There are a few key characteristics that accompany each generation of society. The war generation had their stoicism and resilience, the baby boomers their greed and fondness for making lots of money, generation X had its rebellion and nihilism and my generation has a rough idea of the characters and plotlines in the Dragon Ball universe. At least, that’s how it feels. As such, though it has been a worryingly long time since I last watched the vaunted anime-of-animes, I still recognised a lot of the set-pieces and settings in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, which I suppose speaks to its design qualities.
Xenoverse 2 arrives as the successor to a game hailed as one of the best Dragon Ball games ever made. Bandai Namco appears to have been acutely aware of the fans’ opinions on the last title and has polished the open-world RPG experience, taking time to throw in as much fan service as humanly possible. The game’s premise is as ridiculous as you could expect from a universe full of ridiculous plotlines: time-travelling bad guys have started to mess with the established Dragon Ball timeline, trying to undo events that happened in the past to make sure everyone’s favourite heroes fail. Your job, as part of an elite group of time-police, is to travel to each point and make sure history isn’t affected.
The idea is a fairly ingenious one: from the hub world, populated with the usual affair of NPCs and side quests, a player can pick and choose their favourite moments from the Dragon Ball universe, and Bandai Namco are unrestrained in how they present their game. Players can create their own time-cop from a variety of races, looks and styles and then choose what level of impossibly-ripped they want to be. Missions come in the form of training matches, story missions and custom challenges - as well as set-piece big boss battles in which you and a team of other players attempt to take on one of Dragon Ball’s big bad guys.
These big multiplayer battles were the main event of what Bandai Namco were letting us see at gamescom. In these modes the player can join forces with six others and fight a big villain from the series - Vegeta, Freeza, etc. - and try to defeat them in the quickest time possible. The mechanics of the game’s combat, where players fly around, teleport, burst with speed and throw epilepsy-inducing energy attacks at each other, creates a battlefield full of action. One exceptionally intriguing feature, however, sees one player “locked out” from the fight in some way. We were shown one player trapped in his own mind by an enemy’s power, forced to fight a shadow of himself. This occurs without a loading screen and while the battle at large still happens around the player. They can be knocked out of their stupor by a team-mate, though Bandai Namco says that this is a fairly tough task, as they’ll have their hands full fighting a boss while a man down.
To be totally honest it’s a massive shame that I’m not a huge Dragon Ball fan. The game seems to capture the look and feel of the series perfectly. Characters mimicked their on-screen personas perfectly and the voice-acting, at least in Japanese, was spot-on. Whether the game will appeal to non-fans is another matter entirely, as the game doesn't look exactly noob-friendly. It assumes that the player knows a lot about the show and universe going in, and doesn't seem to make much effort to explain what’s going on. One man’s confused mess is another man’s perfect game, however, so for at least Dragon Ball fans, Xenoverse 2’s power-level is looking pretty darn high.