Dragon Ball Xenoverse Review

Richard Walker

Dragon Ball is an unstoppable anime freight train, it seems. That's thanks in no small part to the series' massive, fervent fanbase, who have an encyclopedic knowledge of Saiyans, Majins, Namekians, Kamehamehas and all things Dragon Ball-shaped (yes, I've been reading a Dragon Ball Wiki).

Every year sees Namco Bandai wheeling out a new entry for the colourful anime, with its spiky hair, excessive screaming and powerful laser beams flying all over the place, and this year is of course no different. Welcome to the time-hopping insanity that is Dragon Ball Xenoverse.

A punch right in the hair. That's gotta hurt.

Sadly, I'm at an age where Dragon Ball passed me by, but my younger brother immersed himself in what to me seemed an unfathomable universe with drawn out fights that go on for episodes at a time and a story that to a bystander makes no sense whatsoever. So when I found Dragon Ball Xenoverse on my desk for me to review, my response was “is this a joke?” I know bugger all about Dragon Ball.

Xenoverse opens with Goku in Age 762 battling Frieza, before jumping to Age 767 where he's taking on Cell. The action then leaps forward again to Age 774 where a fight with Kid Buu unfolds. You control all of these skirmishes, with little in the way of instruction, but it's nigh-on impossible to lose. For a beginner, you might initially think you're in for an easy ride. You're not. Dragon Ball Xenoverse gets difficult rather quickly.

Once this short Goku driven prologue is over, you'll create your own character from scratch, choosing their race (Majin, Saiyan, Earthling, Namekian, or Frieza Race) name, gender, height, hairstyle, eyes, voice and clothing colours. The options aren't massively in-depth, but the custom character you end up with looks perfectly at home within the Dragon Ball universe.

Finish building your character and they're dropped straight into Age 800 and a fight with purple-haired Time Patroller, Trunks. This is where the tutorial kicks in and you're introduced to all of the many moves and controls you'll have to commit to memory. It's a lot to take in, but the fight system is fairly intuitive, with a decent enough layer of depth to keep you interested. At first, that is.

"Erm. Can we talk about this?"

Battles in Dragon Ball Xenoverse become very repetitive, very quickly indeed. There's only so much floating and whizzing around you can do before each bout dissolves into interminable button mashing, in the vein hope that you'll be lucky enough to chip away your rival's health bar first.

From the very first Time Patrol where you travel back to Age 762 to aid Goku and Piccolo against Raditz, to later battles with waves of Saibamen and other Saiyan bad guys like Nappa and Vegeta, as well as the Ginyu Force, it all gets a bit boring after a while, even when you're jumping between various environments.

Even attempting to change things up by pitting you against Vegeta's Great Ape form fails to shake up the formula. A large-scale fight, tackling a Great Ape simply requires reducing its stamina to initiate a 'Break State' before having a go at its health bar.

As you level up and boost your abilities, the action begins to improve, and you're never short of objectives to complete, with various side activities like training, additional quests, World Tournaments and online matches to sink your teeth into. If you're struggling with a mission, there's always something else to grind out.

To be fair, Xenoverse, like the other DBZ games before it, does manage to faithfully recreate the speed and freneticism of battles in the show. And the visuals are suitably colourful and authentic to the art style; but only die-hard fans will truly appreciate it.

There's more variety and a more concerted effort to tie the game's battles together into a proper story than previous games, but the core fighting mechanics just aren't particularly fun. As a piece of fan service, however, Dragon Ball Xenoverse is exceptional.

Between fighting, you'll return to Tokitoki City, where you're free to explore the Time Machine Station, Industrial Sector and Plaza of Time. Here you can talk to a plethora of Dragon Ball characters, purchase items using your hard-earned Zeni, create items by mixing materials you've found on the battlefield, venture into online battles, recruit allies, train with your favourite characters to learn new moves and embark upon Parallel Quests.

The crux of the single-player campaign operates from the Time Nest, where you play through different sagas in a bid to set history straight, as dictated by Trunks. It's here that you'll fight alongside the likes of Goku, Krillen, Tien Shinhan, Yamcha, Gohan, Piccolo and others, battling a rogue's gallery of Dragon Ball antagonists.

In the Toktoki City hub, meanwhile, you'll find all manner of social activities to engage in, whether it's interacting with the numerous other online players, teaming up for a co-op online Parallel Quest or getting stuck in to one of the various online competitive options.

Quick player matches, ranked matches and Endless Battles are all present and correct, and matchmaking is pretty fast and free of issues. Once you're into a match, the action is largely lag free too, and two teams of three can happily zip around punching seven shades out of each other.

Xenoverse isn't short on modes and features then, but it's the core fighting that lets the game down. Missions featuring allies are the most frustrating, resulting in instant failure if one of them dies. Invariably, one of them will get beaten to a pulp despite your best efforts to protect them and you'll have to retry the whole damn section from the beginning.

There are other problems too, like the camera sometimes going slightly mad when the action gets a little too hectic or gets stuck behind scenery. Telegraphing enemy attacks is also incredibly difficult, meaning properly timing a block is usually luck over skill. But more than anything else, it's the repetitious nature of the battles that grows wearisome. Equipping new special abilities, gear and Z-Souls helps in adding a little variety, but the game's various sagas in the solo campaign will only really buzz fans.

Kid Gohan gets angry.

And that's really about the long and short of it. Only a real Dragon Ball Z fan will endeavour to stick with Dragon Ball Xenoverse through to its conclusion. Everyone else will have tossed the controller away and given up within the first hour or two. It's simply not a good enough game to keep you playing, despite offering a wealth of modes and content.

You're encouraged to explore each of these modes with a decent spread of achievements that cover almost every facet the game has to offer. You'll need to complete Parallel Quests, play online, complete the story and complete training with every available character to unlock a bunch of achievements, and there are a few other odds and ends. It's a fairly dull list almost solely concerned with progression and racking up numbers.

Dragon Ball Xenoverse is textbook fan service, completely geared towards anyone with an undying love for the anime and/or the Shonen Jump comic books. It's a solid, but unremarkable fighting game wrapped up in a neat and well-presented package. There's plenty to see and do, and the RPG elements add a welcome element of depth to what is otherwise a rather shallow experience. Dragon Ball Xenoverse is most definitely a game for the fans, but not really for anyone else.

Dragon Ball Xenoverse

A love letter to fans, Dragon Ball Xenoverse features almost every character, masses of content and the trademark vibrant and frenetic art style. Unfortunately, it's not really much fun to play, succeeding in being something of a repetitious slog. A game for the Dragon Ball purists, Xenoverse is unlikely to appeal to anyone else.

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Entirely authentic to the Dragon Ball universe, the sound effects and score are exactly as they should be. The soundtrack in particular is very pleasant and jaunty.


By far the most vibrant and best-looking Dragon Ball game yet, Xenoverse is a proper retina scorcher. Fans will love it.


There's an attempt at depth with a selection of moves that you can learn and swap out, but it invariably devolves into rampant button-mashing that's hampered by a twitchy camera.


Xenoverse is packed to the gills with modes, side activities, online options and a whole range of other stuff. Whether you can be arsed to persevere with any of it, however, will ultimately come down to how much you love Dragon Ball. Otherwise, it all involves doing the same stuff over and over.


An adequate list with a good spread that simply rewards story progression and grinding various tasks. A bit on the dull side.

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