Dragon Ball Z Kakarot by CyberConnect 2 is essentially one of the better and more authentic Dragon Ball Z experiences out in the gaming space ever.

Game Name: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Publisher(s): Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer(s): CyberConnect2
Release Date: January 17, 2020

 

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Do I really need to explain the story of Dragon Ball Z at this point? At 22 years old internationally, I’m sure most people reading this have seen either the original 291 episodes of the original run that debuted in 1998 in the USA/International markets or Dragon Ball Kai, the shorter 167 episode retelling of the series or more than likely have seen the 60-odd episode Dragon Ball Z Abridged parody by Team Four Star. Either way, we all should know the story by now. But just in case you don’t, here’s the briefest summary of the Dragon Ball Z saga.

Dragon Ball Z picks up five years after the end of the Dragon Ball anime, with Goku now a young adult and father to his son, Gohan. A humanoid alien named Raditz arrives on Earth in a spacecraft and tracks down Goku, revealing to him that he is his long-lost older brother and that they are members of a near-extinct extraterrestrial warrior race called the Saiyans. The Saiyans had sent Goku (originally named “Kakarot”) to Earth as an infant to conquer the planet for them, but he suffered a traumatic brain injury soon after his arrival and lost all memory of his mission, as well as his blood-thirsty Saiyan nature. Goku refuses to help Raditz continue the mission, which results in Raditz kidnapping Gohan. Goku decides to team up with his former enemy Piccolo in order to defeat Raditz and save his son while sacrificing his own life in the process. In the afterlife, Goku trains under the ruler of the North Galaxy, King Kai, and is taught the Kaio-ken and Spirit Bomb techniques, before being revived by the Dragon Balls a year later in order to save the Earth from Raditz’ allies; Nappa and the self-proclaimed “Prince of all Saiyans”, Vegeta, who arrive before Goku returns. Piccolo is killed by Nappa during the battle, along with Goku’s allies Yamcha, Tien Shinhan and Chiaotzu (with Chiaotzu sacrificing himself to save Tien), and both Kami and the Dragon Balls cease to exist as a result of Piccolo’s death. After Goku finally arrives at the battlefield, he avenges his fallen friends by defeating Nappa with his new level of power. Vegeta executes Nappa for his failure and does battle with Goku, but is ultimately defeated thanks to the efforts of Gohan and Goku’s other surviving allies, Krillin and Yajirobe. At Goku’s request, they spare Vegeta’s life and allow him to escape Earth, with Vegeta vowing to return and destroy the planet out of revenge for his humiliation at Goku’s hands.

During the battle, Krillin overhears Vegeta mentioning the original set of Dragon Balls from Piccolo’s homeworld, Namek. While Goku recovers from his injuries, Gohan, Krillin and Goku’s oldest friend Bulma depart for Namek in order to use these Dragon Balls to revive their fallen friends. However, they discover that Vegeta’s superior, the galactic tyrant Lord Frieza, is already there, looking to use the Dragon Balls for himself so that he can achieve immortality. A fully healed Vegeta arrives on Namek as well, also seeking immortality from the Dragon Balls, which leads to several battles between him and Frieza’s henchmen. Realizing he is overpowered, Vegeta teams up with Gohan and Krillin to fight the Ginyu Force, a team of elite mercenaries summoned by Frieza. After Goku finally arrives on Namek, the epic battle with Frieza himself comes to a close when Goku transforms into the fabled Super Saiyan of legend and defeats him before escaping Namek as the planet is destroyed in a massive explosion.

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Upon his return to Earth a year later, Goku encounters a time traveler named Trunks, the future son of Bulma and Vegeta, who warns Goku that two Androids will appear three years later, seeking revenge against Goku for destroying the Red Ribbon Army when he was a child. During this time, an evil lifeform called Cell emerges and, after absorbing two of the Androids to achieve his “perfect form”, holds his own fighting tournament to decide the fate of the Earth, known as the “Cell Games”. After Goku sacrifices his own life a second time, to no avail, Gohan avenges his father by destroying Cell after ascending to the second level of Super Saiyan.

