With a length of over 40 hours to get through the main story, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot might linger a bit too long for those looking for a varied experience, as the variety in sidequests is incredibly lacking. While everything looks pretty enough and with a healthy dose of fanservice and nostalgia for those who are diehard Dragon Ball Z fans, it often feels like more effort than it’s worth.
- Fantastic details in its world and UI design
- Tells the entire Dragon Ball Z story
- Huge amount of fanservice
- Lacklustre sidequests
- Bosses can come across as damage sponges
- Frustrating combat controls
- Review Price: £49.99
- Developer: Bandai Namco/CyberConnect2
- Genre: RPG
- Release Date: January 17, 2019
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (version tested)
For a certain age group, Dragon Ball Z was a first foray into the world of serialised kids television, with characters, a sense of humour and lots of screaming. From a young age, the Dragon Ball series has never really grown up, and that’s a good thing. It’s a portal into a simpler time, where for some reason there are tiger-dudes and dragons roaming around in the countryside. Gaming adaptations of Dragon Ball have often come and gone, most of them fighters. But a select few have attempted to capture the same world and tone of the series, but they never quite hit the mark.
Like the Legacy of Goku series and the Dragon Ball: Sagas game before it, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot attempts to adapt the entirety of the Dragon Ball Z anime. This is no easy task, as the decades-spanning series sees our characters age, and always pushes the intensity higher. With the scale of the concept, the developers at Cyberconnect 2, of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm and Asura’s Wrath fame gave it their best shot. And it comes with fairly mixed results.
Although it’s named Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, you are able to play as a litany of the main characters featured throughout the series including Gohan, Piccolo, Trunks and Vegeta as they go on their quest to hunt the Dragon Balls, save Earth by way of lots of punching, or just have a lovely time fishing.
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The world of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is not actually open-world, instead opting for a Witcher 3-esque open region system. You’re able to fly around and collect orbs throughout the world, which allow you to unlock character upgrades. This wouldn’t be an issue if it didn’t actively take away from enjoying actually being in the universe. It looks like someone has littered all over the place, and the system being partially dependent upon unlockable skills makes for an unsatisfying grind at certain points.
Within the world however, you’re able to undertake sidequests, collect materials to cook a meal, obtain materials for crafting and more. However, these interactions with the world almost always feel hollow, as if they were placed there to fulfill a checkbox over at Cyberconnect2’s offices instead of having any meaningful impact. The level of depth offered here is incredibly limited. However where it shines is in the small details. You’re able to find nuggets of memories in the world that call back to the original Dragon Ball series, in addition to being able to meet beloved characters and help them out along the way. The world of Dragon Ball has never been so well-realised as it is in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.
There’s a lot for fans to chew on, so where it falls down in mechanical depth or effect in the actual world, it makes up for in pure, unadulterated fanservice. Even if it’s the way that Goku guzzles down a meal fit enough to feed several families, or helping Goku and Piccolo go on a driving lesson, you can’t help but smile throughout these well-realised moments. This goes a long way for many aspects of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s world design. You’re able to meet characters and build up several different communities which provide special ability boosts to your character or the world.
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As you traverse the world, you have a form of “random encounters” which involves laying the beatdown on enemies on your journey. These generic mobs are a bit of a downer, and are usually just a momentary distraction away from whatever you were doing. Unfortunately, the combat in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot suffers from being just as frustrating. With some genuinely puzzling controls throughout, Kakarot focuses on high-octane, fast-paced action. However, the way skills and button placement are dealt with left a bad taste in my mouth thanks to confusing menu navigation.
Instead of simply being a button-basher, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot relies on reading and learning your enemy’s moves, and counter attacking at opportune moments to deal some huge damage. One early example is a fight with Nappa, who likes to release a spinning kick after charging it up and glowing red. While it’s an opening to attack, his consecutive spinning kicks can chop off a huge chunk of your health bar if you’re not being careful.
These challenging fights often highlight just how clunky the combat is. To close distance, I dashed forward, pressing the left stick in, then started a barrage of melee attacks with one of the face buttons, defended against their attacks with the left trigger, and in order to do a special attack, you have to do a combination input of left bumper in addition to a face button. All of that happens within milliseconds of each other, meaning that you’re going to have a very tough time against the controls in the opening hours.
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The payoff for these set piece encounters are often excellent cinematics that look great. With character movement, fidelity and the original voice actors returning for the game, nothing about Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s visual fidelity disappointed us. It’s no Dragon Quest 11 when it comes to overall presentation, and in smaller moments we couldn’t help but see that there was incredibly limited character animation, which can detract from the experience.
Should you buy Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot?
With a length of over 40 hours to get through the main story, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot might linger a bit too long for those looking for a varied experience, as the variety in sidequests is incredibly lacking. While everything looks pretty enough and there’s a healthy dose of fanservice and nostalgia for those who are diehard Dragon Ball Z fans, it often feels like more effort than it’s worth.
However for those fans that want to retread the Dragon Ball Z story and explore its world, this is the best, and most fully-realised Dragon Ball world ever made – and that in itself makes up for frustrating combat and lacklustre sidequests.