions. Actions themselves come in a number of shapes and sizes. By training with various mentors you can unlock their abilities to use as your own, offering up a number of battle options depending on the situation. The amount of freedom here is key, with enough here to craft your own personal playstyles at will.
The main downsides come from the camera, which sometimes has a hard time keeping up with your character. Find yourself in a tight corner? Again, the camera tends to act up. It can get somewhat frustrating having to wrestle with it when you’re in the middle of a timed mission. Battles themselves can also start to become a bit too repetitive, especially if you’re working your way through the large number of Parallel quests reused from the first game.
The breadth of choice is further heightened through an extensive character creation system. Xenoverse 2 allows for several character slots, allowing you to shape and create your own Earthling, Saiyan, Majin, Namekian or member of the Freeza race. From there you can go even further with a beefy set of customization options including hair, eye type, skin color, voice and more. It’s up to you to craft your own Dragon Ball hero. If you played the original game, you can even transfer in some of your items and abilities – though not everything will be made available.
On the visual side of things, Xenoverse 2 makes use of a 3D anime cel-shading in an attempt to emulate the feel of the original series. It does its job for the most part, though clunky animation and unfortunate aliasing dampen the experience a bit. Performance in general is fairly rock-solid. With a promised 60 frames per second in tow, Xenoverse 2 proves a lot smoother than its predecessor.
While Xenoverse 2 is a RPG at heart it does forget some of the genre's given staples. For example, there's no quest log, so much of the time you're left wondering what to do should you have wandered around for a while. Other gripes include loading times - of which there are a lot. A patch following release has eased these a bit but there's still just enough to cause minor irritant when jumping from quest to quest. Again, the reused content from the first Xenoverse also brings the whole thing down a bit.
That said, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is still a marked improvement over the original. Smoother gameplay, more options and a lessened focus on RNG really show the developers have learned a lot over the past two years. The new character additions help too, but it's clear Bandai Namco is on the right track to take the series even further going forward.
Versions tested: PlayStation 4
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.