E3 2014: Powering Up Dragon Ball Xenoverse to the Next Generation
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"Warriors, gather here!" a deep voice booms. Its cadence struck a familiar chord in me, as the camera panned across barren terrain and landed on the back of a recognisable orange gi. It was the uniform of Goku, the iconic lead character of an anime series that is nearly 30 years old. He clashed with another familiar face, Vegeta, and the duo made a show of exchanging blows.
The scene is a classic Dragon Ball Z battle re-created within Dragon Ball Xenoverse (XV), the latest entry in the Dragon Ball series of fighting games. Developed by Japanese studio Dimps, which previously worked on the well-received Dragon Ball Z: Budokai series, Dragon Ball Xenoverse marks the first time the series will be hitting the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.
I was treated to a viewing of a very early version of the game with global producer Shoya Yamazaki. It featured Goku engaged in one-on-one battles with a variety of familiar enemies including Frieza, Cell, and Buu. As a long-time fan of the Dragon Ball Z anime, seeing such battles take place again resonated with me.
For all their similarities however, these fights felt different to the anime counterparts I held in my memory. Energy blasts looked brighter, characters had gained visual depth that was absent in the anime, and Goku's signature kamehameha move pulsed with a newfound blazing energy.
Sure, the characters looked the same and their trademark moves remained conceptually unchanged, but the aesthetics in Dragon Ball XV brought the universe to a new level of vibrancy. And although the game will also see release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, I was assured that developer Dimps was "building this game as a next-gen game."
Characters in Dragon Ball Xenoverse sport real-time animations during battles, as evidenced by the grimaces I witnessed on Goku's face during his fight with Cell. It was a small feature that had no impact on battles where mechanics were concerned, but added a nice little touch of authenticity. Fights occurred at a speedy pace and looked flashy, but Yamazaki assured me the combo system had been created with the goal of allowing the game to be more "accessible."
More skilled fans will still be able to enjoy the more complex mechanics, however, thanks to a combo layering system that would be present in the game, he added. Combos could be mixed up with different move input order, and holding down a button for longer grants it harder impact.
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Despite my concerns that players would have a smaller pool of characters than some previous games in the series, Yamazaki was confident that the full game would feature a large array of characters. He pointed to the game's inclusion of a mysterious new city, as well as the teaser for a new unrecognizable character as an example of new features that would make their way into the released game.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse brings a 30-year-old anime universe to life on a new generation of consoles. Based on the brief glimpse I was shown, I am eager to see whether the full game will offer both longtime fans and newcomers a fun fighting game experience as rich as it is vibrant.