For over thirty years Dragon Ball Z has delighted fans of the series around the world with many of these fans growing up with the series waiting to see just how the story would continue on a weekly basis. Throughout these years many different kinds of video game adaptations were created to the point that nearly every genre has been attempted. Recently, most of these games have appeared to focus less on the original story and instead opt to provide players with what-if events or side stories but Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot looks to be a return to form, telling the story of Goku and friends once again from the start of the Saiyan Saga all the way through Buu.
In many ways, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot provides what is easily one of the best approaches to telling the classic storyline once again in video game format. Players begin with Goku preparing to take Gohan to meet his old friends Krillin, Master Roshi, and Bulma only for Raditz to land on Earth, antagonize Piccolo and kidnap Gohan leading to the pair teaming up in an attempt to defeat this powerful alien threat. Those who have seen the story before are well versed in how events play out and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot does its best to make many of these scenes play out as fans remember, however its choice of content often feels rather odd.
Numerous major events that take place in battles or during certain story segments are completely skipped over or happen off-screen, such as Goku’s training with King Kai, but smaller events, such as King Yemma and Kami arguing are included. These odd discrepancies appear constantly throughout the story in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot and while it is true that attempting to tell as much of the original storyline as possible is certainly a great feat, longtime fans will be left scratching their heads about why some scenes are featured and others are skipped entirely.
Outside of the main story, players will find that the world of Dragon Ball Z is expanded upon quite a bit thanks to the many side-quests that players can undertake as well as the familiar faces that appear throughout the world. Numerous callbacks to the original Dragon Ball and characters make appearances in side-quests that, while often short, are nice for longtime fans but often these characters are treated as merely window dressing, or simply power-ups, than anything else. Exploring the vast open world allows inquisitive players to learn some new little facts about Toriyama’s world that were never previously explained, though if players are expecting some major revelations or even some side-content involving the many movies that were released for the series, they will be disappointed here. Instead a bit of brand new content is inserted into the story at a very fitting place alongside some new characters but don’t expect too much extra in that regard.
With Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot being an action RPG, players will find that it plays quite a bit different from what many recent games have offered in nearly every way except for the actual fighting. Almost immediately players are presented with an extremely large world that can be explored by running on the ground, flying through the air, zipping around underwater, and even driving cars. The game is not entirely open world as players will use a world map to transition to different areas but each zone is quite large in size, but it is also unfortunately rather empty as well.
Players can travel to numerous signature looking areas and cities from the core series and encounter a number of familiar faces sitting around in various spots, but for the most part the actual world doesn’t really have a lot to do. Z Orbs, which are different colored orbs that can be used to power-up super attacks, are scattered by the thousands across ever zone and players can acquire various ingredients and upgrade parts that can also be used to strengthen characters through cooking, with meals providing various buffs and permanent stat boosts to characters that eat it, and there are even dinosaurs that can be defeated with ki blasts and giant fish to reel in and beat down. These little side activities are fun for a bit but quickly lose their luster, a few of which simply due to being overly complicated for the actual reward they give, especially when most of these boosts are rarely necessary as the game’s combat system, and most fights, are fairly easy to the point that players will rarely find themselves struggling. In fact, with the Z Orbs and D Medals used to also acquire moves, so briefly explained at the start of what is an over thirty hour game, many of my characters were using basic super attacks and still clearing battles with ease.
Another aspect of boosting Goku and friends’ strength is through the Community Board, of which there are seven, where players can use Soul Emblems obtained from the story and completing side-quests, to unlock various boosts. These range from stat boosts, better selling and buying prices, better drops from enemies, and there are even some rewards for pairing certain characters together on these boards, increasing their overall bonuses. Players can even “gift” items to emblems to raise their various affinities for a certain board, increasing an emblem’s usefulness and while this is a nice little in-depth way to strengthen the team, it is also once again yet another way to strengthen a team that barely needs it.
Flying around the world and seeing the various sights in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is easily one of the best parts of the game as, although a bit rough, flight control is easy to learn and it is only second to the actual combat in the game. While traveling around players will run into random enemies scattered throughout the world where they can train up but the real meat of combat comes from facing off against enemies directly related to the story and the gloriously cinematic boss battles that cap off each saga.
Combat in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a fairly simple to understand and flashy system with all combat taking place in the air (or flying underwater) that allows for quick movement around the battlefield and a number of easy to use combo attacks being the player’s bread and butter with plenty of special attacks being able to be thrown in the mix. Defense plays a major role in this game as well as blocking not only works exceptionally well, it also is used to snap around the battlefield and even attack your opponent from behind at the expense of ki.
Eventual transformations do allow for players to bring some extra strategy to some battles and often players will be able to have some allies fighting with them, allowing them to use supporting and attacking techniques to assist in battle. Unfortunately, the enemy AI is a bit too simplistic at times, with foes often charging attacks that can easily be dodged, leaving them open to a variety of beam attacks. This can leave some fights that were meant to be huge scale affairs ending up as being complete cakewalks despite their cinematic feel.
That being said, those who want to see everything that Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot has to offer will be pleasantly surprised to find out that there is quite a plethora of content available once the main storyline has come to a close, adding plenty of extra playtime to what is already a fairly lengthy game, but be prepared for a few of these post-game events to once again fall back into the same pattern and problems found in the core story.
Visuals & Audio
It is clear that CyberConnect 2 has really come to master designing anime characters for use in video games as they have once again managed to replicate the look and feel of Dragon Ball Z to the tiniest detail here. Everything from the random dinosaurs roaming the land and giant demonic fish in the water to the looks of the various NPCs look exactly like fans of the series have come to expect. Of course the actual character designs are exceptional as well, with even the returning call back characters looking as one would expect and thanks to the various special effects on display during fights the various ki blasts, special attacks, and finishing moves are easily at their best here.
This release of the game features the return of nearly all of the current English voice actors who have returned to reprise their roles in the series with a few newer characters sounding like they fit right in, though if you want to play in Japanese the option is there as well. The soundtrack is fairly standard and features a number of familiar sounding pieces of background music and sound effects though most of the original tracks don’t really stand out too well here.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot manages to offer what is perhaps the most definitive story of the original series that we have seen in a video game and features plenty of great combat that shines thanks to some wonderfully gorgeous graphics. Unfortunately the RPG mechanics of the game tend to either feel useless or padded on and despite featuring fully designed open scale areas to explore, the world often feels far too empty for its own good. This leaves Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot with plenty of side-content that can be explored but often feeling useless outside of the core storyline that is told lovingly and will be a delight to fans of the series.