Dragon Ball XenoVerse certainly wasn't perfect, but for a mostly fresh take on the Dragon Ball license it got a lot of things right, and its direct sequel, Dragon Ball XenoVerse 2, isn't looking to shake things up. Instead, this is a brawler that takes the typical Japanese sequel route, in that it's happy to keep the fundamentals in place while expanding upon everything else. This means more quests, more customisation, a bigger playable character roster, and a refined combat system.
Right off the bat, XenoVerse 2 will seem immediately familiar to anyone who's put time into the first game, from the menu designs all the way through to the sound effects. It'd be easy to criticise the release for sticking too close to its predecessor, but then you'd have to ask yourself why it's so similar to begin with. Simply put, you don't fix what isn't broken, and in many ways, this is the mantra at the sequel's core. Rather than attempt to write an entirely new chapter, here we have a developer that's keen to take what it learned from the original and apply it to a new title. Basically, if XenoVerse is Cell, then XenoVerse 2 is Perfect Cell.
It's not quite Super Perfect Cell, though. There are a few returning minor issues here, like the inability to quickly replay a specific mission without first having to go back to the game's hub area, and overpowered computer controlled opponents can still be a source of frustration when they're clearly bending the rules to suit their needs. Load times can be rather lengthy, too, and we noticed a fair amount of spelling mistakes in dialogue boxes and cutscene subtitles. Of course, none of these issues are enough to ruin the experience, but it's a shame that they haven't been stamped out.
Smaller problems aside, the bottom line here is that if you enjoyed the first game, you're going to enjoy this. Newcomers, meanwhile, are going be jumping into the fray with a title that's pretty much an improvement over its predecessor in every way.
Said improvements begin with the title's new hub area, which is vast and full of things to see and do. Conton City acts as your base of operations, housing shops where you can buy skills, items, and equipment. The city itself is split up into multiple districts all boasting their own unique style; there's a Namek-themed farm up in the hills, a desert space with giant mushrooms sprouting from the sand, and a residential area complete with a Time Patrol academy. It's like the many memorable locales of Akira Toriyama's work have been cut into pieces and sewn together, and it makes for a fantastic home to return to after a tough mission.
Indeed, being part of the Time Patrol isn't easy, as evidenced by the numerous trials that you'll have to overcome while attempting to restore Dragon Ball's history. Once again, timelines are being distorted by a selection of big baddies, and it's up to your custom hero to put a stop to the madness. The premise is obviously familiar, but the plot still stands strong as a very clever and engaging take on the Dragon Ball sagas, which have been retold countless times at this point.
The story takes place after the events of the first game, but it keeps things vague enough so that the plot will still make sense to those who didn't dabble in XenoVerse. There is an extra in having save data from the previous title stored on your PlayStation 4, however, in that you'll be able to import your hero into XenoVerse 2 and have them appear throughout the story as a supporting character. A small detail in the grand scheme of things, but a thoughtful touch all the same.
Speaking of detail, there's plenty of it in this comprehensive sequel. Easter eggs and nods to the places, people, and events of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, all of the movies, and even a bit of Dragon Ball Super make this a must for fans of the popular Japanese property - and that's not to mention the sheer amount of content that's on offer when it comes to optional quests and assignments.
Outside of the main story, you'll likely be jumping into Parallel Quests to level up your fighter and get your hands on loot in the form of equipment and skills. Some of these missions are plucked directly from the first game, but there's a sizeable amount of new scenarios to get stuck into as well, including co-op focused expert missions. The drive to gather better gear and more powerful techniques remains, and you'll soon find yourself revisiting the Parallel Quest booth time and time again just to see your character develop.
Fortunately, the loot system's been tweaked for the better - at least, as far as we can tell. Drop rates seem to have been increased across the board, with a Z mission rating gifting us most, if not all available unlocks from a specific quest. A good thing, seeing as there are more clothing items and skills than ever before. And while we're on the topic, it's also worth mentioning that clothing has seen a slight alteration. After progressing a decent way into the release, you'll unlock the ability to craft QQ Bangs - items that, when equipped, completely replace the stat boosts of regular clothing. In other words, the fashionistas among you will be able to dress however you want without having to worry about the accompanying stat bonuses.
Quality of life improvements are reasonably rampant, then, but the positive additions don't stop there. Time Distortions are a new feature which provide yet more questing opportunities, allowing you to visit places like Frieza's spaceship and Majin Buu's makeshift home. Each location has its own story to tell and its own set of missions, creating narrative offshoots that provide ample entertainment when you're not up for continuing the main plot or taking part in miscellaneous activities. Whether you're advancing through the ranks of the Frieza Force or helping Great Saiyaman dispense justice, Time Distortions are some of the title's most creative and compelling components.
Moving on, it's time to talk about very core of Dragon Ball: the action. Barring the silky smooth jump to 60 frames per second, fights largely feel the same in XenoVerse 2. Movement and timing are still key to success, and utilising skills that complement each other can really improve your chances. Combat remains fast, flashy, and packs a punch, but if you look beneath the surface, you'll see that a slew of subtle alterations have been implemented to create a more fluid set of mechanics.
For starters, invincibility frames are less prevalent, meaning that linking super moves into regular combos is a lot easier. Staying up close and personal with your opponent is encouraged now, too, as you can make use of lightning quick chasing moves that are designed to stop your foe from running away. In theory, this should put an end to enemies who simply sit at a distance and spam long range attacks. In turn, this opens up a new emphasis on close quarters combat, where you'll need to make use of advanced techniques like perfect guards, stamina breaks, and nicely timed sidesteps to get the most out of your chosen intergalactic warrior. All in all, these changes - alongside a few other minor tweaks - combine to create a fairer combat system that better rewards skill and your ability to read your opponent.
All of the above-mentioned enhancements bleed into the title's suite of online modes, too. You can battle other players competitively both one-on-one and in three-on-three team battles. The latter is a predictably chaotic mode of play, but team brawls can be a blast with friends since you can watch each other's backs and combine your attacks to form original, devastating combos. When this style of play clicks, there's some real depth to explore here.
The same goes for the co-op side of the multiplayer experience, which is still a fantastic way to get through particularly difficult missions that may have previously been giving you trouble. This is especially true of the new expert missions, which require a bit more thought than your average quest, and having other players fight by your side to bring down a seemingly unstoppable foe gives way to moments of eye-catching heroism.
In terms of visuals, XenoVerse 2 looks as colourful and as lively as you'd expect, although some blurry textures do pop up now and again. Meanwhile, on the audio side of things, the release features a surprisingly catchy soundtrack that packs a collection of infectiously upbeat tunes. The English voice work, however, is a bit hit and miss - and there are definitely some lip syncing issues going on. Thankfully, a Japanese voice option is available for those who want it.
The definition of a bigger and better sequel, Dragon Ball XenoVerse 2 doesn't try to fix what isn't broken, and instead focuses on building upon the foundations of the first game. With a crazy amount of content to blast through - both online and offline - an improved combat system, and new ways to develop and customise your very own Dragon Ball hero, this is very much the definitive XenoVerse experience, and an absolute must for fans of Akira Toriyama's manga and anime epic.