Bandai Namco’s Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is one of this year’s first AAA titles to launch, and it’s done so on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. Does it do justice to the franchise’s legacy?
I’ve always been more of a casual Dragon Ball Z follower/player and not someone who knows all of the franchise’s lore inside and out. I figure that that’s why I was eagerly anticipating Kakarot’s release, which from all the preview materials and the hands-on time we had with it felt like a ‘best of’ kind of release, but with all the audiovisual trimmings of a next-gen Dragon Ball Z game. For the most part, that expectation I had wasn’t too far from the truth.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a solo affair, and its campaign is very much story-driven – with most (if not all of) the major story beats coming from the core of the Dragon Ball Z, featuring a roster of the franchise’s iconic characters like Goku and Gohan as well as illustrious enemies including Raditz and Frieza. If those names mean absolutely nothing to you then I assume Kakarot will have a tough time drawing you in, but if you fondly (or even vaguely – it’s been a while!) remember these characters then a lot of central story will feel familiar and fun.
There’s plenty of lore in the game that’s of the more obscure kind as well, so Kakarot definitely caters to the diehard fans as well, but these elements aren’t forced on the player as they are mostly discovered through exploration. Depending on how much of this you do (exploration also involves plenty of things like training, eating and catching fish), Kakarot offers an extremely lengthy campaign – though I found some of its elements to feel like unnecessary fluff that kept me away from the main story. Again, this could be down to the type of DBZ fan that I am, but it’s worth pointing out in case you enjoy your story campaign to be on point at all times. Then again, if you enjoy collecting tokens and rewards, this is your game – especially if you’re a hardcore DBZ fan on top of that.
The highlights of the story, for me, were the combat portions, of which there are plenty. In part, this is because the visuals by CyberConnect2 do such a great job of making you feel like you’re a part of an actual anime production of DBZ. Combat looks great, spectacular and has plenty of ‘wow’ moments in between all the guarding, dodging, dashing and attacks. The combat mechanics (which include the use of you Ki meter) aren’t groundbreaking in any way, but they also never get in the way of enjoying the spectacle that plays out on the screen – while at the same time giving you the sense that you’re in control just enough for it to not feel like the action has been predefined.
But as I write that, I also realize that that ‘core story’ is what we’ve seen in previous Dragon Ball Z games as well, and the major draw for Kakarot probably lies in the material that surrounds it – which is mostly geared towards a group of hardcore fans who are finally getting the opportunity to relive that ‘moment to moment’ stuff that is also present in the source material. For non-fans this isn’t going to be the game to draw them in, and for more casual fans it really depends on how many (and which DBZ games you’ve played before). I skipped most of the games in the PS3/X360 generation, and for me this was a lovely trip down memory lane. Depending on your own level of experience with those other games and how much you’re into the source material, you level of enjoyment will vary,