Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (Switch) Review
There’s something special about revisiting a franchise from your childhood as an adult. When I was a kid, I watched Dragon Ball Z every morning on Cheez TV before school. When they bumped it to a later time slot, my mum would watch it for me, and take diligent notes so I would always know what was going on. It’s safe to say I was a pretty big fan, but in the ten odd years since then, I’ve fallen quite a bit out of it. I tried to watch the new series, Dragon Ball Super, but never found the time to really keep up. Then came along Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. It’s an action-adventure game set in the world of Dragon Ball, and it revisits every big moment of the series. These past few weeks I’ve been flooded with nostalgia for a series I’d left behind in my childhood, and it’s been nothing short of a marvellous experience.
So let’s start with the basics. In Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, you play the role of the Future Warrior, an elite soldier plucked from the timeline to join the Time Patrol, an organisation with the sole purpose of protecting history from those who would interfere. As a Time Patroller, you must take on quests to visit pivotal moments in Dragon Ball history, such as the battle between Goku and Frieza, to prevent an evil organisation known as the Time Breakers from altering history to gain power. Your Future Warrior can be any one of five races — Human, Saiyan, Namekian, Frieza or Majin — each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I picked Majin, the fat, tanky blob race inspired by Majin Buu. Meet Kirbuu, my fat blobby child:
The character creator is surprisingly in-depth, depending on what race you pick. Some races, like Humans and Saiyans, get a tonne of different options for both male and female characters, while others, like Namekian and Frieza, are fairly limited, with only one ambiguous gender and less overall customisation options. No matter the race you pick, however, you’ll always get to choose the physical features for your Future Warrior, such as height, weight, head/hairstyle, eye type, mouth type, skin colour, and many more I don’t have the space to list. You’ll even get to choose what voice your character has when they’re grunting and yelling the ridiculous names for all their moves. For such a story-focused game, they didn’t need to make the character creation so in-depth, but I’m glad they did. It’s a nice feeling to see a character you created in a famous scene.
After creating a character, you’ll be thrown into a tonne of cutscenes and a series of tutorials. These do a good job to familiarise new players with the story and controls, and are especially useful for those who didn’t play the first game. However, those who did play the first game, or played Xenoverse 2 on another platform before now, will likely find this a slow, boring, and quite overbearing process. That said, there is also a tutorial for a feature that’s Switch-exclusive: motion control attacks.
See, there are two types of attacks in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2: basic and super attacks. While basic attacks, usually consisting of punches and kicks, are solely bound to buttons, you can opt to perform super attacks with a series of gestures. And let me tell you, it’s awesome. Say you want to perform Goku’s famous Kamehameha — you first hold your hands, with a Joy-Con in each, together by your right side to charge up, then thrust forward with both to fire off the blast. Want to attack with Krillin’s Destructo Disc? You have to hold one Joy-Con above your head, then toss the energy disc forwards. It’s all very silly, but with some clever HD Rumble magic, it actually feels like you’re in the game, throwing beams and blasts at every enemy. And for those who grew up watching Dragon Ball Z, it fulfils every dream for the series you could ever have.
On the topic of controls, Xenoverse 2 does a good job of making things feel fluid and consistent, which is important for a spectacle fighter. Combos are simple enough, with the true challenge of the combat coming from mixing in super attacks with your super attacks. There’s some crazy synergy between certain super attacks and particular races, but the game doesn’t do a particularly great job of explaining which ones are best for you; it’s a game of experimentation. Some moves will seamlessly flow into your combos, and some will disrupt them and leave you open to enemy attacks. On top of that, motion control attacks, while insanely cool, almost always break up the flow of the game, taking too long and often requiring a level of specificity to your movements that more often than not result in being pummelled. It can be a long and arduous process, but once you find the right set of skills for your character and your play-style, you’ll find yourself flying through missions with nothing to hold you back.
In order to unlock more skills, however, you’re going to have to do a bit of grinding. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Xenoverse games, but it can be extremely time-consuming. As you play through the story, you’ll unlock various characters (such as Piccolo, Krillin, and even Goku) called Instructors, who’ll teach you new skills and abilities through a series of training missions. The training missions themselves are simple enough, usually just requiring you to land the attack on the opponent once, but the sheer amount of effort required to even unlock them all is frustrating at best. Each Instructor has various levels of training, but they’re locked until you reach a certain Patroller rank. And to increase your Patroller rank, you have to do training missions.
It reduces the amount of choice you have as a player; if you’re only really interested in learning from Piccolo, for example, you’ll have to do his first training mission, then do training missions for four other Instructors, then take a difficult advancement test, and only then can you attempt Piccolo’s second training mission. And then you have to do the dance all over again if you want to get to his third. What’s worse is that certain instructors with abilities specifically for your race, such as Majin Buu, are unlocked quite late into the story, meaning some races will be disadvantaged for a significant chunk of the game. It can be incredibly annoying, but it does encourage the player to explore different play-styles, and at the very least, it’s quick and easy experience.
So now we get to the big question: how does the Switch version hold up compared to other platforms? Well… it’s okay. Obviously, since it’s running on portable tech, the game isn’t going to look as good as it does on a top-tier PC rig, or even as good as the PS4 version. That said, it does surprisingly well for a console you can hold in your hands. Some areas, such as the hub world, will look a little bit sub-par, with a lot of jagginess in places, but for the most part, missions look and perform very well, with no noticeable frame drops in the 60 odd hours I’ve played. No matter if you’re playing docked or in handheld, the performance is solid, and it looks particularly good in handheld. Online multiplayer is a solid enough experience too, with latency not providing too many issues, despite the lack of Australian servers. That said, low latency may come at a cost for some, so make sure you pick the right region for you.
It’s worth mentioning, as well, that there is DLC available for Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. There are four paid DLC packs, available for $11.95 a piece, or $39.95 for the lot; each contains a few missions, unlockable outfits, new characters, and even a couple new instructors. There’s also a free DLC pack which adds every single mission from the first Xenoverse game — excellent for Switch players, since the first game isn’t available on the platform. There’s a catch with the paid DLC though, and that’s the fact that it’s all end-game content. All of the included missions have extremely high level requirements, with one even requiring you to be at the level cap to even attempt the mission. And what’s more, the costumes that come with them can only be obtained by finishing those missions. My advice? Hold off on buying the DLC until after you’ve sunk a few dozen hours into the game. You’ll thank yourself later.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 on the Nintendo Switch is a game for people who grew up watching the series every morning on Cheez TV. If you know nothing about the series, it’s still a decent starting point, but it leans heavily on nostalgia to make its story work. It’s one of the best action-adventure/RPG games on the console right now, and doesn’t suffer all that much from the Switch’s mobile hardware. On the go or at home on the couch, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is the best way to relive the Dragon Ball series to date.
Review copy provided by publisher.
DLC purchased by reviewer.
Bandai Namco Entertainment
Nostalgia-packed for mega-fans of the series
Hilariously fun (optional) motion controls
Performance is solid on the Switch
Some areas get a bit jaggy
DLC is locked off until late-game
Motion controls, while fun, slow down combat too much