The world of Dragon Ball Z is an extremely beloved one, with the anime and manga series having lasted throughout decades of fandom. In that time, many video games have been made for the series, most of which have succeeded in one aspect or another. Not many have attempted to do what Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot has, though, which is tell the stories of the series through the lens of a role-playing game. While Kakarot may not be the best or most perfect Dragon Ball Z video game ever, it does a fine job of honoring the series and giving people who don’t know much about the franchise enough to dive in and learn in a creative new way.
Players familiar with Dragon Ball Z will instantly recognize what’s happening in Kakarot, but for those new to the franchise, it’s pretty simple. The game covers the four main arcs (or sagas) of Dragon Ball Z, bringing you through the Saiyan, Frieza, Cell, and Buu saga. The game manages to do this all while trimming down what is often noted as a big problem in a series like Dragon Ball Z: the filler.
Unlike the anime, though, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot speeds through most of the story, allowing you to play through some minor subplots that happened in the show while also fast-tracking you through some of the other, less important ones. For example, players can help Master Roshi find his promiscuous magazine if they choose, or simply push on through the main story. For a game that aims to show players most of the Dragon Ball Z story, it’s a necessary mechanic and one that helps you stay involved with the story as well.
When it comes to gameplay, the battles you’ll face in Kakarot are pretty similar to those found in Dragon Ball Xenoverse, although they’re much easier. While you can string together complex attacks, you can also get through enemies by just delivering a series of kicks and punches combined with the occasional blast. As you progress through the game, you’ll be able to learn more moves and begin countering enemies as they attack, but other than that, it’s mostly just getting down the basics. The environment and landscapes you can fly through while fighting makes for some incredible moments, but altogether, the fights are fairly generic and don’t seem to be anywhere near as hard as they are when you’re watching the show.
Where Kakarot shines compared to other Dragon Ball Z titles is in its open-world capabilities. While you’re completing missions, you’ll be able to fly around as whichever character the story is currently about, and it is genuinely fun to get to explore the world of Dragon Ball Z as Goku, Piccolo, or whoever else it may be. In your time with the open world, you can fly around collecting Z Orbs, hunt for collectibles, or just quickly get to the next checkpoint to begin the story. You can also fight weaker enemies while out exploring, which will allow you to level up so you’re not weak when the main story begins to advance. While some players might want to grind through most of these objectives, it is nice to take some time and absorb the atmosphere, although the game never feels like you need to do anything to beat it.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot isn’t just an open-world title, though, allowing players to partake in some light role-playing game systems as well. Players are introduced early on to the Community Board, which is a sort of partnering system that gives you the chance to pair up different Soul Emblems together for boosted effects in the main game. Pairing up Z-Fighters like Goku and Gohan, for example, will result in your main character getting slightly better effects for the battles to come. You can also level up a character throughout the game, although in order to do that you’ll have to enter some brief training exercises which amount to basically defeating an opponent in a skirmish.
The main draw of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot will undoubtedly be in how it covers the stories of Dragon Ball Z, and it doesn’t fail there. Everything is as you remember it, and getting to be a part – no matter how small – of the story does feel rewarding in its own way. Unfortunately, the other aspects of the game don’t really do much in the way of making it a more enjoyable experience. The role-playing mechanics and open-world exploration of Kakarot are fun, but never feel completely necessary to invest heavily in while going through the main story. Not only that, but the systems themselves are not that easy to understand initially, leading to many players simply giving up and opting to power through the game.
In essence, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot isn’t a perfect game, but is fun enough to be a must-buy for fans of Dragon Ball Z. Despite a pretty simple open-world experience and an RPG system that never fully achieves what it aims to do, this is a game that will appeal to many fans of the series. Even if you don’t dive too deep into the game the way some fans might, you’ll at least be able to revisit some of the most iconic moments of the anime’s history, and likely relive some of your own childhood fun in the meantime, and that’s more than some other games can say.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot for the PlayStation 4 provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment.