Review: Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (Switch)

If there’s one genre that has had a surprising amount of support on the Nintendo Switch, it’s fighting games. Not only did Pokken Tournament DX come out earlier this month, but we also saw the introduction of Nintendo’s brand new IP, Arms, and Capcom’s revamped Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challenges a couple months after the platform’s release. Well here comes a new addition to the Switch’s ever growing catalogue: Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 takes all your beloved Dragon Ball characters and mashes them up in a time-alternating plot that has many twists and turns along the way. Throw in a character creator and RPG elements, and you have yourself a game with all the potential in the world. Unfortunately, upon its release late last year, Xenoverse 2 was met with mixed critical reception, as it’s far from the most tightly knit fighting game experience on the market. Even so, Bandai Namco has decided to bring the 3D fighter onto the handheld/console hybrid in hopes of attracting a new crowd and the results are mixed. At the very least, let’s hope this opens up the possibility of Dragon Ball FighterZ seeing the light of day on Nintendo’s platform.

Xenoverse 2 brings players to a brand new hub area called Canton City, a location that’s heavily varied with iconic Dragon Ball sites. Here, players will get to create their new hero of time as the silent protagonist from the first game is off doing his or her own thing – although occasionally popping up in the story. You can once again pick a race of Majin, Saiyan, Earthling, Namekian or Freiza, each with their own unique perks. Considering these are pretty much the only significant being in the Dragon Ball universe, you can’t really fault Dimps for not adding to the pool, although it would have been interesting if there was the option to create your own race from scratch. Overall, not a whole lot has changed with these five races, although there have been some overdue enhancements. For example, a Saiyan character can now go Super Saiyan 3 if their Ki is high enough, Freizas can turn Golden, and Buus can transform into Kid Buu. You still can’t become a Saiyan God, or the Blue version past that, but that leaves something for future releases.

The plot behind Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is essentially the same as before. Towa and Mira are back, recruiting antagonists such as Janemba and Lord Slug, to go about altering time in the vast universe. Granted, you can only do so much with a story about demons trying to distort time, but Xenoverse 2 is rehashed to an unfortunate degree. It’s a “did this, done that” plot where there’s very little stakes at play as you know you’ve already beaten the two not too long ago. It even goes as far to reuse some of the same scenes, although granted, the vast majority of the game is told at different points during each saga. As fascinating as the story was in the previous game, at least at a conceptual level, the campaign in the sequel is a complete trudge to get through, especially considering it retains random difficulty spikes and uneven playtime in each era.

Gameplay is more or less what we’ve come to expect from a Dimps Dragon Ball product. If you’ve never played one in the long running series, this is more or less a fighting game, although instead of being limited to a two-dimensional plane, battles are situated in all possible directions. Two of the buttons on the controller will be your very best friends for the entirety the game as combos are centered around mashing square and triangle. There is a grab feature, but considering how sluggish movement can be thanks to the verticality of full 3D gameplay, and the rather frustrating lock-on system, you’ll rarely be using this ability, even on enemies that encourage it. Even the standard Ki attacks have a minimal effect, partially staggering an opponent for a split-second. There’s a little more complexity to this, though, as if you can pull together combinations of all the different moves, things flow very well. It’s the special and ultimate moves that will add some variety as, at least for the customizable character, you’ll be able to swap out different moves learned throughout the campaign to better suit your play style. If you’re into Kamehameha or Destructo Disc, you can mix and mash to create someone who can perform all your favorite iconic moves.

Of course, while this is a fighting game, there’s also RPG elements attached to it, as well. This is one of the better aspects of Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 as you’ll be able to level up the created character how you want. Only use Ki blasts? Well you can stack the attribute points all into that one category. Clothing also affects attributes different depending on their level, which is somewhat disappointing considering it limits the character’s fashionability. This isn’t the most complex RPG system out there, but being tied to a fighting game such as this lends some variety in how you approach each scenario, and even though there will be a little bit of grinding for items and levels, it helps curb some of the higher difficulty spikes throughout the story.

Unfortunately, while combat is just OK in terms of control and entertainment value, the core mission structure is uninspired. This is one of the more repetitive experiences on the market, rivaling games such as Dynasty Warriors. It may contain an incredible number of characters to play as, each, for the most part, with their own unique movesets, but both the main campaign and the Parallel Quests are the same slog. You’ll be tasked with taking down a set number of opponents before maybe a boss appears. At least for Parallel Quests, there will be set parameters to unlock a special fight, but even then it’s mainly used for grinding for better items.

This is where the online portion comes into play. Players will be able to bring their character creations into combat to not only fight against one another, but participate in Parallel Quests. Running through the repetitive missions is no fun alone, so doing it with a friend or even a random player online does add a level of enjoyment that’s desperately needed. Fortunately, there is one new mode added to Xenoverse 2: Expert Mission. This is essentially a unique boss battle where there are special attacks that will leave your party vulnerable. For example, the boss can cause an internal struggle amongst the group when someone is mind controlled, or shot them off into a different plane of existence. There are ways to counter this and bring party members back, but it’s all about working together diligently, instead of everyone going off to do their own thing. It’s an entertaining new mode that adds a level of variety to a rather monotonous game.

As for the Nintendo Switch features, there’s not enough here to justify another look for those who picked it up on PC or console last year. Starting things off, the story quests in the first Dragon Ball Xenoverse are made available, but require some progress in Xenoverse 2’s story to gradually gain access. Regardless, it’s a nice addition to anyone who missed it the first go around. There are also motion controls to trigger specific moves, such as the iconic Kamehameha, but the problem is that it isn’t the most ideal way to play the game. It’s far easier and less strenuous to use the standard controls. You’re also able to fight against a friend with one Joy-Con a piece, which works surprisingly well considering the camera has always been somewhat locked in these battles. With that said, it’s hard to replicate the feeling of fighting each other with a both controllers or a Pro Controller, especially considering the 360-degree movement which can be a bit finicky.

Unfortunately, the handheld mode seems to have some problems in the graphical department. The visuals themselves seems like a step down from last year’s game in terms of texture quality and anti-aliasing, although they feel like minor discrepancies compared to the frequent framerate issue that occur. Fortunately, these rarely ever pop up in actual fights and aren’t really apparent in Docked Mode, but when in Canton City, there are multiple sections of the map where things can just crawl. That’s not to mention the game doesn’t run at 60fps anymore, but instead is halved to 30fps. Fortunately, while there are a number of downgrades, one aspect that has improved is the load times. At least on PlayStation 4, load times could take forever to go from one match back into Canton City. This is cut dramatically, with time looking at a spinning icon being reduced by around 10 seconds. It may not seem like a lot, but it adds up quickly.

Closing Comments:

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 was an entertaining but flawed game when it was released last year and it remains such on Nintendo Switch. If anything, this port feels like the worst version to pick up, with numerous graphical sacrifices and severe frame rate issues in the hub city whilst playing on the handheld mode. It does include the main story quests from the first game so newcomers won’t miss out on anything (even though the sequel’s story is similar), but the newly-added motion controls, while a novel idea, are far from the ideal way to play the game. The only appealing aspect for someone who has already enjoyed Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is that this version allows you to play it on the go, but even then it’s a messy port. For those new to the series, this is a solid entry point, but don’t expect it to set your world on fire.