Dragonball Z: Kakarot, One Punch Man, Pirate Warriors 4 and More Hands-On

Gamescom 2019 was a big event for Bandai-Namco as the publisher showed off a lot of its lineup releasing between now and early 2020. Hot off the end of the event, The Digital Fix was given an opportunity to have a go at these titles and give you a sneak preview of what you can expect from Bandai-Namco’s upcoming titles.

Dragonball Z: Kakarot

I must confess that I’ve had my fill of Dragonball Z in games. While the series’s arcs are some of the best and most spectacular the Dragonball franchise has ever shown off, I believe as far as games go they’ve been done to death. It stands to reason that when Dragonball Z: Kakarot was first announced, it fell a bit flat with me and other likeminded folks. Boy, was I quick in my judgment.

For those who may be unfamiliar with this title, Dragonball Z: Kakarot is an open-world game set in the Dragonball Z series. According to Bandai-Namco, in this game you get to go beyond the epic battles to “experience life in the Dragonball Z universe as you fight, fish, eat, and train with Goku”. In one of two builds available, I was able to sample a taste of the open-world elements of the game. I got to fly on the Nimbus with Piccolo by my side in search of Raditz who had kidnapped Gohan, a quest marker guiding my way. At the same time, the map had other sidequests scattered across the open terrain where I was free to either land and hoof it or continue flying both with and without the Nimbus. Before facing off against Goku’s less-than-charming brother, I had the opportunity to explore the world around me. In some areas, the game shifted to a combat arena where I needed to fight some random creatures. Defeating them earned me XP and other rewards. I was even able to fight a giant dinosaur which I found roaming around the grassy terrain. 

Approaching Raditz triggered a story sequence that played out beat-for-beat exactly like in anime. The voice acting was as dramatic as the show. I could feel the familiar sense of tension and excitement as I did back when I first watched the show as a child. The battle with Raditz was a tough one, which caught me by surprise, given that most open-world games don’t focus on challenging boss battles as much. I was still familiarising myself with the controls as well so once I learned I could dodge his giant rotating energy beams and became more aware of how important blocking is, I was able to overcome the challenge. The second build I got to test gave me access to the Super Saiyan 2 Gohan versus Cell battle and that was just as challenging, if not more, as Cell multiplies himself so you’re dealing with four of him at the same time. Both fights were extremely fun and exhilarating. A Bandai-Namco representative commented that boss battles are meant to capture the struggle the characters felt during the big battles of the show and I feel the game does a good job of achieving that with both the bosses and its combat. I had access to a lot of familiar special moves, including the legendary Kamehameha, and a system where my character’s stats were significantly boosted once both my Ki meter and another bar were at max. All of these elements allowed me to do so cool Dragonball-style combos to deliver punishment onto my foes. 

The game, overall, is shaping up quite nicely. The visuals are crisp like a modern anime and look almost as good as the ones in Dragonball FighterZ. The cutscenes are incredibly well-made and acted. The open-world movement and free-roaming are fun and a nice way to let players experience the world of this legendary series. Dragonball Z: Kakarot recently got its release date revealed for January 17th, 2020. On top of that, the Buu arc has also been confirmed.

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4

As a gamer who’s only ever dabbled in Musou games, I find the idea of a Warriors-style One Piece game to be like a match made in heaven. With this being the fourth game in the series, one would expect that the focus would be the most recent arcs of the Straw Hat pirates’ journey. However, and thankfully so, KOEI TECMO’s latest take on the ever-popular shonen anime will have players experience the story of One Piece from the beginning.

The build of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 that I played allowed me to experience a battle against Big Mom, one of the Four Emperors, which falls into the Wano Country arc of the show. One of the features Bandai-Namco has talked about in this game is going to be environmental destruction which I thought was a pretty cool addition that is often missing from past Musou games I’ve played. It fits the genre quite well and even more so with One Piece. In the playable build that was on offer, I got to play as Luffy who had a lot of his more recent signature Gomu Gomu moves, such as Elephant Gun, but the coolest bit came when I was able to transform him into his Gear Fourth mode.