Seven years later, Goku is revived for one day to reunite with his loved ones and meet his youngest son, Goten, at the World’s Martial Arts Tournament. Soon after, Goku and his allies are drawn into a fight by the Supreme Kai against a magical being named Majin Buu summoned by the evil wizard Babidi. After numerous battles that result in the deaths of many of Goku’s allies as well as the destruction of Earth, Goku (whose life is fully restored by the Elder Supreme Kai) kills Kid Buu (the original and most powerful form of Majin Buu) with a Spirit Bomb attack containing the energy of all the inhabitants of Earth, who were resurrected along with the planet by the Namekian Dragon Balls. Goku makes a wish for Buu to be reincarnated as a good person and ten years later, at another Tenkaichi Budōkai, he meets Buu’s human reincarnation, Uub. Leaving the match between them unfinished, Goku departs with Uub to train him to become Earth’s new defender.

Gameplay with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot consists of three different types: World Exploration, Combat and sorta traditional RPG elements. Throughout these segments, you’ll be taking control of many different characters through the Dragon Ball Z saga including Goku (The main character and the one you’ll spend a lot of time with.), Vegeta, Gohan, and more as they play out-there moments in the anime.

With World Exploration, you can either walk or fly through the worlds that everyone knows of in Dragon Ball Z: Earth, Namek, Planet of the Kai’s, etc are all represented here. It’s during this phase of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot that you can find missions, encounter random generic enemies, collect orbs, gather food for the cooking mini-game, fish with Goku’s artificial tail (No Great Apes here), interact with characters like Eighter from the Dragon Ball series to get side missions or just see what they are up to after their story ended. While the gameplay here is pretty simple and easy to control, it’s more the nostalgic moments with the lesser characters from the Dragon Ball series that makes this phase worth playing. Otherwise, a lot of the basic things that happen here are nothing but a boring grind that really takes the excitement out of the world itself.

The RPG elements here are interesting but overall pointless. Your interactions with characters result in “soul embers” that you slot into what would usually be gear slots to gain bonus stats and all that for Goku or whoever. You also gain standard experience points by smashing the same generic-looking random enemies over and over again, gaining levels so you can unlock more skills and abilities along the way. All of this is easily exploitable to overpower Goku to the point where you make the combat in the game feel pointless too. But without all this grinding and stuff, it wouldn’t be a video game, would it? At least CyberConnect 2 made the systems involved simple and easy to use so that everyone can do it properly.

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Finally the best bit of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the combat. While it is simple and easy to do, there is a bit of management that goes into it. Without ki, you can’t really do anything, so powering up and making sure you don’t throw out a ton of Kamehameha beams is essential to keeping yourself alive. You do get all the abilities that the characters have throughout the story, but only when they need to be unlocked. So no making Goku becoming Super Saiyan 3 in the fight with Frieza on Namek can happen (unless there is a new game plus option I don’t know about) before it’s time. But if there was any drawback with the combat it is the camera. The camera during some fights can be obscured by objects or pushed into a corner due to colliding with a mountain or tree. This is a long time issue with these types of games because for some reason you can’t have a camera make terrain disappear to help you keep your opponent in sight properly.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is probably the most graphically impressive Dragon Ball game I’ve seen in a long time. Over the decades that we’ve been playing the same Dragon Ball Z story, the one thing that has improved has been the graphics. Characters in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot use a really good mixture of recreations of the anime style with a 3D cell shading that makes them look like you are playing the anime with a few improvements. Characters are expressive right down to the lines on their faces being replicated perfectly from the animation cells that are over 30 years old at this point. Explosions and beam effects shine brightly with the flare that they are expected to have without overpowering the characters or environment at all. Though there is still an issue with terrain damage in the game where things would usually be destroyed in the anime, only to either get no damage at all or crumble apart only to return to normal moments later. It makes the battles in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot seems less impactful than they should.

