Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the adventure many are waiting for. How do I know this? Because it’s the game I’ve been waiting for since I was a kid.
Despite waking up at 6 am for a three-and-a-half-hour train that London Northwestern Railway decided didn’t exist, I was suitably hyped to play four full hours of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot at Bandai Namco’s London office.
While we’ve covered the upcoming open-world RPG in a previous article, but this article comes from a different point of view. Last time it wasn’t me with my hands on the controller. That was Alex: he doesn’t know his Kakarot from his Radditz, his Senzu Bean from his Capsules, his Shenron from his Shenlong. While a quiz at the offices would prove that I am far from the fan I thought I was – do you know the pronunciation of the symbol on Goku’s Gi from the Namek Saga onwards? – I still think of myself as a pretty decent Dragon Ball fan.
That may be why Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot clicked better with Alex than it did with me. Alex hasn’t seen Radditz murder a farmer as he arrives on Earth; Alex never saw the death of the game’s titular character. I have; God knows how many times I have. Between multiple sit-throughs of the show and playing dozens of Dragon Ball games – Boudikai, Tenkaichi, Raging Blast, Legacy of Goku, Ultimate Tenkaichi, Battle of Z, Xenoverse and more – I have experienced the Dragon Ball Z narrative in a lot of different ways.
That’s why when I heard the name, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, I was pretty hyped. I expected to see a focus on Goku, aka Kakarot, that we haven’t seen before in a video game. I wanted to experience the events of the first DBZ movie – which would’ve been an amazing introduction as Goku fights in the World Tournament before the events of the show – I wanted to actually play as Goku travelling down the Snake Path, an important factor of the title character’s journey that is, once again, skipped over. That’s the journey of Kakarot; the Kakarot game is just the story of Dragon Ball Z: Again.
That means you’ll be experiencing a playable version of the core story we all know and love, and it’s recreated well enough that anyone who has never heard of the world-famous anime will be able to follow along effortlessly. In-game cutscenes are far from carbon copies of the detailed animation or panelling of the anime or manga, but they’re consistently directed in a simplified presentation. You won’t find the lovingly recreated frame-by-frame animations of Dragon Ball FighterZ, but you’ll find a lot more than fighting here.
Kakarot’s greatest strength is what it does better than any of its franchise predecessors: creating a sense of DBZ’s bizarre world. While later parts of Akira Toriyama’s work shifted away from the environmental dichotomy of sci-fi cities melding with the prehistoric land of gigantic caricature dinosaurs, our four-hour play session truly brought this utterly unique part of Toriyama’s world to life.
Whether you’re flying through the air as Piccolo or running around the ground at Mach-5 speed as Son Gohan, you’ll take in the gorgeously scenic view of a world without limits. You can beat up dinosaurs and take their meat, catch titanic-sized fish, destroy Red Ribbon bases full of enemies and more. Never before has a DBZ ever perfectly encapsulated than in this game; if you’re looking for the best interpretation of Dragon Ball’s world then you’ve found it.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dragon Ball game without some awesome anime action and Kakarot has that in spades. Using a simplified – for now – and more streamlined version of Xenoverse’s combat (albeit more polished), Kakarot’s action segments are pure anime adrenaline. Each punch is associated with a satisfying hit-spark, each powerful special move is a glorious display of visual excess.
While fighting high in the sky may be as Dragon Ball as it comes, Kakarot’s fights come alive the closer you are to the ground. Kamehamehas scorch the ground, punches break through rocks to pummel your enemies. Pound into your foe hard enough in a devastating combo and you’ll smash them through mountains. It’s all great stuff.
It’s incredibly difficult to not enjoy yourself playing Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. While it may have an ungodly amount of extra features like community boards, Z Points, crafting, and way more that add extra depth despite poor tutorials, it’s the fact that Dragon Ball is finally in a world that feels just like it should. While I would love to see other eras of this world explored in this huge open-world style – give me OG Dragon Ball any time – this is the best way to experience the world of Dragon Ball yet.
So, even though Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is still the story I’ve seen over and over again, I’m still excited to see everything the game has to offer. I’ve dreamt for years for a game that would truly emulate the bizarre mix-and-match world of this incredibly important property. Thank you for finally making dreams come true, Bandai.