Dragon Ball Z is a great series. It's been over twenty years since it ended, yet we're still seeing new merchandise and home media releases. Even now a new series, Dragon Ball Super, is capturing the hearts of fans in Japan, even if it's less successful in the West. This immense popularity might explain why Bandai Namco has just released Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, a game that retells the entire story of Dragon Ball Z in a tight action-RPG package, as well as expanding on the background characters and events.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot comes to use from CyberConnect2, famous for the ./Hack series as well as the Naruto Ultimate Ninja franchise. Kakarot takes the characters and events of the DBZ storyline and putting them into a fully explorable world. You can play as a lot of your favorite people from the series, each with their own special attacks, stats and experience points. It might seem a bit strange for a game called Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, but you don't actually spend that much time playing as Goku. Most of the time you actually take the role of his son Gohan. In fairness to the developers on this point, this is mostly because Goku wasn't present for a lot of the series his main character status.
Fighting Fury in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
Combat is the main order of the day, as it usually is in games based on Dragon Ball Z. Kakarot is a combination of an RPG and an arena fighter. What this actually means is that you fly around the overworld and occasionally get stopped to beat someone up. During combat, you have special attacks and regular attacks, as well as the option to dodge and block. All the basic building blocks of a combat system are here. Unfortunately, the 'basics' are pretty much all there is going on.
While you have access to regular attacks, you'll stop finding them useful pretty quickly. Around the time of the Zarbon/Dodoria fights if you've seen the anime. When you hit this stage the game becomes entirely about managing your Ki bar which you need for special attacks. At that point, combat is the most formulaic thing in the universe. It's a simple case of waiting for an opening, hitting with a melee combo, then a laser combo, then repeat. The only time you stop is to charge your Ki, turning the game into one of energy management.
During the course of the campaign, every single enemy goes down this way. Even the really tough ones towards the end. Mostly this tactic resulted in an S or A rank from every fight too, the only fights that resulted in a B were because my enemies were much higher level than me, meaning they took ages to die. Not to mention the several enemies that either absorb your health or attacks to heal themselves. They can turn battles into ones of attrition as you have to stick to weak attacks or your physical specials. Particularly difficult if you favor energy or beam specials.
Experience Anguish in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
Speaking of leveling up Kakarot handles it sort of strangely. You have enemies randomly hanging around the overworld who you can fight, but they don't really give out all that much in the way of Exp. Instead, you tend to get most of your levels from random story moments. Even ones that don't make much sense. Once or twice you even get experience points for just flying across a map and watch a few cutscenes. Of course, these experience boosts are because of moments in the story so they are justified. It's just that they do sort of make your level feel a bit arbitrary.
The random enemies also don't appeal that much. When you start out there is only one type of fight to get into. As you move through the story that does eventually expand but only into 3 or 4 different types of enemies. While it is technically possible to avoid getting into these fights, there are several scenarios in which they become very annoying. Basically, whenever you do a side mission that requires you to look around an area for something, you're likely to be constantly bothered by these enemies, and there's little you can do to avoid them.
A Wonderful World in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
It might sound like there's a lot of bashing of the game going on here, but there is one redeeming factor that makes it work really well: The world. If you've ever been a fan of Dragon Ball Z, you'll love the world this game presents. From the graphics to the music to the sound effects the world is dripping in charm. Journeying around the world feels great, seeing familiar locations and talking to famous characters is the world's biggest nostalgia trick. Not only that but DBZ: Kakarot also manages to make the original Dragon Ball more present. There are multiple memories featuring scenes from the Dragon Ball anime, and a lot of the side stories feature characters who didn't get that much screen time in DBZ.
All-in-all it just makes Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot more charming than your typical, dead-eyed anime game. Although a lot of that has to do with the graphics as much as the world design. In certain anime-based games, such as One Piece World Seeker, the characters can end up looking a bit lifeless. During cutscenes, your characters seem to just sort of stare off into space or look around without moving their neck properly. In DBZ: Kakarot the various characters feel like real, living people. At least, as close to real, living people as anime characters can. From the color palette used to the design of the various character wandering the world, it all feels like you're playing through the actual anime on which the game is based.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Review | Final Thoughts
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot ends up being something of a disappointment in many ways. It tries to be both an RPG and an arena fighter but comes out weaker than both. The game is enjoyable because it is basically a playable version of Dragon Ball Z. The references to the original series are thick and fast, and the famous characters and moments really help to immerse you in a world that feels super familiar. The key issue being of course that unless you're a fan of the source material, the game really does not stand up on its own.
TechRaptor reviewed Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on Xbox One with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Characters Ripped From The Anime
- Fully Realized DBZ World
- Focus On Dragon Ball-era Events
- Formulaic Combat
- Annoying Random Battles
- Arbitrary Experience Point Gain