Speaking of the terrain in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, it is the most realistic environment that I have seen in ages. While this realistic approach would make you think that it would clash with the character models which look straight out of the anime, it doesn’t. I’m not sure how this is possible but the combination of the two really makes the world and the game seem like it was taken out of the anime once again while at the same time looking like the upgrade that people have wanted for decades.

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Sound in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot falls into two types: Awesome and Annoying.

The awesome part about the sound in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is that all the themes and background music used has been taken from the anime or made to sound exactly like it would come from the anime. Since there are more fights in this version than the anime, there have been some additions to the music to fill voids. When you get to story moments, the background tracks are recreations from the anime and sound perfect.

What is annoying about the sound in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the generic voice lines that happen during the World Exploration phase and Combat phases in the game. You’ll hear the characters speak about something being interesting over in a nearby area or the same generic “this is great” line over and over again. Given that this is a long game, you’d think there would be more voice work involved so that the time you are spending outside story moments are enough that you won’t want to rip your ears off after the first hour.

That being said, the voice work found in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is what you would expect during story sections: Perfection. During these moments, you know that you’re listening to the (majority) original voice cast from the show repeating those iconic lines for the millionth time. But what makes Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot interesting is that there are some additional scenes that have been created specifically for this game and thus required new lines to be recorded. It’s during these moments that you are thankful that CyberConnect 2 took the time to get the (majority) original cast back together to record the new lines and to make sure everything stays consistent with the anime.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the Dragon Ball game that players have wanted for years, a recreation of the story set in an open world that allows you to experience the life of Goku and others at your own pace. However, after playing Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, you can’t help but feel that this is just the same engine from those games used to recreate the all too familiar Dragon Ball Z story. Thus comes the biggest problem with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, and that being that we have gone from some very original games in the Xenoverse and even FighterZ games to yet another retelling of Dragon Ball Z. While this might be good for newer fans of the show or people who haven’t played a Dragon Ball Z game at all; for people like us here at The Outerhaven who are decades-long fans of the series, we crave something new.

Dragon Ball Super finished last year, so why not make that into a video game for the first time, or even Dragon Ball… or damn me to hell… Dragon Ball GT… get made into video games like this. Heck, do a deal with Team Four Star and give us Dragon Ball Z Abridged: The Video Game (or maybe make it DLC for this one hmmm?). Long time Dragon Ball fans know this story and have played it a million times, so maybe it’s time for Dragon Ball video games to move on from the Z saga and give us something else for a change. It’s been proven through games like Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Dragon Ball FighterZ that an original story can make money for the developers and publishers, so why not go in that direction?

If you want to check Dragon Ball Z Kakarot out for yourself before dropping retail prices for it, you can check out the video playlist above where The Outerhaven’s Keith Mitchell played Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot for many hours on the PC version.

Review Disclosure Statement: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot was provided to us by Bandai-Namco Entertainment for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

Summary

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At the end of it all, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is just the same old Dragon Ball Z story with the Dragon Ball Xenoverse cost of paint and a much shinier graphical upgrade. Everyone knows the Dragon Ball Z story by now, and that just makes the game dated. Outside of story moments the game does drag to a halt at times with overly repeated “random” battles, an RPG system that really doesn’t need to be in there, and collecting orbs because reasons. It’s well time for Bandai-Namco and CyberConnect 2 to give the old story a rest and maybe move into something a bit more… Super…

Pros

  • The best looking Dragon Ball Z game ever.
  • Nostaliga references with characters and moments
  • Simple pick up and play controls.

Cons

  • “Random” battles over and over.
  • Some mini-games are essentially pointless.
  • Same tired Dragon Ball Z storyline
Overall
4

About The Author

Karl Smart
Senior Editor / Reviewer

The main "Australian arm" of The Outerhaven. Karl primarily spends time playing and reviewing video games while taking time to occasionally review the latest movie or piece of gaming technology.