Since I became a Dragon Ball Z fan many years ago, I’ve craved an open world RPG Dragon Ball Z game. The thought of flying around as my favourite characters, levelling up and becoming stronger (just like in the show), and following the show’s storyline in this genre all felt like a dream to me and I’m sure many others. Dragon Ball Z Kakarot is the answer to that dream, but does it live up to expectations? Read on to find out!
DBZ Kakarot Storytelling
This game’s story follows the one we all know and love from the anime show. Yes, it’s great, and I could relive it over and over without getting sick of it. But for this review, I can’t exactly review the story itself because it didn’t originate from this game, but what I can do is talk about the way this story is told.
In previous DBZ games I’ve played (like Budokai), the story is told in a very compact version alternating between cutscenes and fighting segments. That makes sense, seeing as though that’s the only way to do it when it comes to fighting games, but I know I’ve wanted a more immersive way of experiencing the story. And that’s the very reason I’ve wanted DBZ in RPG format!
Thankfully the entire DBZ saga is recreated faithfully. While it doesn’t show absolutely everything, it doesn’t exactly need to. There’s plenty of cutscenes, but they’re all done so well and it feels like I’m part of the epic story. You’ll take part in all the major battles, and even many minor ones. In between the fighting, there’s other tasks you’ll need to do, but unfortunately most are nothing more than fetch quests.
This is one of the major criticisms I have for DBZ Kakarot, and that is the sheer amount of fetch quests you’ll be doing, both for main and side quests. It’s a shame because it’s such lazy game design and I don’t understand why developers feel the need to do this. It works for MMOs, but for single player games, it’s clearly just padding.
If you can get past the criticism of the fetch quests though, you can see where the developers placed their efforts, and that is creating the most authentic DBZ experience imaginable. The voice actors are back to reprise their roles which was a great move! Almost everything is very familiar, the visuals are exactly like the show but in 3D, the sounds effects such as jumping and flying, it’s all there and feels so authentic.
DBZ Kakarot Combat
For anyone who’s seen the anime, they know that the fighting and battles take centre stage. Obviously the same can be said about the game, and for the most part, it’s actually quite fun.
It’s fast-paced and frantic, just like you’d expect and want. As you learn new moves and transformations, you assign them to your controls and can then blast away, as long as you watch your Ki. It is a little limited though, as the entire melee is relegated to just one button, so expect to be spamming that button for many of the fights. There could have been a lot more depth to the combat if this wasn’t the case, but at least you’ll have a variety of abilities to pull off, like the classic Kamehameha and Spirit Bomb.
At various points, like many other RPGs, you can have a team of warriors at your side. Not only will they automatically fight with you, you can give them commands for what attacks you want them to do. If the fight is long enough, you can all engage Z Combo, which makes for a satisfying conclusion.
One major issue you’ll notice with the combat is the camera. Because you’re always in the air, and you’re always locked onto an opponent, the camera can cause a bit of grief. If you’ve been knocked down into the ground while your opponent in still in the air, the camera will try and stay behind you and make it very difficult to see what’s going on. I found myself spamming the buttons trying to get away but couldn’t see a whole lot, making it just a little frustrating at times.
So while the combat’s not perfect, there’s enough there to enjoy and is greatly helped by the RPG mechanics, which I’ll talk about next.
DBZ Kakarot RPG Mechanics
As I just mentioned, the combat in Kakarot is still fairly good, but I believe the RPG side of things is done better. Like in almost every RPG, you gain XP and level up, raising your stats and getting stronger in the process. Thankfully you really notice the improvements in this game. You as play through each saga, the jump in your overall power level rises greatly (to keep up with the story of course) and you’ll see your HP rise up from the tens of thousands, to the hundreds of thousands, to eventually the millions! It really makes you feel like your gaining so much stronger as an RPG character, and it feels like you’re experiencing that same growth the characters go through in the anime.
One unique mechanic I enjoyed was the Community Boards and Soul Emblems. Here there’s a variety of boards which represent different elements of the game, such as XP growth, cooking success, melee attack, and many more. You equip the Soul Emblems (represented as the many characters of DBZ), and you place them on which board you want to focus more on. At the start, there’s not as much experimenting to do, but later on in the game when you unlock a lot more Soul Emblems, it starts to get really fun strategically placing them on boards to get the most gain. You can even place them next to certain characters which may give a boost, ensuring there’s always more to think about when deciding where to place them.
You can even give gifts to these Emblems to raise their stats, so this just adds a little more depth to the whole process, and overall I really enjoyed this component of the game.
DBZ Kakarot Open World
I’ve been relatively positive about the game so far, but here’s where it gets a bit messy. On a positive note, the world (or regions) themselves look great, like they’ve been taken straight from the show. You’ll also notice heaps of collectables, and I mean HEAPS of collectables, scattered absolutely everywhere on every map. These range from orbs for learning skills, items, materials, etc, so there’s always something to pick up along the way.
But this game makes a habit of resorting back to unwanted RPG cliches, such as almost pointless mini games like fishing, racing, and others. As expected I spent the minimum amount of time possible on these because they never felt worth it, even though they’re required for some missions. There are some structures to destroy around the map, but again were just there for the sake of having more open world activities. At the end of the day, most of these inclusions felt shallow and shoehorned in.
Speaking of RPG cliches, I already spoke about the fetch quests earlier, but I feel the need to bring it up again because it fits nicely into this category. Whether it’s a main quest or a side quest, you’ll too often find yourself having to hunt down apples, materials, or taking part in some kind of unimaginative filler. Like I said before, it’s clear where the developers placed their efforts and where they did not.
Another thing to mention is that this game is not just one open world, but multiple regions you’ll have to fast travel to get around. The problem with this is the many, many, many loading screens you’ll be watching. I think I spent half my playthrough waiting for the loading screen to end than actually playing the game! Alright I’m exaggerating, and the loading screens aren’t that long but they are very frequent, so be prepared for that.
To end on a high note though, the post-game was handled pretty well. There’s plenty more side quests to do, and I actually enjoyed how some of them provided some sort of closure for a lot of the characters. Whether it’s canon or not, I’m not sure, but it was a really nice touch. The inclusion of another side plot, involving one of the main open world activities (Villainous enemies), was really appreciated and gave some meaning to doing them.
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot Review Summary
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot has some obvious highs and obvious lows. But I believe if you’re a big enough of a DBZ fan, you’ll be able to overlook the criticisms. That being said, if you’re not a DBZ fan, and looking for a new RPG to immerse yourself in, this will not be the game for you. The fetch quests and filler will only put gamers off as the effort was clearly in trying to create the most authentic DBZ experience possible.
If I was to rate this game as a fan of DBZ only, I would have scored this game higher. If I was to rate this as a game in its own right, regardless of the DBZ flavour, I would have scored it lower. So I have to meet it somewhere in the middle to be the most fair.
I still commend the developers on their efforts, it was a huge undertaking translating the DBZ universe to an RPG game, and if they could work on the game/mission design more, then we could see something special from them in the future.