As much as I enjoy Bandai Namco's Dragon Ball (and Naruto) games, they've been missing a trick. By rigidly following the series story arcs and religiously focusing on the characters, they've never given us the chance to see how we'd fit into their universes. They've got all these cool powers, abilities, weapons and skills, yet we're rarely able to create our own avatar and really become a part of their world.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is finally going to change all that. Now we're the star of the show.
Dimps have been teasing a mysterious new character for weeks, and finally revealed their identity at Gamescom 2014. The new hero is us, a fully customisable new chararacter who we can design to our specifications. We can choose our race, appearance, power set and skills, then travel back in time to intervene in key story moments with and against legendary series staples. Then spend our downtime strolling around a future city and interacting with other players much like a Monster Hunter hub town... before seeing what the Scouter says about their power level.
Character creation appears to be impressively deep, at least considering that it's the first time we've seen it to any great extent in the series. Your first choice comes down to race, which modifies both your basic appearance and your combat role. Earthlings are typical jack-of-all-trades with strong if unremarkable stats in all areas, potent with Ki attacks. Meanwhile Majin are much tougher and resilient with higher base HP statistics, whereas Namekian heroes continually regenerate their lower health pool.
You're then able to set your gender, skin tone, hair style and physical attributes -- height and weight -- which actually factor into gameplay. Bigger and bulkier characters will hit harder and suck up more damage, but naturally move much slower than shorter lithe brawlers. Finally, your special moves can be picked and tinkered with both in terms of type, damage and cosmetic effects. Yes, you can become a Super Saiyan, before you ask.
Once created, your avatar will take their first steps into Tokitoki Town: a brand new setting that makes its debut in Dragonball Xenoverse. This sleek and colourful city exists in the far future; powered by outlandish technology that allows its citizens to travel back in time. In gameplay terms, it will act as a hub, with other players strolling around to talk to or compare stats (expect some fierce rivalries concerning power levels -- this is Dragon Ball after all). You'll also be able to team up or challenge rivals to 2v2 showdowns.
In terms of the storyline, your character (for reasons yet unknown), will travel to different key moments throughout the Dragonball canon -- usually legendary battles and high points -- then intervene with extreme prejudice. You'll encounter Goku, Vegeta and other classic characters, then battle with or against them depending on the situation and changing the timeline in the pr0cess. I suspect that we'll be trying to bring balance to the timeline, but to be honest, it's basically just an excuse to see how we stack up against the greats and experience the coolest moments from the anime in a brand new way.
Apparently Trunks will also show up to test our power from time to time, summoned by Shenron himself. Because, hey, why not.
Naturally we'll also be able to choose from plenty of existing characters to use in battles and multiplayer brawls, though, so it's high time we discussed the combat. Xenoverse functions much like its predecessors in terms of ridiculously OTT 1v1 or 2v2 bouts in large arenas with plenty of destructible objects and the ability to keep fighting underwater, as players generally abuse all manner of insane attacks and aerial dodges to bring the pain at range or close the gap. However, it's clear that Dimps are using the power of the new-gen systems to great effect, as evidenced by wince-inducing facial animations as characters take a crunching hit, and an impressive level of detail. Havok physics and new Yebis 2-powered lighting make their debut too.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse is slated to release next year, and details are still thin on the ground, but we hope that it will be a breath of fresh air that lets us finally step into the Dragon Ball universe ourselves; not through somebody else's eyes.