Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Review
Reviewed on PCAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the latest Dragon Ball Z game to be released by Bandai Namco. CybcerConnect2 (well known for their work on the Naruto games) are in charge of development this time round and the game is bit of a mix of everything really. It’s a semi open world adventure role playing game, which puts it more in line with 2016’s Xenoverse 2, rather than the more recent 3v3 fighter Dragon Ball FighterZ. This game does away with any kind of ‘original’ campaign as those two did but rather aims to follow the manga (some sagas from the anime are omitted but we’ll get to that) as closely as possible and allowing the story to take centre stage. As a disclaimer I’ve been a DBZ fan since I was a kid and have played most of the games that have come out over the years. And since this is a story that’s been told through various games down the years, obvious spoilers ahead from Raditz all the way to Buu.
Straight off the bat, one thing that’s obvious is the care that CyberConnect2 have put into the development of this game. You could quite easily play this game, without having watched the anime and not miss that much. There’s a real care that’s gone into recreating some of the almost less memorable bits in the show. Whether it’s taking charge of Vegeta throughout the Namek Saga to take out Frieza’s men one by one (who’d have thought that Cui would get his moment) or Piccolo’s fights against Android 19 and Cell in his first form.
The game is at its absolute best when it’s telling the story. There’s a lot of cutscenes in this game but when they’re done well, they’re beautiful. They capture the spirit of the series and fill in a lot of story that you can’t really get from spamming your Big Bang attack at a helpless android. The small moments that don’t normally get into DBZ games are given their time and the more famous moments towards the end of sagas are given nice touches that just transport you to the anime for a second. Follow up on sending Vegeta flying during your battle with him early on and the game slows and zooms in as you catch him square in the face. It’s a nice surprise when playing a fight that’s been done countless times down the years.
As much as Dragon Ball Z is a story based around fighting, it’s really just about Goku, his family and his friends. Which must be where the name ‘Kakarot’ comes from because for large parts of this game you’re not playing as the titular hero. Early on you float between Gohan, Piccolo and Vegeta which I actually really enjoyed, especially Gohan and Vegeta. So what’s it actually like to play though?
The gameplay is split between a semi open world area with access to other confined areas and the over-the-shoulder area fighter in battles. The fighting system is simple: one button attacks, you have an array of ‘super moves’ you can equip before battle and you have probably my favourite the ‘step’ button (allowing you to basically dodge and vanish to your left or right – very DBZ style). Although it is simple, I found it quite enjoyable. There’s a surge meter that when full allows you to really increase your power and speed as well as having supporting fighters alongside you every now and again in line with the story.
Each fight you come up against in the story, each character you’re facing will have their own super move that you can’t do anything about. It’s just about avoiding getting hit. Whether that’s Guldo’s telekinetic powers or the Android’s ability to leach your health from you, they represent different challenges. And this might just be me, but I found some of the fights a lot easier than others and that kind of reflected the series. I pummelled Buu with Gohan and Frieza with Trunks, but struggled with Vegeta against Bardock or Goku vs Android 20. I realise that if I did all the side quests and put time into the other aspects of the game, I’d find most of the fights a lot easier.
And there’s a reason that I stuck more to the story after a while. The other half to the game is the RPG semi open world area. There’s a lot of great stuff outside of the main story fighting element to this game. The Z Encylcopedia is probably one of the reasons that I’m going to continue playing the game in the future. It’s a treasure trove of information about the series and the characters and little call-backs (check) to the less talked about moments of the series.
Moving about the map is also fun and feels just right once you get used to the controls for flying . It feels like you’re in the show and flying to a new encounter and the Saiyans feel a bit lighter than Piccolo which makes sense. There are ‘Z Orbs’ dotted around the map which you used to upgrade your party’s super moves but I found that you didn’t really need to go and try to collect them all. Between dispatching with random enemies dotted around the world and your main campaign battles, you should be fine.
But there’s a feeling that this whole section is rushed. The side quests that are open to you at various ‘intermission’ points between sagas are, well, just really boring. They’re mostly fetch quests that involve you flying above an area with your scouter (ki sense) out, looking for shiny bits of ground. And when you deliver it, between loading screens to a new area, there’s 3 more items to find in a different area.
I love DBZ and even I was struggling to find the motivation to carry on with the side quests and the optional extras once I was about halfway through a game, having spent half an hour looking for an orb I couldn’t see on Namek I gave in and continued the story. And I’m glad for it to be honest. When I did decide to try the odd side mission out, I normally received a Soul Emblem from that character. These can be used on the ‘Community Boards’ to add bonuses to your gameplay. By adding certain characters together on a Community Board you would get bonuses (so Master Roshi and Launch get a bonus as would Goku, Tien, Yamcha and Krillin). I tinkered around with this bit of the game for a while and didn’t really see much of an impact on how I was playing the game. There’s a cooking and fishing elemnt to this game that just feels tacked on. It’s a nice nod to the amount of food that Goku et al tend to eat on the show but I don’t want to be spending my time on this game looking for apples. Looking for the dragon balls is a nice touch but then there’s the Control Room the driving mini game (which to be fair, does have its part in the anime) but it’s just been tacked on. You notice how bad these sections of the game are because of how polished the story is and how they’ve done a great job in the combat system.
I’d much rather have the Garlic Jnr Saga, which as it wasn’t based on any manga and was created for the anime only isn’t here than the Community Board or the cooking. And then there’s the ‘sort of’ cutscenes. While a lot of the fights in the game are given their own cutscenes, the majority o
Which leaves me in a really weird place to be honest. I think this might be my favourite Dragon Ball game since Legacy of Goku 2 on GameBoy Advance and there might be a little bit of nostalgia in that memory since I was only a child when I played it. It feels a little rushed and maybe a bit too ambitious in some of its elements. And maybe that’s what this game needed, ambition. this is franchise which seems to bring out a game every other year with no new material (bar Super) to base it on. If you’re a fan of the series, you will love this game and you’ll forgive some of the weaker elements to it. For newcomers, there’s no better place to start than this game.