Bandai Namco took a huge risk funding and releasing the recent Dragonball XenoVerse, following the critical and commercial mediocrity of the previous titles Ultimate Tenka’ichi and Battle of the Z.
Armed with their experience in the gaming franchise — the Budokai series and the short-lived Burst Limit — and a modest budget, Dimps managed to deliver a surprisingly fresh and fun take on the Dragon Ball mythos.
Of course, even with the great start to what’s sure to become a classic series of titles, there are a sizable amount of technical hiccups and missed opportunities abound that if fixed for the inevitable sequel, could polish up XenoVerse to near perfection.
Character customization is the first part of the game you’ll experience (minus the prologue battles), and, while fun to ply around with, could use a major expansion.
As detailed in our review of XenoVerse, there are plenty of options that are surprisingly missing from the options, from lack of range in hairstyle types that aren’t straight or spiky to even missing proper facial hair customization.
Another major issue is the fact that players can’t switch between the two body types of Saiyans, Humans and Majins when creating a new character. For instance, if I wanted to make an adorable fat female Majin or a sleeker humanoid-looking male Majin then I guess I’m fresh outta luck. This of course applies to the other two gendered races as well.
This leads into my next point of contention with the title: the gender-based stat specializations of those aforementioned races. Ignoring the obvious sexist implications of such a choices, this decision from Dimps proves to be very impractical for players wanting to design their perfect character.
For instance, I made a female Human who is a melee-ranged fighter with an emphasis on physical attacks. However, because she is female the game states that her actual specialty is Ki-based attacks and that she has a lower attack and health.
Conversely, if I wanted to create a male long-ranged character that favors Ki-based specials and such, he would have the opposite problem. This same issue crops up with Saiyan and Majin races as well.
In the sequel, Dimps should allow players to choose between the body types, as well control their character’s stat specialization. It would give us more room to customize and tailor-fit our fighter to our specific needs and wanted appearances, rather than being forced to sacrifice one for the other.
Extending from this issue is the fact that the game does not extrapolate on the Attribute system in the slightest. Other than the brief instructions on how to designate points, players are left on their on to figure out how to best delegate points to their stats.
While the wealth of online information has now rendered this essentially a non-issue, when the title first released it was especially problematic as players were on their own in figuring out how to best apply the points.
What makes this especially disastrous is that depending on your race (and therefore your delegated form change) the stats you need to focus on are wildly different.
Saiyan characters need to invest greatly in Max Ki, as the Super Saiyan transformation is very reliant on it to maintain the form. Conversely, Humans must invest heavily in Max Stamina as Kaio-ken does not use Ki but Stamina instead to maintain the form.
These key differences should have been noted by the game itself from the beginning, so players would know in advance how to best allocate points to Attributes.
It is possible to reset all 240 points if you make a wish to Shenron; however, this uses a valuable wish and gathering the Dragon Balls is an incredibly time-consuming task.
To remedy the problem, I not only strongly suggest the sequel to go more in depth in terms of which transformation and move-set requires what stats, but for the game to also incorporate an option to reset current point allocation from the very beginning. This would give players the room to play around with stat growth without fearing any consequences down the line.
Going into the gameplay, while I greatly enjoyed the free-form combat and the ease of adapting to the combat system, there are some noticeable control issues that can make things a bit frustrating.
Controls in general need to be tightened up a bit; I’ve noticed that sometimes button inputs wouldn’t register properly or the targeting will randomly deactivate.
On a more specific level, the close-up on Ki Supers need to be remedied. I understand that close-up is done for the “cool factor” (and it does in fact look really awesome) but that pull-in makes it nearly impossible to determine whether a Super actually hit the enemy until after it finishes — far too late to adjust for any misses.
Some Ki blasts, such as “Evil Explosion,” don’t suffer much but others, like the “Kamehameha Wave,” are too exaggerated in this regard. I wouldn’t say to eliminate the effect altogether, but instead offer an option in the menu to turn it off for those who find the close-ins disorienting.
Piggy-backing off of this, another fighting game mechanic that should be implemented into the system are cancels, both for both Supers and regular combos.
The former I believe to be especially important since it would allow a player to better react if they realized that a Super — Ki or Melee — did not hit and adjust accordingly. The latter, meanwhile, would serve to lend some much needed strategic depth to bouts.
