This may surprise most of you, but Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is an action role-playing game focused on the adventures of the Z fighters from the Dragon Ball Z series. Yup you read that right. This is a role playing title, not a fighting game. Developed by CyberConnect2, developers of the famed Naruto Storm series, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot offers up an almost picture perfect recreation of the source material it’s based on.
Key word being “almost”, which is not such a bad thing.
When the first trailers dropped it seemed like this title was another fighting games in the vein of Xenoverse and Budokai Tenkaichi, but it’s not. In Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot the combat is not the main focus. This is not say that it isn’t any good, but rather serviceable enough to fill its role in the overall package. There are no multi-button combos, or even directional specific ones like with the Naruto Storm games. The Circle or B button is your one and only physical attack button. Pressing it multiple times will result in the character performing a single combo.
Sounds boring right?
Not necessarily. You see the combos vary slightly depending on if the character is powered up, transformed, or when used in tandem with Ki blasts, support characters, counter attacks and the environment. Each ability is mapped to the face buttons while the bumpers and triggers serve as modifiers. As a whole, this makes for a very simply yet flamboyant battle system which closely mirrors the animation style of Dragon Ball Super.
Visually this is easily the best looking Dragon Ball game to date, and that includes the magnificent looking Dragon Ball FigherZ. The devs used a vibrant high contrast colour pallet to great effect, similar to what they did with the Storm games. And it’s that experience which shines throughout this new title. With every blow, each explosion, or shift of the camera it inspires awe. This is easily the best looking game of 2020 thus far, and thanks to it’s style I’m pretty sure it’ll remain one of the best looking games for decades.
As for the plot, it follows the anime very closely from the Saiyan Saga all the way to the Buu Saga. Throughout these arcs the player experiences epic moments from the anime via the perspective of different Z fighters. As the story progresses you’ll transition from character to character, sometimes numerous times during a single arc. Each character has their own leveling tree system with branches unlocked in accordance with the plot and their overall level. As far as leveling systems go, this is one of the simpler ones I’ve encountered in an RPG, and I like that. By not being too complicated it lowers the bar for entry, making the game much more accessible for the mainstream and fans RPG alike.
Those looking for more depth can dig deeper into the community system which allows the player to collect emblems to offer buffs to stats and other features. This works by connecting character emblems with each other to form links along with leveling up the individual emblems. The more links you have, their higher the better the buffs you’ll receive. Fans of the anime/ manga should find this linking system engaging enough due to each character have multiple links and combinations with other characters.
What’s more, the overall gameplay is also fairly simply.
Gameplay consists of flying around maps based on locations from the source material. These maps are connected by a simple point and click over-world, and are based on locations from the series. While in a map the player is able to collect orbs to be used for unlocking abilities on character skill trees. There they can also fish, enter races, find hidden collectables, collect items for crafting, healing, training and advancing the plot. Each map is fairly sizeable and visually unique, but the fundamentals are the same for each of them.
As for flaws, the game has very few. The most notable are the random enemies on the maps which constantly attack the characters breaking up the flow of play. There are ways to avoid or escape combat with them, but when they keep attacking one after the next it can become infuriating to say the least.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot also takes liberties with the source material by including side quests to add more depth to the experience. Thanks to it being an RPG, a lot of the focus is on the story and characters. Even the attention to detail with sounds or the way in which each character’s power level is represented when focusing on their ki is very much appreciated. Fans can even experience the game with either Japanese or English Dub, with an assortment of other language subs included.
As a whole package it looks, sounds and embodies all that is Dragon Ball while running at a smooth frame rate of 30FPS on a mid range PC and PS4 Pro. Players can also achieve 60FPS on a higher end PC with a decent enough processor and GPU. For me I didn’t find 30FPS to be a hindrance while playing the game since this is a single-player Role Playing Game, and thus it doesn’t require much perfect timing.
When this game was first announced I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I was skeptical because most anime themed games tend to be lazy cash grabs, but Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot isn’t like its contemporaries. This no doubt has to do with the fact that it has CyberConnect 2 at the helm, a developer with solid experience making great anime titles. This is a game I can easily recommend to fans of the Dragon Ball franchise, anime and JRPGs. It’s easy to pick-up, yet difficult to place back down.
The copy of Dragon Ball Kakarot used for this review was provided to us by its publisher, Bandai Namco Entertainment.