Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
Put on your Gi and fly a mile in Goku’s shoes to become the Greatest Warrior of all-time! Bandai Namco’s video game comprising the entire Dragon Ball Z series is finally here! Here is our review for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot!
A Marathon of Four Sagas
Outside of Pokemon, it’s hard to think of an anime that has stood the test of time like the Dragon Ball series has. Whether you read the manga or watched the original Dragon Ball in 1986, or your first exposure was in 1989 with Dragon Ball Z, we’re part of a generation that was brought up by Dragon Ball.
For me, when I was in 3rd grade, I used to wake up at 5am every morning, run to the TV in the living room to watch Dragon Ball Z on WB39 (Now the CW). They only ever showed the Saiyan Saga and the first half of the Namek Saga. They’d always restart the sagas right as Goku arrived to save Gohan and Krillin from the Ginyu Force. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t continue the series, I was hooked.
Now, thanks to Bandai Namco and Toei Animation, we can all relive our childhoods like never-before in the comprehensive new game, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot stuffs every single Saga from the Dragon Ball Z era into one well-crafted Action RPG. In it, you explore the vast landscapes of the DBZ franchise as different characters throughout each saga. I say different characters but mainly each main Saiyan character.
The entire game is a wonderful, nostalgic tour of what made DBZ one of the greatest series in anime history, just without the fluff. If you remember, DBZ was notorious for prolonging fights with entirely too much dialogue and powering up. In Kakarot, they do away with a lot of that to streamline the game, allowing the player to get to the next battle or exploration area much quicker. That said, they do maintain the important scenes that have stuck with DBZ fans for generations.
What’s so fascinating about DBZ Kakarot is that even though they took out a lot of the unnecessary bits, the story still feels very long. I don’t mean long in a bad way. Rather, there is still so much that happens in this historically-rich series that each saga can take upwards of 7-10 hours to complete. In my playthrough, Vegeta and Nappa didn’t arrive on Earth until well over 7 hours. In a saga that has only two encounters (one with Raditz and one with Vegeta and Nappa), that’s a mighty long time to get to the climax of the saga. What helped pass the time was getting to re-realize Gohan’s growth from crybaby to admirable fighter.
The timing and pacing of the game makes Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot a marathon game. Bandai Namco gives you the tools to skip through a lot, but it’s clear the main philosophy behind the game’s pace is to savor and not sprint. Moreover, at times, it feels like an episodic-action game, where players can treat it like the original DBZ series. Log on, play an episode for an hour or two and save the next episode for another time.
I grew to love the mindset behind the marathon, as it afforded me the opportunity to re-introduce myself to everything that happens in Dragon Ball Z, at my own pace. The original series was released in 1989 and spanned across 9 seasons in 7 years. There’s a lot that happens in that time and it’s been a little under 3 decades. Even remembering the jist of what happens, each sit down was a nostalgic, yet new walk down memory lane. In my playtime, I relived iconic moments I’ve taken with me since childhood and was reminded of situations and encounters I had long-since forgotten. It’s an overall brilliant experience where each saga does justice to the original.
Easy Combat Mechanics, Difficult Bosses
One of the aspects of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot I absolutely adore is the combat. Previous iterations of Dragon Ball Z games were within the confines of the fighting game genre. Full transparency, fighting games are my kryptonite. I marvel at those that can remember combos for different characters on the fly. That’s just not something I’m capable of. However, since Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is an Action RPG, the combat mechanics take an easier, more streamlined approach.
Kakarot employs a similar combat formula that other RPGs use and it works. All abilities require Ki, which is easily recharged, and are available when holding L1. It’s a much-easier, more convenient method than its fighting game counterpart. Moreover, there is a skill tree to upgrade abilities and attain a few new ones. Although, the best ways to learn new skills are through training and the ones you gradually learn in the story.
One of the biggest things I was concerned about leading up to Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s release was verticality and whether it would be disorienting or even limited. Truth be told, it’s neither of those things. The targeting system they use allows enemies to always be in front of you and within range. In fights with multiple targets, you have to split your attention more to survive, but even that isn’t bad. As for any limitations, I was floored when I discovered I could fight literally everywhere, including underwater. I wasn’t confined to my immediate area, which made the experience that much more fun. My actions could even affect the environment, causing mountains to crumble and craters to form.
