Not your average fighting game.
I discovered Dragon Ball Z after it became a TV show, but ironically, it was only available on a Mexican channel. Years later I discovered that whether the show is in English or Spanish, the long-winded soliloquies spewed by its characters took up too much airtime while awesome fight scenes dominated the rest. Fortunately, DBZ fighting games eschew the boring bits in favor of Earth-shattering battles, and Dragon Ball XenoVerse offers much more than simply reliving scenes from the TV show.
Granted, players will be reliving well-known battles but from a different perspective. You see, the story centers around an unknown fighter who is enlisted by Trunks to join the Time Patrol and travel to the past to replay famous battles. Why, you may ask? Well, an unknown force is changing the present by altering the outcome of past battles, and it's up to the Time Patrol to realign the timeline. For example, the first battle poses the question: What would happen if Raditz dodged Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon and survived the infamous battle? Unfortunately, the butterfly effect isn't explored much, but negative possibilities are a great motivation to restore reality.
You've probably already guessed that the unknown fighter is you, which means every player gets to create their own DBZ pugilist! Promising fighters begin by selecting from five races, including Earthlings, Saiyans, and Namekins, who each offer distinct advantages. Then it's time to customize the character itself by selecting from a wide array of outlandish hair styles, facial options, and outfits. In addition, the color for each item can also be customized, and even the body size can be altered. Players begin with some basic moves and then earn more as rewards for combat and also from adopting a famous DBZ character as their trainer.
As this is a three-dimensional Dragon Ball game, the combat is different than the traditional 2D game. Instead of a long list of moves to perform, each character has basic attacks, Ki moves, and Ki Super Moves. These moves are already determined if you're playing established DBZ characters, but they can be customized from a huge list of unlockable moves for the player-created character. This lets players decide whether to create a fighter who specializes in close combat, long-range combat, or a combination of the two. Since defensive moves and teleporting depletes stamina while powerful attacks require Ki, it takes a bit of finesse and proper timing to build these meters up and then unleash devastation upon opponents.
With gigantic destructible arenas to fight in, players can zip around mountains and buildings to avoid Ki blasts and also to set up surprise attacks. One of my favorite moves is to zip away from combat and rush back in to unleash a powerful punch or kick on the enemy that knocks them back. Then I follow them and repeat the process with a Ki attack or two mixed in. It's also worth noting that 3v3 battles can be both good and bad, depending on whether you're ganging up on someone or being ganged up on yourself. It's easy to get caught up in custom combos that seem endless, especially if opponents time it correctly so that one combo begins when the other ends. Conversely, it's sweet to ping-pong enemies back and forth between you and other players without giving them a chance to recover. Even better is being the last fighter standing (or floating?) and still destroying everyone else!
Dragon Ball XenoVerse replaces the menu options for different types of battles found in past games with a world hub called Toki Toki City. It's similar to the world hub found in Destiny in that it provides a meeting area for other players who can team up and then tackle various battles together. This is also the place where players can adopt a trainer, purchase items and clothing, and even undertake optional side missions. Hell, it's even fun to just stand around spamming emotes and watch other players scurry around (better than showing emotion in real life, right?).
Unlike past DBZ games, XenoVerse offers a wide variety of both single-player and multi-player combat scenarios for 1v1 up to 3v3. For starters, players can undertake Time Patrol missions and Parallel Missions alone or with up to two other players. What's cool is that it's not always a stock 3v3 battle, and many of these battles have multiple segments. Time Patrol Missions represent the main story, and Parallel Missions are basically “what if” scenarios where battles occur that don't exist within the DBZ timeline. In addition, there are a few side missions as well as World Tournaments where players battle other players for supreme glory and ranking/bragging rights!
If I joined the Time Patrol, though, I'd travel back to stages in this game's development to slightly alter its future. For starters, while I found the world hub to be a nice diversion at first, it eventually gets boring to have to constantly run around to accomplish what could quickly be done using a standard menu. Next, I'd try to add more depth to Time Patrol missions, such as having an alternate timeline play out in each section if a fight is lost. Players could have the option to replay the fight or follow the alternate timeline to its conclusion. Lastly, it would be great to have more competent A.I. for co-op characters so I don't have to swoop in and save them whenever they're left alone.
Dragon Ball XenoVerse may not have a complex fighting system, but this game is all about fan service! Why else would the developers let players fight as Goku against Frieza, then Goku vs. Cell, and then Super Saiyan Goku vs. Kid Boo in the very first scenario?