Fighting Big Mom was definitely a step-up from the regular goons and elite goons. Aside from her own mess of attacks, she would go into this shielded mode as she wound up for a big attack. Naturally, I had to stop attacking (gasp!) and dodge the attack before moving in for another flurry of Gomu Gomu moves. In order to defeat her, I needed to clear out her two armor layers which then put her into a sort of stunned state, opening up the opportunity for me to unleash some bigger attacks. I’m speculating that this will be the same for all or most bosses in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 when it releases next year.

One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows

I’m always up for a good anime arena brawler and One Punch Man had me quite excited when it was first announced. The question, though, is how does one make Saitama a playable character without making him completely overpowered. In this very early build of the recently revealed One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows Bandai-Namco made an attempt at answering that question.

The game is a 3v3 anime arena fighter. This is where Saitama’s design comes into play because he can’t be chosen until you’ve picked your initial two characters. Once the fight starts, Saitama is placed on a timer during which he is “on his way” and you must fight with just your two other team members until he arrives on the scene. Once the timer is up, Saitama comes crashing in, defeating whichever helpless character your opponent had on the field at the time. After that, Saitama can be switched in and out just like any regular character with each of his attacks essentially being a one-punch kill. I wasn’t able to tell if guarding can stop his attacks as we were only allowed to fight against AI opponents. This implementation of Saitama was interesting as it adds a layer of strategy at the character selection screen. You can still choose to have any other third character you want if you don’t want to sacrifice your last slot for a big portion of the match.

As an anime arena brawler, One Punch Man played like most other games in the genre. Characters have the usual standard combos and special attacks along with a meter for performing supers. Combos can also be built by sequencing certain specials into supers. As it was a very early build of the game, it did feel like the game was missing something and a representative from Bandai-Namco did say they had more features to announce in the future.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered

Confession time: I’ve never played Ni No Kuni. I know, blasphemy. I should be banished to deepest darkest depths of hell and be tortured by rod hot pokers. My time at the hands-on event has given time to reflect on my sin as I had the chance to play a little bit of the Remastered version of the original Ni No Kuni arriving in a few days.

The build of the game seemed to be the full deal and we had a chance to play a save file from a later part. I was woefully unprepared as the enemy I faced off against completely mopped the floor with me as I struggled to comprehend the combat system. I was advised to start from the beginning to get to grips with the game’s combat and I’m glad I did. This game is absolutely gorgeous. The Studio Ghibliness of it all just invoked memories of watching Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away, emotional gut-punches and all. I wasn’t able to get far enough to start learning about the combat because I didn’t want to spoil myself. Suffice to say, if you’re a fan of the series, this remaster is looking stunning and aside from the better visuals, the rest of the game is 1-for-1 exactly like the original 2013 release, which is also releasing on Switch. The remaster of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch will be out on September 20th on PS4 and PC.

Code Vein

With barely enough time to play much, I had to check out the most recent build of one of my most anticipated games for this year, Code Vein. Given a pre-created character, I was plopped into a segment of the game with a companion NPC. Together, we trekked through the hazardous terrain fighting a whole slew of never before seen types of Lost. This put a smile on my face as I was concerned about the variety of enemies in the game. On top of that, this build looked a lot crisper than anything else I had seen or played in the past. Perhaps something with the lighting or a detail bump. The game is just looking more stunning than ever and I can’t wait to dive into the world of Code Vein when it arrives September 27th on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. 

Bandai-Namco’s lineup all the way to early 2020 is an impressive one, to be sure. There’s quite a bit to look forward to and you can bet we will be keeping our ear to the ground for more information as it comes out. To catch all things Code Vein, Dragonball Z: Kakarot, One Punch Man, Ni No Kuni Remastered, and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 stay tuned here to The Digital Fix.

Yannis Vatis

Updated: Sep 15, 2019

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Dragonball Z: Kakarot, One Punch Man, Pirate Warriors 4 and More Hands-On | The Digital Fix