Monday, October 31, 2016

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (PS4)

Bandai Namco's "Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2" is a game that caters wholly to fans of the Dragon Ball anime, and it's growing lore. It's pure fan service done up in a non-canon way that could be easily considered canon. As far as the story goes you, as a Dragon Ball Time Patroller must prevent time from being altered under the guide of various Dragon Ball characters including Trunks, and the Supreme Kai of Time. Unfortunately there are also some shady characters working behind the scenes trying to make your work harder for you. Like you, they too can travel through time, and change history through their actions. When it comes to your character's involvement you are more, or less the destined silent protagonist. The hero, or heroine of the game. You interact with certain individuals within Conton City (the home of the Time Patrol), and move the story forward by taking on ranked parallel quests, or character driven quests pertaining to rifts opened up above the city. You can even leisurely battle other 'Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2' players, or AI controlled characters in order to improve upon your custom character through the earned rewards.

Once the game begins you will immediately be prompted to either port over your original Xenoverse character, or create a new one from five different Dragon Ball races. If you do have a save file from the previous installment you'll be notified that some items may be carried over, but also that some may not. The items that don't make it will be transformed into in-game credit which can be used to purchase newer items. Supposing you choose the latter option you'll find that these races with which you can create your character include Majin, Saiyan, Earthlings, Namekian, and Freiza. All of whom fans will be familiar with. The character customization process you'll work your way through is decently detailed with various options relating to body type, facial features, and even colors. Once your character is created, and named they'll be ushered in as a Time Patroller whose sole duty is to correct historical events, and make sure time goes along as it's supposed to. Along with the Supreme Kai of Time, the elder Kai, Trunks, and many other Dragon Ball favorites you'll arrange your outings through the districts of Conton City. Your all in one hub for every in-game activity whether it be offline, or online. According to Gamestop's televised advertisements there are double the amount of things to do this time around in comparison to the original Xenoverse. From what I've seen the game definitely has it's replay value, and value in content.

While some journalists have explained "Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2" off as being an MMORPG with brawler elements I have to partially disagree. The game does have multiplayer, and team based organization within the online portion of the game, but in no way does it have you interacting with a living virtual community. There are RPG elements in the way of character stat improvement, and ability/equipment customization, but nothing more than that. I would say it's more along the lines of a fighting game with RPG elements in that the brawling element has offline, and online multiplayer matchmaking options. That, and the previously mentioned character building that is improved upon through gameplay grinding, and objective completion points more towards the RPG genre than the MMORPG.

Within the Conton City hub, which acts as your shopping district, your tutorial library, your challenge academy, your quest portal, and your matchmaking center you'll find mostly stationary non-canon residents with a sprinkling of notable Dragon Ball characters put into place for a purpose. Interacting with any of the NPCs (Non-Player Characters) will open up conversations, and possible quest activities or side quests to participate in. During the early part of the game you'll be following the Supreme Kai of Time's, and the Elder Kai's instructions in order to learn the ropes of gameplay. I would explain said gameplay mechanics here in full, but it would more than likely complicate the experience, and this review for you with too many technical details that you could more easily follow in-game. All you really need to know is that whatever character you choose to play as has three meters to abide by. These include an HP (Health), Ki, and a Stamina meter. The HP meter is self-explanatory, but the Ki and Stamina less so. When it comes to Ki it is the energy source with which your character can performer Super Strikes, Super Ki Blasts, and Ultimate attacks. You build the Ki meter up through basic attacks which can be combo'd into using the 'SQUARE', and 'TRIANGLE' buttons. The Stamina meter is also of importance as it allows you to attack. Once it depletes you'll have to wait before it fills back up to perform basic attacks, supers, ultimates, or even the homing dash which is used to chase down targeted enemies. There's also a basic Ki attack tied to the 'CIRCLE' button with which you can spam Ki blasts, or hold down for a Ki bomb. Lastly you can also evade, and throw opponents. Evasion gets you behind an attacking character for a sneaky advantage while throwing grapples with the opposing character in some form or fashion for added damage.

When it comes down to which types of attacks your created character can do you'll find yourself meddling with the 'OPTIONS' menu listing of "Customization". This includes options for assigning Supers, Ultimates, and two new features including QQ's, and Super Souls. Super Souls in particular are added perks that enhance certain abilities or base stats. You can purchase or earn these skills, Super Souls, and QQ's as you continue playing through the game's online and offline modes. The shops from which skills can be bought are located within the center shopping district of Conton City alongside the Item, TP, Clothing, Mixing, and Accessory shops. They offer Skills for both Zeni, and TP medals. Two types of currency which can be earned through quest completion. The Item vendor which is not far from the skill vendor sells single use items that can be used during battle to do things like refill stamina or health. The "TP" shop which is also within the same vicinity sells you special equipment items that use the TP (Time Patrol) medals as currency. The TP shop is only opened on Friday through Sunday, so saving up for those more luxurious items during the week is a good idea. The Clothing, and Accessory shops on the other hand offer something that can boost character stats while offering different fashions at the same time. You'll find plenty of Dragon Ball related gear there from some of your favorite characters as well as some more basic non-canon items. Lastly the Mixing shop will allow you to mix single use items to create more potent ones.