One of the most problematic issues of XenoVerse is the online. I’m well aware that Dimps developed the title with limited resources and did not foresee the sheer amount of players that would be populating the servers.
That being said, the online connections are still rather spotty and it can be very difficult to stay connected during a match. This is one issue I have no doubts will be cleared up by the next title, as the developers and Bandai Namco are now well aware of the game’s popularity.
Another issue in online is the competitive scene itself. When plowing through the single-player, cheap bosses and sometimes unfair odds require players to be a bit… inventive when it comes to strategy. And by inventive I mean using your AI allies as meat shields while spamming Supers and Ultimates.
Naturally, when people then face human opponents they soon realize this exact same method works just as well, since Supers and Ultimates are very strong and incredibly easy to connect.
This is further exacerbated by players who, when customizing their unique character, makes sure to dump Attribute Points into Ki Blast Supers and Max stats to increase the moves’ power even more. The worst offender is the Saiyan race, as the Super Saiyan state allows them to continuously use Ultimates past what other classes can do.
From this we can conclude that matches can be incredibly frustrating for players who try to fight normally — a mix of combos, maneuvering and the occasional well-timed Super or Ultimate.
However, the fix in this case is rather difficult to properly pinpoint. Even if we try to slide away from the created fighters, there’s still a huge problem with the canon roster as well.
Anime fighting games in general are notoriously unbalanced due to the abnormal power scale within the roster, and Dragon Ball is most likely the worst offender.
We have characters ranging in power from the high tiers Omega Shenron, Goku, Vegeta, Gohan and the like, all the way down to the human fighters Yamcha, Tien, Krillin, Videl and the woefully weak Hercule.
Factoring in the many, many transformations featured throughout the series and we have a balancing nightmare (I will admit that XenoVerse is by far the most balanced DBZ title, as most of the cast can stand toe-to-toe and fair pretty well).
I do believe some precautions could be taken in order to better mitigate this balance online, or at the very least prevent the constant spamming of Supers and Ultimates.
The first step would be to remove the Super Saiyan ability to use these special attacks more often than other races. The ability is rather unnecessary and already creates a very unfair playing field.
Second, maybe incorporate some kind of system that would limit the amount of times any fighter could use those attacks during an online match, forcing players to be more creative in their use of the system (or exploit it more creatively I suppose).
Tournament mode badly needs more development in the sequel, especially considering the paltry single-player version of it, which isn’t even a proper tourney.
In Dimps’s Budokai 3, the single-player Tournament mode was quite excellent, with single-elimination brackets, a choice of how difficult the tourney will be, Zeni rewards based on said difficulty, randomly chosen entries to add an extra layer of unpredictability and even the famous Tenka’ichi announcer himself moderating.
It’s such a shame then that XenoVerse‘s is nothing like that, which is incredibly bizarre since it’s the same developer here too.
Since this is the same developer, the fix is rather simple: simply transfer all the features from Budokai 3‘s mode to this title’s sequel. There should also be a proper local-multiplayer version added to the mix with the same features of single-player, as well as an option for team-based tournaments that take advantage of 3 vs. 3 fights.
The online-based version of the mode should absolutely stay for the sequel, as I’m sure many players appreciate being able to take on opponents from around the world. Of course the same mechanics mentioned above should ideally be included in the online version.
Finally, a seemingly small but very annoying mechanic that simply needs to go is the RNG factor for rewards received after a completed mission. Basically, in each mission outline is a list of items that you can possibly obtain upon a mission clear.
Setting one for very rare drops makes sense, since it would up the unpredictability factor and motivate players to replay the mission for that one rare items. However, it makes little sense to put all the items under RNG as it simply adds to the frustration (I would go so far as to imply it’s little more than forced replay value).
Imagine earning a Z rank and nailing all the bonus objectives in a mission, only to receive a simple healing item instead of that “Kaio-ken x3” you’ve been ogling all this time.
The obvious remedy in this case would be to either eliminate RNG altogether or have it for rare drops only, with both creating a set rewards list for that stage.
Another solution is to simply offer those important rewards, such as a new transformation or those elusive outfits, in the in-game store for purchase after a certain amount of story progress has been made.
All in all, Dragon Ball XenoVerse is a surprisingly fun and addictive fighting game that sets the stage for what is sure to be an excellent and memorable new franchise, as long as they take care to improve upon each iteration in meaningful ways.
And add beam struggles.