Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is the sequel to the unique fighting game original, developed by developer Dimps. For fans of the fighting genre, the differences between a standard fighter and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 are immediately apparent. Instead of going with the standard menu selection in most fighters (story, versus, training, online), Xenoverse goes about its gameplay presentation in a totally unique way. Xenoverse 2 resembles more of an MMO (massively multiplayer online game) than a fighting game. While the gameplay itself is 3D arena fighting, the story is told through quests, missions, and a variety of other ways. It’s a risky gamble, but does it pay off? That’s what this review will let you know. As always, narrative is up first.
The narrative of Xenoverse 2 is entertaining based on its concept alone. You are a new agent in the Time Patrollers, a group of fighters who maintain the fragile timeline of the past. As a Time Patroller in training, you’re tasked with leveling up your character by training with different instructors. Once trained, you can take on story missions. These missions involve traveling back to the past, to fix the changes made in history. There’s a few new villains to carry the story, but a lot of content is great nostalgia for long time fans. You’ll find yourself revisiting popular fights from the anime and manga, and having a blast doing it. In between story missions, you’ll walk around the hub world.
The hub world is full of fun quests and activities to try. A lot of this plays directly into the interesting gameplay systems, and I’ll get into that in the gameplay section of the review. However, it’s nice to see the hub world fleshed out. There’s a certain liveliness to the hub world that really makes it a treat to walk around. This is doubled when you activate online lobbies (basically the single player hub world populated with other players). Overall, the narrative is good, but I wish there was more story missions in comparison to the side activities. Beyond that, it might be hard for a complete newcomer to understand what’s going on. If you’re unfamiliar with Dragon Ball as a series, I recommend playing the first game or doing some light familiarization. Ultimately, the more you know about Dragon Ball lore going in, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of the story.
Xenoverse 2 is a fighting game at its core, and all fighting games live and die by their combat systems. I can safely say that the game does a great job replicating the crazy fights of the show, while making the combat accessible to newcomers. Veterans of the first entry can even transfer their old character over for some great story line content. Those who choose to start fresh can choose from a few different Dragon Ball races, all with their positives and negatives. The gameplay arc is accessible and fun. You walk around the open world map to markers that indicated missions and points of interest. Holding down the right trigger brings up the map in front of you, so it’s always easy to quickly check where you’re at. Additionally, all the names of shops and NPCs are clearly marked with text, making visual navigation seamless.
The game also does a great job teaching the complex fighting system slowly, building on fundamentals through enjoyable tutorials. The game does have a tendency to hold your hand a bit too much during training sequences, but it’s a small gripe. The actual fighting is quick and intense. There’s tons of mobility around the arena, so you always have a variety of ways to fight. You learn new moves from instructors in the hub world (this is also how you level up your character), and there’s so many moves that any style of player can find their rhythm. Whether you like to sit back and throw projectiles, or get right up in the enemies’ face, you will be able to make a move set that’s to your liking. There’s an overall sense of true customization with your character, and it’s something I would like to see more of in the fighting genre. As I talked about before, you have a character level. Much like an MMO, you get experience for completing quests and training. Higher level characters can obtain better moves and access new story missions. This can be annoying for those who just want to play through the story, as you have to go out of your way to level up often. This usually boils down to running from instructor to instructor, learning new moves. It’s repetitive, but at least you’re obtaining new moves and improving your character while doing it. The work is often worth the wait though, as story missions have awesome payoffs. There’s large scale fights with gigantic enemies (a Dragon Ball staple), and some insanely awesome visuals. I was never let down by the Time Patroller missions.
Additionally, there are things called “parallel quests”. These three player side quests can be played offline with AI, or online with other players. They have a small amount of story to them, but are meant more as challenges. There’s a star rating system to let you know how difficult a quest might be. How well you do on any mission (including story missions) determines a rank, which ultimately determines how much experience you get towards your level. This provides some replay ability and the motivation to grind your character’s level a bit more. If I have any gripes with the gameplay, it’s the upgrading and camera control. Upgrading your character is easy, but understanding the intricacies of character building is harder. It all becomes clear with time and practice though. The camera is a whole other problem. When in open areas, it works fine. However, if you’re fighting in a city scape, the camera might be your hardest opponent in the fight. It has a tendency to stick onto walls, flip around, and generally cause visual confusion. It doesn’t happen too often, but when the camera freaks out, it makes it count.
Presentation wise, the game is great. Story missions have beautiful cut scenes animated exactly like the anime. Super colorful visuals pop off the screen, especially in the hub world. The sound mixing was a bit on the loud side, but otherwise the audio is up to par. Hearing Goku yell “Kamehameha!” filled me up with nostalgia, so voice work is also pretty dang good. The menu systems for shopping and customization could’ve been handled a bit better, but that’s my biggest complaint. I often spent too long trying to figure out if a piece of clothing was better than my current gear in an overall sense. This shouldn’t be as long of a process as it ended up being. In general, Xenoverse 2 never had to look amazing, it just had to look like the anime. It succeeds in that well, so I have absolutely no complaints on the art style. The hub world movement can look a bit canned at times, but it doesn’t impact the overall art too much.
In a general sense, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is a great game. It does have a specific audience though, and whether or not you fall within the demographic will effect your enjoyment. Fans of the series will benefit the most here, as the narrative is basically just a “best of nostalgia” moments built into fights. However, the arena fighting works so well that even fans of 2D fighters (myself included, I’m a huge Mortal Kombat fan) might find themselves enjoying it. There’s something here for every player, but the main issue is that there is so much of it. People who don’t like tutorials will be super frustrated with the training process. Fans of more linear narrative anime fighters might find the “MMO-lite” style annoying. If anything, it’s unique and worth experiencing. I’m not generally a fan of fighters based off of anime, but Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 got its hooks into me. If the idea interests you, I recommend picking it up. There’s definitely enough content here to warrant the full purchase price.