Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a role-playing game developed by CyberConnect2 and published by Bandai Namco. Allowing you to take control of characters from the titular smash hit anime, Kakarot allows you to relive the story that defined a generation.
AT A GLANCE
Release Date: 17 January 2019
Genre: Action role-playing game
Platforms: PlayStation 4(Reviewed), Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Final Score: 8/10
The advantage of doing an adaption of a popular and established franchise is that you can expect a pleasant roller coaster ride, but the disadvantage is that the story can be predictable and there’s not a lot of creative freedom that the developers can take without inviting the wrath of the community.
The game is split up into chapters and arcs, starting with the arrival of Raditz and ending with the showdown with Boo. Anyone who has watched the anime series will find themselves in a trip down memory lane. Most of the sequences from the anime are really well adopted and the fights feel fantastic. There’s plenty of filler content too, with character development and mini side missions with good stories that expand on the original material.
If you’ve seen the anime will often find yourself smiling at those charming moments that made the series so unique, and it’s honestly awesome to see a Dragon Ball game that does justice to its source material. On the other hand, if you are not familiar with it, it is sometimes difficult to follow what is happening and it’s even more hard to care about the characters who you know nothing about.
Even though Kakarot does an almost perfect job of highlighting key moments in the series’s history, some very iconic scenes are absent. Most notably the famous “ITS OVER 9 THOUSAND”, and some other bizarre ommissions such as Goku running along the snake way.
The rest of the story is however delivered well, with pacing that you can expect from the Dragon Ball series. There are tons of short bursts of action and lots of cheesy dialogues, with hours of fillers thrown in. There’s some annoying breaks in the pacing here and there but they don’t detract much from the entire experience.
Overall the story is a fantastic recap of the Dragon Ball Z anime, and fans will absolutely enjoy the story. It’s the nonfans that might find themselves struggling to care about the very concise delivery of the lore.
The story will take you about 40 hours and over 60 hours to enjoy everything on offer. That might seem a bit on the long side, but considering the anime had over 290 episodes, I’d say the game does a great job of packing all of that story into a package that does not feel fatiguing.
When we think of an RPG, we think of side missions, stats, crafting, leveling up, side activities, underlying systems and hours of grind. Kakarot has all of that, and then some.
Kakarot has a very well fleshed out skill tree for every one of the playable characters. Unlocking skills means gaining levels and you need to defeat enemies and do side quests to get XP. But that’s not all, scattered throughout the world are orbs of different colors that you must collect if you want to upgrade your skills.
The game is open world and huge, with memorable places like Capsule corporation, Planet Namek, and Goku’s house. The game world feels lively, thanks to the many creatures that roam about, including Dinosaurs but it ultimately tends to feels empty as there’s nothing to do except fighting mindless enemies and collecting items. There are some side missions and collectibles scattered throughout the world but they are far and few, and some of the side missions feel like a chore.
The game can also get very grindy, leveling up requires a ton of XP and random fights give very meager amounts of experience. This means that some of the story fights will just flat out feel unfair and no matter how much you grind you might still find yourself under-leveled unless the story wants you to feel strong. This is understandable as unlike other RPGs, the timeline is very strict and it wouldn’t make sense for Goku to be more powerful than Frieza before he becomes a Super Saiyan. Regardless, the difficulty spikes do seem a bit off at times.
You can, however, alleviate the difficulty by obtaining permanent and temporary boosts by collecting food and having it cooked by, for example, Chi-Chi. Because developer CyberConnect2 keeps to the story, it also limits itself enormously. The question then is whether you should make a Dragonball Z game in this genre at all; as long as you follow the existing story, that limitation remains.
The skill tree while varies is also very limiting, and there’s not a lot of variations that you can do. Don’t expect to see crazy tactical builds or deep character customisation. The RPG experience remains relatively superficial, and the game has it just for the sake of being an RPG. You can modify your bonuses on the community board which allows you to link together characters you have met together forming bonds and increasing various bonuses.
Of course, the main highlight Dragonball Z: Kakarot is it’s fighting mechanics. Because underneath all those RPG fluff there’s a fighting game. Well, unfortunately just like the RPG mechanics, the combat also feels sort of lacking. The game does an excellent job of making you powerful, with meaty animations and flashy attacks. But all of it feels that the game is holding your hand through it all. You have a button for hitting and kicking, one for your ki, one for charging, one for using special attacks and another button for avoiding/flying. There’s no way to create your own combo and all of it is done thanks to a couple of button presses, it doesn’t feel as satisfying as executing a complicated combo in Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Visuals and Audio
Now visuals are something that Kakarot has hit an absolute home-run. The game looks gorgeous in Unreal Engine 4. The characters are faithfully recreated and animated. The world is beautifully done, with sprawling vistas, towering mountains, rivers, dry deserts, and cities.
Everything from the character designs to the various architectures looks and feels like it’s from the anime. Indeed, the game itself feels like it’s an interactive extension of the TV show.
The voice actors do a terrific job at bringing the characters to life, and Bandai has also included both Japanese and English voice-overs so there’s no need to worry if you are a sub fan or vice versa.
Finally, as for performance, the game runs without a sweat, and I’m honestly surprised that the game manages to handle draw distance so flawlessly. The characters in Kakarot move at some breakneck speeds, and to see minor popups and no slowdowns are honestly surprising.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is honestly one of the best Dragon Ball games I have ever played. It’s also one of the most shallow RPGs I have ever played.
That’s a shame because Dragonball Z: Kakarot is an experience that you don’t want to miss as a fan. The fighting mechanics are fairly good for an RPG and the game presents its huge cast with grace. You can fly around the colourful world that Akira Toriyama created with absolute freedom.
If you are a fan, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a precious time capsule that you should definitely open. If you’re new to the series, maybe give the anime a try before digging in. You won’t regret it.