While the shops are definitely of importance in building up your Xenoverse 2 character you'll also need to mind the transport station which houses the offline, and online vendors that pertain to battles, and parallel quests. When it comes to battles you are afforded mostly basic matchmaking options. In the offline side of the vendor you'll find that you can train, and battle against AI controlled characters. You can also tweak the AI characters for a challenge if you so desire. On the online side of the same vendor You can opt to play in ranked or player match types. These include matches for up to four competing online players. The ranked matches will earn you leaderboard points while the player matches will not count against your online leaderboard standings. To further improve upon said options the developer has also added "limitations", or "no limitations" as options to either pair you up with players of similar skill, or any skill respectively. The only downside if any is that there are no region based options. This makes for some laggy matches that you cannot avoid if it is your aim to play online.

As far as the parallel quests go they are ranked by difficulty and stars, and require that you complete a given battle scenario as told. You are given both clear, and failed requirements with the "cleared" requirements being the ones you want to shoot for. The 3D arenas, or areas are sometimes singular, but also sometimes have gates that lead to other areas. While battling in these places you can use your visor (Left DPad) to scout for invisible material, or waiting challengers. It should also be noted that parallel quests have some hidden completion requirements as well that will reward you handsomely if you fulfill said demands. Once you complete a parallel quest you'll be alphabetically rated ("S" being the best & "Z" the worst), and will be awarded the disclosed items as well as currency in the form of Zeni and TP. It goes without saying that the more stars are assigned to the parallel quest listing the more challenging it will be. If you so wish you can also take on parallel quests with online players. The opposite option being to battle alongside AI controlled teammates.

Beyond the parallel quests you can also teleport to rift worlds where fan favorite Dragon Ball characters lie in wait waiting to request of your services. You'll be doing the bidding of characters like Majin Buu, or Hercule as you take on tasks regarding quests, and other in-game activities. In order to travel to these areas that are floating above Conton City you'll need to go to the appropriate travel NPC robot to choose your destination. That is if you haven't earned your flying license yet. Aside from parallel quests, and rifts you can also take on the challenges offered by Kai, and your instructor of choice at the Orange Star Highschool. Simply talking to Kai's NPC at the highschool will bring up a challenge menu listing that basically trains you to play more advanced using specific in-game mechanics. The challenges are sectioned off by star rating, and by (Easy - Expert) levels. It's quite similar to challenge modes in games like BlazBlue in that sense. In regards to the instructors you'll find certain Dragon Ball characters stationed all over Conton City. At times quests will be offered up by them, and will in turn offer your character a new skill if you train under them. At one point early on you'll also be able to assign an instructor to your character. This will offer up instructor specific rewards you won't find elsewhere.

In most battles within Xenoverse 2 you will be leading the fight with at least two other NPC or player controlled characters. The objectives are usually the same, and require you to K.O. the opponent/s within a given time limit. Battles of course are fought Dragon Ball style both on the ground, and in the air. For me there was a fairly steep learning curve for learning the controls, but once you do the combat is fluid, and fast. Another thing to not is that the targeting system allows you to not only target and track enemy characters, but also to target and revive K.O.'d allies just by standing near them when they are targeted.

Character stats, and levels also play a huge role in your progress, or lack thereof. You definitely have to be the required level to take on certain quests, or battles. In order to level up your character you'll need to take on the easier quests, and objectives first. Doing so will earn you stat boost points that can be applied to your health, Ki, Stamina, Attack, and other base stats. Even if you lose a battle you'll still earn something, but not what you could have if you had won. It's best to take on quests, and objectives you know you can complete.

In regards to the online team elements you can create a team, and recruit members to aid you in online battle through the game's matchmaking system. Teams can also use a specific 'Time Delivery Vendor' to gift players items. The team activities are definitely there, but they are in no way as robust as what a true MMORPG offers.

Visually 'Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2" is alright. It has it's new-gen moments, but it also has some last-gen moments relating to stiff, and more simplistic animations. Sometimes the game also appears to have a hazy look about it that dulls the otherwise vividly colored 3D worlds. The character design is probably this game's biggest shining accomplishment in regards to visual aesthetics, but the character animations also seem a little stiff. As far as the soundtrack goes it has it's more rocking, and nostalgic moments from time to time. The voice-overs also add a familiar element of design for those who have ever watched an English dubbed episode of Dragon Ball. It's an over all decent delivery, but not quite yet as perfected as some current day new-gen games.

The Verdict . . .

Though I found fault with some things, 'Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2' still did disappoint too much. It's a fun game offline, and a fairly decent game online. The offline portion is definitely more stable though, and doesn't bring with it problems related to player connectivity. I really wish Bandai's developer had added in region based matchmaking as it would have no doubt fixed the latency issues in online gameplay. Perhaps they can patch that in, in the future? I don't know. If they can I'd more than simply recommend this game to avid DB fans. I'd recommend it to anyone looking to get into Dragon Ball since everything in the canon series is pretty much rehashed within this game's story elements. At least the pivotal key battles are anyways. If you are a Dragon Ball fan I think it's safe to say you'd probably get something out of investing time, and money in this game. If you aren't you might still get something out of it. It's up to you though.

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