This week brings Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot to the Nintendo Switch, allowing fans to play through the anime RPG on the go, but is the port worth your time?
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens Set
Developed By: Bandai Namco, CyberConnect2
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 24, 2021
Purchase [Affiliate Link]: https://amzn.to/3m9r0gP
Though it released on other consoles earlier last year, Nintendo Switch owners are now getting the chance to relive the iconic Dragon Ball Z story. Sure, it’s a story many of us already know and love, but that doesn’t make these outings any less thrilling. Combining the series’ signature action flair, with extra story/character beats and plenty of RPG elements, Kakarot is a fun way to relive the show’s best moments and storylines.
The title plays out as an action RPG, that will see you bounce between “open world” exploration and singular combat in line with what players experienced in the Xenoverse games. Both aspects of the game have their charms.
The combat—though one step above button mashing—is a surprising amount of fun. There are a number of combos to unleash against your foes, along with awesome energy power-ups (that you can swap around/customize) pulled from the show to hammer in the damage. It’s super accessible for those who aren’t exactly well-versed in fighting games, allowing you to pick up the action and feel like a badass relatively quickly.
It’s certainly not as deep a combat system as Dragon Ball FighterZ, but there are a number of things to keep it interesting. Between keeping track of your Ki and Tension gauges, countering your opponents attacks, and even changing up your own strategy in the middle of the combo, there’s enough depth to make each encounter feel fresh and fun.
On the open-world/RPG side of things, it’s nice to actually be able to explore the world of Dragon Ball Z a bit more. Where Xenoverse gave you some limited freedom, the confines were obvious. Kakarot lets you feel like you’re actually in the DBZ universe. There are random enemies roaming around you can run into (sometimes saving NPCs from attacks), items you can collect for other mini-games (cooking is important), and plenty of side-quests to do.
Unfortunately, the majority of these side-quests aren’t all that exciting. They begin to get monotonous quicker than I’d have liked, and the Experience Point payoff for completing them rarely felt worth it. While there are some notable moments that expand the story beyond what we see in the show, too much of it feels like they’re trying to pad-out the open world they’ve created.
Combined with a movement system that feels either too fast or too slow depending on where you are, and there are some parts of the RPG side that just don’t feel entirely polished. That said, I still very much loved my time with this game. Perhaps I’m a sucker for Dragon Ball Z, but Kakarot is an excellent journey through the show’s best stories. It manages to pare it down to its best parts, while adding in a handful of all new stuff that expands on those character moments in fun ways.
Honestly, it’s almost like a 3D version of the Legacy of Goku games (an action RPG series for the GameBoy Advance). In that way, it’s hard for me NOT to love it and forgive some of its flaws. It’s even better considering the Switch version also includes the story DLC that’s released for the game, offering a chance to play the story BEYOND the main show (diving into some of the sequel movies), with even more fun gameplay additions to check out.
The Port Factor
With that in mind, I actually think the Nintendo Switch version of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is better for players and fans of the show. Where the game can get a bit long in the tooth/grindy after a bit, the portable nature of the Switch version makes it feel easier to digest. Because you can play it in shorter bursts, it’s harder to feel the grind in certain tasks, while the main story missions feels like you’re really moving things forward.
It’s a really solid port. Honestly, it runs so well, it seems surprising that it took this long to come to the Switch. Hell, after playing through on the Switch, I can’t believe it didn’t launch on the console during its initial release.
There are a handful of framerate drops (when the action gets heavy), but nothing major, and certainly never bad enough to actually impact the gameplay, or my enjoyment of it. The text can be a little blurry in handheld mode, but again, it’s not something that really distracts you. All in all, it looks and plays exactly like you would hope the game would.
Probably the biggest problem I had with this Switch version came down to the controls. It’s been a while since I played the PS4 version, but I don’t remember the default button layout being such a pain. Even after a short break between playing, I found myself constantly hitting the wrong buttons for things (especially when it came to flying).
So much of the layout really felt counter-intuitive, causing me to miss out on blocks/dodges, and make me a hair too late on initiating a bigger energy attack. Thankfully, you can remap the buttons via the game settings, but it’s still a bit of frustration that felt avoidable.