Dragon Ball Z Kakarot is the latest video game from the Dragon Ball franchise and its a comforting throwback to one of the greatest anime series in history. Although we've been treated to a sequel and spinoffs since it finished, nothing compares to the magic that Dragon Ball Z instilled in viewers around the world.
It was only natural that Bandai Namco would opt to revive the DBZ universe and they've boldly adapted it to play out like an RPG with traditional fighting sections from iconic moments during the series.
The January period is a quiet time for game releases and strategically Bandai Namco have made a great call to release it during this windows - especially with so many games recently announcing that they're being delayed.
Here's our review for Dragon Ball Z Kakarot.
What Is Dragon Ball Z Kakarot?
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is an action RPG. It takes some of the popular fighting elements of previous Dragon Ball games, such as Xenoverse, and combines it with traditional RPG elements.
If you're unfamiliar with the Dragon Ball Universe, it was originally a manga written by Akira Toriyama in 1984.
The manga was developed into an anime series in 1986, going on to spring several different series including Dragon Ball Z and most recently Dragon Ball Super.
The popular anime series has had video games made based off of its property for 33 years, selling well over 50 million copies across the franchise.
The game revolves around Goku, who is a Saiyan sent to earth as a child from the planet Vegeta, as he aims to get stronger by fighting and training against stronger opponents.
During his time, he regularly finds himself saving the world and also the universe from certain destruction alongside his friends and family.
The game itself retells the epic saga that was the Dragon Ball Z story by giving players a free-to-roam environment, interactable NPCs and is bookmarked by significant fights as the story unfolds.
If like me you spent a huge period of your childhood, not only watching the TV show but also imitating it with your friends at school, you'll understand why it's one of the most adrenaline-pumping shows of all time.
What separates this game from simply being a lazy attempt at cashing in on an easy win is that the side missions and stories plotted throughout the world increases the value of the game and even adds to Dragon Ball lure.
It goes a step further to exclusively answer questions and clear up queries fans have had since its debut.
Although a lot of these are rarely significant to the overarching story, it is nice to see these loose ends tied up.
If you've played some of the 3D Dragon Ball games before, you'll feel right at home with Dragon Ball Z Kakarot.
If you've also played Dragon Ball FighterZ, you'll understand the complexity of fighting games and just how tough it is to pull off a simple Kamehameha for a new player.
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot strips away that learning curve and makes things incredibly simple and for a game that should be all about the fighting sequences; honestly, I was rather disappointed by this decision.
The game starts out with a training battle against Piccolo to set the scene and story, it throws a ton of information at you, which is very overwhelming at first as I'm far from a fighting game guru.
However, you'll quickly realise that there is very little to grasp within the fighting sequences and that it's quite straight forward.
If you've never played a fighting game before, you'll more than likely just spam a few buttons to get by - that is essentially what the fighting aspect of this game is about.
If you can get close you'll spam the one solitary melee button to engage in a fighting combination sequence, then follow up with a super attack; which can be activated at any time by pressing two buttons.
You'll quickly learn that you can't always get away with spamming your own attacks and will need to defend and deal with unstoppable enemy attacks; it almost becomes a turn-based strategy game at this point.
The most skilful part of the game is the ability to dodge your opponent's attacks, which is fair simple as you can spam the vanish ability (allowing you to move sideways in an instance).
Once you unlock support characters, battles become even more simplified; often being heavily weighted in your favour.
If you're really struggling, spamming Ki blasts from a distance can be a really effective way to cheese your way through battles.
Outside of this, the gameplay is very free and it's fantastic to be able to explore familiar locations and scenery. Some of my favourite moments came from just flying around the area I was in.
There are a number of side missions available and plenty of collectables to gather for the true RPG fanatic.
Structure & Layout
It's important to stress that the environment has its limits, each area is not infinite and the world is not truly open.
Areas are broken up into segments to likely improve the functionality of the game, limit the loading times and improve the performance; no doubt a good call.
One thing I appreciated was the dedicated time the game gave you between sagas to explore the world and strengthen your characters.
Something that really should have had more thought is the EXP and levelling system; a crucial mechanic to any RPG.
The biggest draw to an RPG is the grind, unfortunately, you gain far too much experience in side missions that can make grinding seem unnecessary.
In fact, you don't even necessarily need to do the side missions as you earn plenty of EXP from the main story and the fact you can work your way around fights where you're clearly out levelled makes grinding even less valuable.
I don't think there's anything wrong with keeping the focus on the main story, especially for fans who just want to make their way through it and forego the grind, but it doesn't necessarily make it a true RPG in that sense.
Where it does ensure its RPG elements are not lost, are features such as the Community Board, Skill Tree and stat boost items that can influence the power and abilities of your fighters.
Graphics, Visuals & Sound
The graphics are very nice and definitely one of the stronger features within the game.
They may not blow you away in comparison to other games, but to turn such a rich world into a fully functioning 3D environment and maintain a high FPS is a testament to the developer's work.
The environments feature an element of destructibility and actions you take can leave their mark on the surrounding area.
The graphics are far from groundbreaking, but they will make you appreciate the lure of Dragon Ball that much more.
My only issue was that some of the character animations and models seemed a bit clunky, particularly in cutscenes.
The dialogue also seemed a bit flat, the soundtracks used in the show were EPIC. Perhaps it was just me, but major moments were lacking some oomph in the delivery department.
If you decide to focus on the main story, you're looking at 30-40 hours of gameplay. However, if you complete all of the side missions you're looking at 100+.
This is a fantastic amount of time for a game and you're more than likely going to get your fill of content as a result.
That's not to mention that the Season pass has already planned to bring new missions to the game at a later date.
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot doesn't feature massive amounts of customisation from a visual perspective, however, it offers plenty of mix up in your move set and how you approach battles.
It's also worth keeping in mind, when purchasing the game, that it is a single-player only adventure; meaning it won't have much replayability once finished.
Is It Worth It?
I think it will depend on what you want from this game, what ability level you're at and whether you're looking for a new game in a quiet period of the year.
February and March will play host to a number of great titles, so if you're strap for cash after the Christmas break you may want to take this into consideration.
For me, this is a no brainer as a Dragon Ball Z fan and shouldn't even raise a question for any other fans of the show.
If you're a hardcore RPG or fighting game fan, you're probably not going to get what you're looking for here.
Its a really comfortable game for those to be introduced to both fighting games and RPGs. It keeps things simple and easy to understand and by dressing it up in a DBZ skin, it adds an enjoyable familiarity that any fans of the show can draw inspiration from.
It's not necessarily the successor to Dragon Ball FighterZ, but it's a major step forward for future Dragon Ball games.