To make matters even more interesting is how punishing Kakarot is with their bosses, at times. Encounters with low-powered lackeys in the field can be routine, but if you go into a fight underestimating or being underleveled with a boss, you’re going to be in for a rough time. Two enemies that gave me a particularly tough time were, surprisingly, Raditz and Dodoria. For Raditz, you’re playing as an underleveled Goku, just learning how to strategize striking, blocking and using your Ki moves. What made this encounter even more unavoidably hard is that you can’t level up and train thoroughly in between. Therefore, I found myself defeated several times.
As for Dodoria, I’ll admit I went into this fight underestimating Frieza’s henchman. Rather than healing before the fight, I went in with about half of my health, expecting it to be simple. It was not and I got messed up so many times, I ended up reloading to my previous save to heal Vegeta by a campfire, before fighting Dodoria again. Even then, I still barely managed to win.
Some bosses are extremely easy to take on, while others provide more of a challenge. You’re just not going to know which one is going to be the easier encounter so you have to always be prepared.
Load Times and Some Lackluster Fights
The main issues I had with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot had to do with lengthy load times and a few fights I felt could’ve been harder. When I review a game, I usually don’t care too much about load times. They are an everyday part of what we deal with in video games. In the case of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, they became annoying on side missions that required jumping to different areas to acquire certain ingredients. It’s a minor criticism, as this isn’t entirely an open-world game, and again load screens remain a thing for now. These particular moments just took me out of the game.
As previously stated, I did take issue with how easy a few fights were. I just found it so strange that the likes of Raditz and Dodoria were so difficult and yet I had no trouble at all with the likes of Vegeta or Frieza. Even when Gohan and Vegeta turned into their massive ape forms, I expected to get destroyed, but they wound up being 5-10 minute fights. Granted, they were cool, but entirely too easy and short.
I’m not hoping for unforgiving boss battles, but I was underwhelmed with these. They felt entirely too easy. Without a difficulty setting, there’s no way to change it either. It wouldn’t be until the Cell and Buu sagas when Shenron would grant my wish for a challenge from a main villain.
Big, Big DBZ World With an Ocean of Content
The main attraction of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is undoubtedly and understandably the story. However, when you’re not mixing it up with iconic bad guys, Kakarot delivers massive landscapes for you to explore and collect. Even better, they give you a metric ton of stuff to do in each area. Hunting animals, fishing, and cooking have become the standard for games like this but they just scratch the surface of what you’re able to do in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.
For starters, scattered throughout the world are memories that tell the original Dragon Ball story in pieces. These were fun to search for, as I loved Dragon Ball so much. If you haven’t watched it, it’s fantastic. There are even Red Ribbon Fortresses and Frieza ships to destroy that net you excellent crafting materials and upgrade items.
What I found myself doing the most, though, was doing any side missions I could find in hopes to level up characters and acquire a Soul Emblem. Soul Emblems are upgradeable coins of every single Dragon Ball Z character. These emblems are used to beef up your Community Board, of which there are 7 total. Each Community Board provides perks for every aspect of the game Battling, Cooking, Training, Engineering, Buying/Selling, and Adventuring. There’s even a community board for DBZ deities. If you place the right Soul Emblems next to each other, you’ll get a bonus to that specific Community Board. I found myself tinkering with this a lot.
I’ve heard some people rumbling that there wasn’t enough variety to the side missions, but I disagree. I had loads of fun running around collecting stuff when needed or fighting enemies for people. There was even a mission where you had to tail someone. To me, the side missions were an enjoyable way to enhance the experience.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a love-letter to the series. Bandai Namco makes that evident in each stanza, situation, and area of exploration. They even included a Z Encyclopedia to understand complex relationships and see lore from the past. There, you can even relive iconic moments with their video playback, which includes every cinematic. It even includes the opening cinematic. So, you “Cha-la” to your heart’s content.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a must-get for any fan of the Dragon Ball series. The fights are fast-paced, the story is slow enough to make the experience last, but the nostalgia felt is immeasurable.