Less than an hour into Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot and I’m moved. Goku is holding his son, Gohan, in his arms as he leisurely returns him to devoted wife and loving mother, Chi-Chi. The method of transportation is a trusty cloud known as the Flying Nimbus – a magical creation that can only be ridden by those with a pure heart.
Returning home, an angry Chi-Chi scolds me for being home so late. An under the thumb Goku skulks inside, his metaphorical tail between his legs and the three have dinner before Goku and Gohan venture out on another father-son bonding adventure.
Kakarot starts surprisingly restrained and makes no effort attempting to fast-forward to the chaotic action it’s known for. With no prior knowledge of the franchise, this was a perfectly molded introduction to the world of Dragon Ball.
I missed the hype of Dragon Ball so that by the time I was interested, the moment was lost. As of now, with a 50-hour working week alongside family commitments, it’s tough to find the time to dedicate binging a particularly long-running show. My knowledge expands as much as the one-sided conversations I have with my fiancé who loves the anime, and our child who constantly wants to play as the ‘green one’ in Dragon Ball Fighterz (I now know that is Piccolo).
Seeing early gameplay of Kakarot and the promise of reliving the Dragon Ball Z saga, I decided to take the plunge into this expansive universe. Immediately it became reassuring that this was not only a love letter to fans who have grown up with these characters, but a gateway for a new generation to seek out what all the fuss is about.
None of this is represented better than through Gohan. At the beginning of your adventure, Gohan is an innocent young boy who idolizes his father’s footsteps. He’s yet to experience any of the trials and tribulations that will fall before him. An opening dream sequence sees Goku fighting his once arch-nemesis, Piccolo. An inquisitive young Gohan startles Goku from his day dream and inquires what he was reminiscing about. Goku, gladly boasting, relays his past triumph and the back-story of the two. Though it’s easy to come across as blatant exposition, it works well as a natural conversation between a father and his son.
It would be easy for Kakarot to jump straight to the next heavy action sequence, but instead remains slow-paced as you both hunt for food together. It’s these moments which not only provide back story for the characters, but an insight into who they really are and what they stand for. By the time we made it back to Chi-Chi’s, I’d fully grasped what kind of people Goku and Gohan are.
As we continue on our daily routine, it’s time to meet more friends of Goku’s. “What’s Master Roshi like?” and “Is Krillin strong, just like you?” an eager Gohan asks. Goku happily feeds his son’s appetite of intrigue on his past with these characters and continues to say “There’s also a woman I know, named Bulma”, before detailing their history. Sure, it’s an easy way to reiterate exposition, but even without that just spending time with these characters and the sub-stories they provide is enough to grasp a true feeling for what they like.
For example, as soon as I meet Goku’s old friend, Master Roshi, it’s immediately evident that he’s a bit of a pervert. Our first side quest in the game tasks us with finding his dirty magazines – there’s not a single combat moment in sight. I spend the next few minutes talking to the inhabitants on the island such as Krillin and Bulma as they assist me and give me further insight into what they’re personalities are like. I come across a talking turtle tells me that Master Roshi has spent far too long looking at these magazines and needs a break. I pause and think – a talking turtle!?
This would be utterly confusing for a newcomer like me, but mere feet away a glowing item grasps my attention – it’s a memento. These collectibles serve to give further back story, more specifically, Goku’s adventures during the original Dragon Ball anime. It’s a story of how they originally met the talking turtle who is a friend of Master Roshi’s. As I collect this, it adds to my Z Encyclopaedia, which is by far the most useful addition to Kakarot.
The Z Encyclopaedia basically acts as a compendium to all things Dragon Ball. A character uses a term I’m unfamiliar with? The book will teach me the phrase. When I’m curious how these two characters are related? An incredible relationship chart pinpoints exactly how so.
The book is filled with goodies like this and at the press of a button I can easily access any information I may be unaware of or confused by. Games aren’t strangers when it comes to a good codex. In Mass Effect alone you could spend a good afternoon with a nice cup of tea just trailing through each entry.
What makes Kakarot’s version of a codex so great is how it’s not over compensated, but provides brief, yet detailed descriptions of characters, items and places that are made easily digestible. Further knowledge can be accessed from topics by completing certain quests, meaning the more you put into Kakarot, the more you get back out of it.
It’s also worth noting that you’re rewarded for your knowledge on these characters. The game uses a feature known as community boards to help build up your stats and rewards. Different community boards serve various purposes like adventuring, which serves to build your HP and SP. As you meet characters, you earn their soul emblems which are placed into each board on a grid system. Which board you place them in is up to you, but different characters are better catered to certain boards and learning that has been some of the most fun I’ve had exploring the world of Dragon Ball.
I’m roughly around 10 hours into Kakarot now and seem to be reaching the end of the game’s first arc known as the Saiyan Saga. There seems to be no rush to reach the end of this act and Kakarot shows no attempt to speed things up. This could be troublesome to long-running fans, but for me, a complete newbie to everything Dragon Ball, it’s an accessible entry point.
It was once a daunting barrier for me to attempt to catch up to my fiancé’s knowledge of the anime, but I’m slowly starting to learn my Saiyans from my Namekians.
Soon my knowledge level will be over 9000!