Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the first DBZ RPG to release in a very long time. Since I’m a big Dragon Ball fan, I had to pick it up. So far, I’ve been relatively impressed. I haven’t quite finished the entire game at this stage, but I’m getting close and will update this review once I’m done if need be.
Published by Bandai Namco and developed by CyberConnect2, DBZ: Kakarot released on January 16th/17th, 2020 (depending on where in the world you are) on PC, Xbox: One, and Playstation 4. So far, it’s been getting mostly positive reviews everywhere that it’s been reviewed.
As the name implies, Kakarot mainly follows the story of Goku… To an extent. It starts out with the Saiyan saga and finishes once you’ve beaten the Buu saga. The storytelling is fairly decent, but a lot of the knowledge is assumed. It’s assumed that the player already knows most of the story and a lot of potentially useful information is simply skipped over and/or summarized in 10-20 words. To someone unfamiliar with DBZ, the storytelling in Kakarot could be a little confusing at times.
There are plenty of times when you’ll be controlling characters other than Goku – like Gohan, Piccolo, and Vegeta. Each playable character has their own unique skill tree as well as fighting style. You’ll also be able to bring along up to 2 NPC support characters (like a typical RPG) who also have their own skill trees and abilities.
Although Kakarot was originally marketed as an “open-world aRPG”, it’s technically not an “open-world” like you’d find in Elder Scrolls or Fallout. It’s a semi-open world similar to games like The Witcher 3 and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. You select a location from the world map and then travel there. There are boundaries and you’re locked to that location unless you travel via the world map.
Being an aRPG, Kakarot has a fairly typical RPG-like leveling system. Simply put, you gain experience by completing quests and winning battles. XP only goes so far though; to level up/unlock skills you’ll have to gather “Z orbs” around the open world – you also get them for winning battles. Different skills require different colored orbs, so you’ll have to make sure you gather lots of each.
In my opinion, the Z orbs detract from and clutter the semi-open world. Everywhere you look, there are either red, blue, green, or rainbow-colored orbs littering the landscape and horizon. That being said, I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t already wasted plenty of time flying around collecting them – in a way, it almost feels like you’re playing Mario and collecting coins.
Z orbs and XP aren’t the only ways to improve your party. Eating food will also provide temporary as well as permanent buffs to stats. The permanent buffs aren’t huge, but they definitely add up over time.
Side quests exist, but they’re 90% fetch quests. That said, it’s in these quests where you’ll get to interact with lots of characters that might have appeared for just a few episodes, like Nam, Android 8, and the Pilaf Gang.
Collecting items in the open-world is fairly tedious… Sometimes even boring and uninspired. For instance, fighting a “dinosaur” boils down to entering a first-person camera and spamming it with basic Ki blasts. It honestly feels like those old arcade Time Crisis games. You even get a little “Warning!” message once you’ve hit it a few times. It’d be a little better and feel less like an arcade rail-shooter if the first-person camera was made optional.
Combat feels similar to Xenoverse (if you’ve played that) but the controls are pretty strange regardless if you’re using a controller or KB+M. It might take a while to get used to them, but they eventually start to work quite well. In true DBZ fashion, fights are fast and frantic and there’s nothing better than knocking someone through a bunch of mountains only to follow up with a Spirit Bomb.
What really makes combat shine is the visible terrain damage. Although they’re primarily just textures and it’s not actual terrain deformation, it really adds to the DBZ-feel. Similarly, you can tear up the ground while flying around the map. Unfortunately, the damage disappears within just a few seconds.
You don’t just fly around punching and kicking enemies as you see them either. Similar to an old-school Final Fantasy, combat is instanced to a degree. Enemies will chase you down to initiate combat (or you can fly directly into them and 1-hit them if the level gap is high enough) at which point you’re thrown into an instance that takes place exactly where you were. Once combat is done, you continue from where you ended. So, it’s not like you’re removed from the map and placed into a “battle map”… But, everything will disappear during combat. I’d call it “semi-instanced” combat.
Boss battles can be pretty intense and some of their attacks feel absolutely massive. It’s unlike Xenoverse where most attacks seem kind of underwhelming. In Kakarot you’ll have massive craters (again, mostly just textures) appearing from similarly massive attacks.
When it comes to combat in campaign missions… How well you do doesn’t matter outside of how much XP you’ll get. For instance, you can beat Radditz without taking any damage, but during the following cutscene it’ll be like you almost lost – just like it was in the anime.
During my playtime, I’ve only encountered a couple of very minor bugs. One being a duplicated Goku in the first few minutes of the game. The other being characters sliding off-screen during conversations. Beyond that, the only other major complaint I have is that your “level up” notifications only appear for half a second (seriously, half a second). It’s barely long enough to even see who leveled up, let alone how their skills increased.
All-in-all, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a must-play for the devoted DBZ fan. Sure, you know the story from start to finish, but who cares? It’s a DBZ RPG.
For the more casual fan or those who have no clue about DBZ, you might find yourself confused by parts of the story. However, there’s still plenty of fun to be had if you enjoy aRPGs.
At its core, DBZ: Kakarot is a solid action RPG, there’s no denying that much. It released relatively bug-free and came very well-optimized even on lower-end systems.
- Relatively enjoyable (but repetitive) combat
- Looks like the anime
- Good voice acting (English and Japanese)
- Well-optimized on PC
- Almost no bugs at release
- Important parts of the story are ignored
- Gathering items in the semi-open world can be tedious
- Hunting “dinosaurs” feels like an arcade rail-shooter
- NPCs will often “slide” away during conversations
- Some voice-over lines are used way too excessively
- The “Time attack” minigames are pretty lame