Dragon Ball Z Kakarot on PS4
Dragon Ball Z is one of the most storied anime franchises of all time, and we’ve seen countless video game adaptions over the years. Color me excited then when Kakarot promised to be a full-blown action RPG that lets you live out the story of Goku. While that had me excited going in, the result isn’t quite as stellar as I was hoping for. When Dragon Ball Z Kakarot shines it shines brightly, but it’s bogged down by some questionable design decisions along the way.
Kakarot brings every single saga from Dragon Ball Z into one experience, this means you’re playing from the Saiyan Saga to the Buu Saga. The main “chapters” of the game are these sagas, with an intermission between each one that lets you explore the world.
If you’ve seen the anime or played any number of Dragon Ball games, you’ve experienced these stories already. While it’s the same old stuff, this is probably the best the stories have been presented in video game form, with decent pacing, strong voice acting by the original actors, and some fantastic cutscenes.
Outside of the main story is a variety of new side content. Characters from across the series populate the world, and oftentimes give you options substories to complete.
Some of these are fun, like when you help Puar disguise themselves as Yamcha, and try to Yamcha’s love life going when he’s waiting to be revived. Others feel like simple fetch quests, there to do nothing more than flesh out your playtime.
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot isn’t an open world game, but there are a number of different zones that you can roam around and explore, both on foot and by flying through the air.
The world brings us to the biggest problem I have with Kakarot: most things outside of the main story simply don’t feel engaging. Dragon Ball Z, while beloved, is infamous for forwarding the idea of filler in anime, and I can’t help but compare that to Kakarot.
Everything in the world feels like filler to just extend your playtime. You can collect Z Orbs to power up your characters and teach them new moves, you can collect ingredients to make food, find the Dragon Balls to make a wish, and more.
The world simply feels empty outside of collectibles. Flying around at high speed is fun, but I wish there was more connective tissue to make doing so more fun. As I said before, some of the substories were fun little nods or wrinkles on Dragon Ball, but it’s a mixed bag.
Everything you’re doing is basically in service to powering up your characters for the main story, which again is something fans have seen so many times already.
The real highlights of anything Dragon Ball related are the over-the-top fights, and Kakarot is absolutely the same.
Combat plays similarly to something like Xenoverse or Budokai, with you controlling a character in third-person brawler style. You have melee combos mapped to one button, Ki blasts to another, and special attacks on one of the bumpers.
It’s very similar to past Dragon Ball games, although a bit simplified. Combat isn’t an overly complex matter of combos, but rather goes for intensity and spectacle, and it often succeeds. Important battles like the ones with Frieza, Vegeta, or Cell are incredibly memorable, and the fight literally blows apart the environment in Dragon Ball fashion.
Of course, all of the game’s RPG elements factor into combat and the strength of your characters. A leveling system increases your stats and you can eat food to get temporary boosts, but maybe most interesting is the Community system.
There are a number of different “Community Boards” that you can use to enhance a variety of different parameters. Each board has slots where you can put Soul Emblems, little medals that you get from the meeting and helping characters. You get these through the story and through substories.
Each Soul Medal has its own stats for which boards it’s best on, and you can increase these with gift items. With tons of different medals you have a lot of customization in terms of what you want to focus on.
For example, the Training board raises the experience you get from battle as well as Ki defense, while the Z Warrior board raises your melee and Ki attack power.
I genuinely enjoyed most of the RPG elements, and the freedom that they allow you to create characters how you want.
Another interesting mechanic comes from the Dragon Balls themselves, which you won’t unlock until clearing the Frieza Saga. Once you’ve done that, you can collect all seven Dragon Balls and use them to summon Shenron for a wish.
These wishes can be used to revive old enemies to fight again, or get loads of money or experience. Reviving villains is particularly fun because it makes for some fun dialogue moments when they come back to life and see Goku and friends.
Despite the game being called Kakarot, you don’t play as just Goku. In fact, there’s a surprising amount of time that Goku is just gone. I know there are multiple moments in Dragon Ball Z where Goku is gone or dead, but if you’re naming the game after him you’d think you’d spend more time as Goku.
By far you spend more time playing as Gohan than Goku, and for some reason you don’t follow Goku at all during certain events, like when he dies and uses the Snake Way to get to King Kai’s Planet. Instead, you only see the basics of the event and then switch back to Gohan and Piccolo.
While I love the cast of DBZ, it’s odd that there were times I found myself wondering, “When am I gonna get to play as Goku again?”
I mentioned earlier that this might be the best the Dragon Ball Z story has been presented in video games, and a big part of that comes down to presentation.
This is the best looking Dragon Ball games to date, with the exception of maybe Dragon Ball FighterZ. Scenes from the anime have been recreated in painstaking detail, and the way smoke and effects are done really help nail that anime feeling.
Dodging lets you dart across the battlefield and a stray Kamehameha can blow apart a rock or piece of land. Battles are flashy and exciting, despite how simple they are, and it’s great to see the world of Dragon Ball fleshed out more, visually.
The soundtrack doesn’t quite live up to that presentation, but there are some catchy tunes like an instrumental rendition of Cha-La Head Cha-La, the original theme song. Unfortunately, the same songs get used over and over.
The same can be said for voice lines, and boy did I get sick of hearing Gohan say ‘”I think I can handle this” every single time I flew past an enemy. The voice work in the story sections is fantastic, but the repetition of voice lines while exploring gets really grating really quickly.
It’s little problems like this that just drag down Kakarot. The climactic battles are exciting, but then you’re let right back down into tedium and hollow exploration.
As a longtime fan of Dragon Ball, I did enjoy Kakarot, I was just hoping for more honestly. I wish the game had been a bit more ambitous, I wish it went in more on original storytelling.
If you want to experience these stories again, Kakarot is the best way you can do it, but expect a bit of tedium along the way.
Pros-Simple but fun combat that emphasizes spectacle.
-Robust RPG elements that allow a lot of customization.
-Absolutely gorgeous presentation.
Cons-World feels empty and exploration only serves for collecting.
-Music and voice lines that feel far too repetitive over 40 hours.
– Surprising lack of, well, Goku.
Jan. 17, 2020
CyberConnect2, Bandai Namco
PS4, Xbox One, PC