The Dragon Ball Z game adaptation we’ve been waiting for.
What They Say:
Developed in Japan by video game developer CyberConnect2; DRAGON BALL Z: KAKAROT immerses players in their favorite DRAGON BALL Z story arcs, enabling them meet beloved friends, battle powerful enemies, and uncover some long-running mysteries from the DRAGON BALL Z universe along the way. The game’s expansive campaign and abundance of side quests offer endless hours of action and exploration. Beyond the epic battles, players can also experience daily life activities in the DRAGON BALL Z world as they visit memorable locations from the original Z saga and fight, fish, eat, and train as Goku.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a game that was clearly made for fans of the long-running anime and manga series by fans. This action-RPG harkens back to the golden days of game adaptations on the Gameboy Advance like The Legacy of Goku games.
In fact, it easily surpasses those games as easily the greatest adaptation of the beloved series other than the source material and anime itself. The story begins exactly as you would expect it to and ends how you would basically expect it to; not much has changed there.
However, what elevates the game beyond any other game for the series yet is what comes in between. This is one of the most faithful renditions of the story ever beyond the original plot line and it does while crafting a game that is genuinely fun and enjoyable.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot takes the similar art style as the previous Xenoverse 2 as well as gameplay and mixes it up a bit. Graphics are slightly better than Xenoverse 2, capturing the look of the anime series so well but in a 3D setting that works nearly as good as FighterZ.
Watching cutscenes and battles play out feels so much like what I (incorrectly) remembered the anime looking like as a child. On the gameplay side of things, it is mostly like Xenoverse 2 in that this is primarily an arena fighting action-RPG where you level up and use abilities and items.
I do like the Xenoverse 2-style gameplay here but it is pretty one note and that could be something that could annoy certain players (I wasn’t one of them). This is because it has some strange restrictions like almost every fight being all about flying around when there are iconic fights that took place mainly on the ground to the point where you will even see the characters awkwardly fly up sometimes to transition to the battle sequence.
Battles are fun even though there is a simplicity to it that is only apparent as time goes on. There is only one button that you really need to mash for normal melee attacks while there is another for ranged ki blasts. The remaining two face buttons are used for dodging/flying around the map and the other for charging up ki.
While that may sound simple, it didn’t really get old ever as time went on for me. This is due to the right and left bumpers letting you use your main abilities for each character as well as execute support abilities from the party members that are with you.
That’s right, you do have a party that joins you during key moments in the story. A good portion of the time, you are solo in most fights but you will occasionally have one or two party members alongside you when the story asks for it. And then in intermission sections between sagas, you can pick your own party to fight with.
Party members, when you actually have them, are extremely useful as they function almost entirely independently on their own minus you asking them to execute their special abilities. They are great for helping you out, though, the responsibility mostly falls on your skill.
Interestingly enough, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot only has one difficulty level in the game that everyone has to deal with. For the most part, the challenge comes down to what level you are. Leveling up in the game comes from gaining experience through story beats, battles, and completing side quests.
Oddly enough, you have to really do a lot of side quests and optional battles to make much of a difference in terms of level. For the most part, the game itself will level you up when necessary. I did find parts where I was one or two levels below the enemy but even those moments weren’t too stressful to deal with.
The real challenge when it comes to Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot are the fights themselves. Certain fights like Frieza, for instance, is super easy while others like Cell and Raditz can really take a lot of you and almost require you to have some senzu beans in your inventory. It is oddly random at times and comes down to the character you are using and the enemy’s abilities.
There are quite a few playable characters that you will have to level up separately and fight with at certain points in the story. While I won’t spoil all of the identities of the characters you can play as, it is the usual bunch and they are all each varied in styles and abilities.
That same strong variation applies to the content that you will find in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot as well. This is a game that is packed full of things to do, quests to complete, and an overwhelming number of collectibles to gather up. My first hour in the game was spent entirely collecting orbs that are used for upgrading skills and I didn’t even scratch the tip of the surface.
You can spend hours on end just collecting orbs, defeating tough optional mini-bosses, taking down towers, fishing, cooking, and so on. The list goes on and on and we could be here all day. You can even find the dragon balls at certain points in the game and use them to wish for things like money (which is oddly hard to get), fight old bosses you already defeated, and get more orbs.
All of these things are done by visiting the numerous smaller open world sections in the game. Though the game is open world, it is a segmented way where you pick an area on the world map and head to smaller open maps.
They are all varied enough to keep things interesting while also providing more insight into the overall world of Dragon Ball Z more than ever before. The problem with going between maps and certain sections of the story are the loading screens.
Even though a patch was meant to speed up the loading times, they are still pretty annoying on my launch PS4. I would sit for around 30-45 seconds per loading screen and open up my phone each time. This became especially annoying during large batches of cutscenes where it would transition to another location after only being there for a few seconds.
For the most part, though, the loading screens were my main issue with the game technically along with the sometimes stilted character animations during cutscenes. Thankfully, though, it nails the moments where it counts, sometimes beat for beat the same as the anime.
Beyond those problems, there was the occasional frame rate drop at the start of battle or slow pop in for characters but they weren’t too annoying. In fact, I think the game mostly runs pretty well all things considered in a game that has surprisingly amazing battle animations.
Smashing a character in a rock or the ground has the effect you would expect and there are even moments where entire rock pillars will fall apart because of the impact. This is Dragon Ball Z in its most purest form and that is the greatest compliment I could give it.
For someone who is new to the series, it is a bit of a sped up version of the story with only some filler and side content included so the anime and manga are still superior in that regard. But it is a close second and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants a refresher and to experience this wonderful storyline again.
I can confidently say that Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot captures the feel, look, and world of the series better than anything except the original manga and anime. Battles are dynamic and planet-shaking, the combat is visceral and the closest to the source material you’ll get, and there is an unbelievable amount of content to complete. While it is hard for me to recommend this to someone wholly unfamiliar with the series, it is a no-brainer for already existing DBZ fans.
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Age Rating: 13+
Release Date: January 17, 2020
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.