You'd think that after my last blog, where I discussed how I'm not as huge on character creation as it seems like the rest of the gaming community seems to be, my taking up the Initiation Station challenge now would be the last thing I'd do.
You know what? I would have agreed with you, at least right up until I got to the end of that blog and was reminded of one of my favorite games from last year. A game that just so happened to revolve completely around being able to make your own character. A game that got me back into console gaming on top of that!
How could I have been so blind?
It's time to open up your customization menus, ready your inventories, and get ready for a trip to a time yet unseen, because today we're going to be talking--
You were expecting Fallout maybe?
Man. Dragonball Xenoverse. It's not exactly an old game, but so much has happened since that it feels like a lifetime ago since I last thought about it all that much. I still clearly remember the buildup for it all the same. The mysterious new character! Was he a new Super Saiyan God? Was Bandai Namco introducing character customization? What could it be? What madness was going on within the confines of Bandai Namco...?!
With Dragonball hype at the highest it had been in years and no Dragonball Super (and lack of a Super dub) to promptly taper said hype, more and more eyes continued to follow this game as more and more information was released. "Finally, after missing out on Dragonball Online, we'd finally get to step into the world of Dragonball for ourselves!" "Finally, a Dragonball game that had a new story!" All kinds of thoughts and hopes were placed on this game as the pile of info increased.
I got the game at launch and, to my recollection, I had gone in knowing as little as possible. I was at the start menu. I had just been treated to the game's opening sequence and now had that fantastic new version of the series' grand old opening song in my head.
The hype was real. The hype was getting ready to go Super Saiyan at this point! How could it not be?
Just one questioned remained... What on Namek was I going to actually be now that the game was here and in my hands?
My options were Human, Saiyan, Namekian, or a member of Frieza's race. I can think of a few other options (that other Dragonball games have had) I would have liked to see, but then and now, I think it's a pretty nice spread.
Naturally, me being the Kamen Rider guy I am, the superhero fanatic and all, I totally went with the Saiyan and got myself some Saiyaman armor for some sweet ass transformations.
Naw, I went with a Frieza Race character.
I added some tasteful spikes to the head, jacked up the height a bit, and gave him a mouth guard. I picked a color scheme that I liked, with some dark blue in the jewel-type parts, leaving the primary armor a pearly color and a reddish color for the skin. I'm not an expert on designs or anything, but I thought it looked pretty swell. Not tacky, and not like some of the reeee-donkulous ones I'd come to see online.
I guess it doesn't really matter what I looked like. Partially because I have no pictures on hand, but mostly because I was happy with it. After that? I was off!
Unfortunately, as you can see pretty clearly with the Frieza Race picture above, the game was designed so that each class was designed to play a certain way. It wasn't just that their starting stuff and core abilities were so that they would be the best at doing something, their class specific clothes, which naturally were tied to stat boosts, also only came with certain boosts.
And I... didn't really care. I had my little alien man battle with brute strength with his normal attacks, before flying around and blasting with some big ol' energy blasts just like momma showed me. I say momma here because according to the game's other classes, I fight more like a girl for some reason. No matter which other class it is, as far as the ones with gender options go, I lean towards the female in terms of how I play the game.
If you ask me, so does Vegeta, but then again, Bulma's had him by the collar for years, so it makes sense.
When it came down to it, I was probably a terrible player simply for the fact that my style did not match my class as well as it could have. I was always going to be doing less than I should have been. I had to use equipment like Goku's boots and wristbands simply to balance out drawbacks from the armor my class was supposed to be wearing to take advantage of what it was made to do. I did lose more than not online, but I got through offline game fine and I also had my share of wins online as well.
Despite this, and the day when I tried to get a certain online trophy and just suffered a bunch of losses for it, I still didn't care about what I was made to do.
I wasn't going to be told how to play just because my character was of a certain race, you know what I mean? I was playing the way I wanted to. As a Frieza Race character, with the movies I wanted to, how I wanted. Done. If I lost, I lost, but at least I would lose while I was having fun rather than forcing myself. Even when I was able to reassign my character's stats so I could min-max them how I wanted, I did it in a way that benefitted how I played rather than what worked best for the class.
If my attack was lower and none of my armor would boost it for me, I'd just have to get more punches in and blow them up faster. Simple, right?
Dragonball Xenoverse probably won't win any awards any time soon. Most people have probably forgotten about it by this point.
Yet for me, it was one of the few cases in recent memory, maybe even the only one, where I was able to get into a game like this. Making my character wasn't just this time sink spent on a character model I'd stop caring about or want to/have to cover up in armor later in the game. Making my character here was actually fun. I wanted to see my character flying around familiar places and the different faces Bandai Namco programmed in and having them do the fusion dance with strangers in the lobby.
There were a lot of great little touches that added a lot to the experience for me in the offline part of the game as well, beyond simply being able to make my own character of one of the races I'd grown accustomed to over years and take them into the ring and battle with them. From something as little as having cutouts of your character on screen in the appropriate places, like they "belonged" there, to the (overly grindy) mentor system, where characters from the series taught you moves, interacted with you, and best of all, commented on your performance. I was probably grinning for an hour the first time I got this.
I think I could get into the kind of games I took issue with in my last blog a lot more if they were ones like Xenoverse. If there were more games that took established worlds and settings, universes that have already had their stories told or are having their stories told elsewhere, and opened them up and let us make them into our playgrounds.
That might be the kind of game I would want to be "me" in.