Review copy provided by Bandai Namco. Reviewed on PC.
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot aimed to fulfill several fans’ wishes. Open-world Dragon Ball Game? Check. RPG? Check. Multiple playable characters? Check. Based on the fan-favorite Dragon Ball Z series? Check as well. While adhering to the needs of the fans is a pretty good thing, we have seen ambitious projects like these fail miserably in the past. That, however, is not the case here.
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot is not a game that everyone would adore. And, that is simply because the game has its significant set of flaws, which might bother someone new or non-fans of the series. For a Dragon Ball Z fan, however, Dragon Ball Z Kakarot is a different ball game altogether. The game recreates all the historic Dragon Ball Z arcs, and they have absolutely nailed it. From the likes of the adrenaline-rushing, Buu Saga to the nail-biting Cell Saga, all major segments of the series get ample attention, intertwined with a few fillers to fix the inconsistencies in the original plot.
The game is the best recreation of the Dragon Ball Z plot in a video game we could get. What’s impressive is that the game not only stays true to the original series with the main plot but also there are side missions based on the Dragon Ball lore. The moments in the original series, which gave the series a name, have been represented pretty well in the game, making the players relive the glorious moments with their favorite characters being in their control this time around. Most of the major encounters in the game involve the combat sequence followed by the cutscene which depicts either a move that defeats the enemy or a counter-attack that knocks off the player. That, however, is pretty underwhelming, given the fact that the game could have had Quick Time Events in those sequences instead of a mere cutscene. There still isn’t much to complain, however, because the game does the cutscenes really well.
The quest system has been a point of contention since the game’s launch. The game has been criticized for being dumped with fetch-quests, but, that argument brings me back to the original notion. This game is strictly for fans of the Dragon Ball franchise. Considering the plot of the Dragon Ball series, there isn’t much apart from fetch-quests that could have been added in the form of sidequests. The anime itself is filled with a number of those sequences and the game rightly replicates the same. What could’ve been better is the RPG-progression.
The game does little to encourage exploration since resources are pretty abundant, and you’d find yourself getting most of the stuff you need for upgrades on the way to your next objective itself. That’s because the normal progression via the main plot does enough to keep you at par with your forthcoming enemy. Sometimes, characters get a buff out of nowhere, and the power buff is justified in a cutscene which says the particular character has been training all this while. This makes the RPG-leveling system really inconsistent, but then again, while this game fails as an RPG, it recreates the Dragon Ball series pretty well. An avid fan of the series would know how these inconsistent and sudden power buffs are common in the series, so that’s what they tried to replicate. If they had not undertaken this concept for power buffs, however, except for the transformations, it would have made more sense and wouldn’t have belittled the leveling system in the game.
The game does incorporate a community board system which is sort of a unique concept but it fails to leave a mark as such. Community boards are different sets where you can place character tokens of characters you meet, to improve drop rates and boost stats. It did seem interesting at first, but after a few hours into the game, once the pace of the main plot picks up you’ll stop bothering about the community boards. But that’s the case with almost everything else in the game. Once the main plot picks up, you’re less likely to do anything else. The game is not to blame here that much, because the plot is so engaging, to begin with. Obviously, the nostalgia factor plays a huge role, but the game does enough to make sure it doesn’t fail to live up to the glory of the series, as far as the main plot is concerned.
Open-world traversal is very satisfying, although the flying mechanics feel a bit off. That again, however, is compensated by the stellar recreation of the environment of the anime. Be it West City, Namek or Capsule Corporation, each location will definitely give you a walk down the memory lane. Not to forget, the improved visuals and experiencing all the glorious moments of the series on 60 FPS takes the whole experience to the next level. Combat is pretty monotonous in the first few hours of the game, but it will definitely grab your attention as soon as you unlock upgrades and transformations, albeit remain a tad too repetitive. This repetitive nature doesn’t take the satisfaction off the combat, though. The animation, the audio cues, the environmental destruction and the heated verbal exchange amidst the combat do enough to make players look forward to the next encounter.
Most of the fight sequences involve the basic tactics of hitting a few melee moves, backing it with a special attack and then dodging a few hits. While any other game could’ve got outright mundane if it had incorporated this formula, it’s just the fact that irrespective of the number of times you have used it, nothing takes the satisfaction off a Kamehameha or the Galick Gun. The game does try to twist up a combat a bit at times by partying the player up with characters, and, players can use their special attacks as well, as and when available alongside their own. There’s also a Z combo which is pretty satisfying to pull off. While the combat doesn’t have a lot of depth when one compares it to a game like Dragon Ball FighterZ, it has an ample amount of weight which compensates to it to some extent.
All in all, Dragon Ball Z Kakarot is a pretty impressive title. It’s not something you’d call as Game of the Year, or the best Dragon Ball game ever made, however, it is one of the best recreations of the Dragon Ball Z series we could ever get. If you are a fan of the franchise, you’ll enjoy every moment of the game and it’ll be definitely worth a buy right now. For others, it’s a really good game to pick up on a sale, if you are looking for a story-rich game, and don’t bother about the shallow RPG mechanics of the game.