Finding Fun in Flawed Games

Following the announcement of Dragon Ball FighterZ at E3 this past June, a friend and I had the same idea: This game looks cool but it’s not out yet, so let’s play Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. We didn’t know much about the game, but it seemed like a sound way to satiate our childhood nostalgia for a show ostensibly about screaming and spiky hair.

I’m more than 40 hours into it now, and… I have mixed feelings. Which is a weird thing to say about a game you’ve spent 40 hours with. But let me explain.

The game has its problems. It borrows a lot from the MMO and 3D fighting game genres, but lacks the depth of either genre’s best examples. Character creation is one of Xenoverse 2’s biggest features, but ultimately characters don’t play very differently. And, at least on PC, where I played the game, I saw frequent crashes after extended play sessions.

Xenoverse 2 was, for me, a flawed and often frustrating game, but it was also one with which I had a lot of fun with. And that’s all that matters, right? Its gameplay loop — do a quest, get loot, repeat — was addicting and rewarding. Maybe that was it. I love loot games. And to be completely honest, I may have enjoyed Xenoverse 2 more as a dress-up game than anything else.

Stop, listen: My character, Jade, looks really, really cool. She studies the blade like it’s nothin’.

If I had to sum up my opinion of Xenoverse 2, I’d say, “It isn’t a bad game, but…” The uncertainty at the end of that thought has made me pause and think about the game well after I’ve stopped playing it.

Last year, Waypoint’s Patrick Klepek wrote in a piece titled “In Defense of Playing Bad Games” that “even bad games have something interesting to say,” which is similar to something I’ve thought about media for awhile now: The worst thing anything can be is boring. If a piece of media manages to do something interesting, then that earns it at least a few points.

Xenoverse 2, with its over the top action and story, is anything but boring (though admittedly it does become repetitive). It’s interesting because it’s different from the Dragon Ball games before it, even though those differences don’t necessarily elevate it above or below them. I could have easily dropped it the first or second time the game crashed, but I stuck with it because it was trying something different and had some fun in the end.

Maybe I liked Xenoverse 2 more because I wasn’t expecting to like it. It’ll be interesting to compare it to Dragon Ball FighterZ when it comes out next year. I’m almost certain I’ll enjoy FighterZ (its ridiculous title has already given me much mirth), but we’ll have to wait and see if it has its own surprises in store.

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