Dragon Ball is a franchise that has spanned over 30 years and it has no intention of stopping. The series, created by Akira Toriyama, follows the story of Goku as he travels on his adventures finding the mystical Dragon Balls. This series needs no introduction as it is enjoyed by millions around the world. With the amount of times I have read the manga, watched the anime, played the games and listened to podcasts about this series, I would say I’m pretty involved. Although I wouldn’t call myself an expert, we have friends for that, I can tell you a good amount of information. Even with all that knowledge, playing this game was not just a nice refresher but also a reminder as to why I fell in love with the series in the first place.
Presentation wise this game looks great. It looks like the anime and sounds like it too. Just being able to run around in this semi-open world and hearing ‘Cha-la Head Cha-la’ in the background just brings so much joy. And the rest of the score keeps you engaged and really makes you feel like you’re in the Dragon World. That’s not to say there aren’t it’s fair share of glitches. During some cutscenes characters will glitch through the scenery, and there is a bit of screen tearing here and there. Nothing game breaking however. Each new arc opens and ends with credits and ‘Next Time on Dragon Ball’ as if you’re watching the show. Exploring around the hub worlds allow you to find caves and items hidden everywhere. You can run around in super speed or fly up high in the skies. If Nimbus (or Kinto’un) is your style you can use it to get around as well. Dragon Ball has always had its own style and it is kept intact here from the villages to the mountains, to the big cities. There are animals and dinosaurs to encounter, and of course enemies scattered throughout. The world doesn’t feel empty which was my fear going in but Bandai has seemed to fill it with so much. I also really appreciate the memories that can be found scattered about. Inside Goku’s house, for example, the rock that was used in an early training session by Master Roshi between Goku and Krillin can be seen. If you pick it up, not only does it unlock rewards but it also gives you a brief summary with screenshots of the Dragon Ball anime. It just makes you think ‘wow’ that’s not something that needed to be done at all, but it shows the developers cared enough to put as much Dragon Ball history as they could. Even with all there is to do, you’re eventually going to get into some fights.
The combat in the game is pretty straight forward. You have an attack button, ki button, and guard. Holding down the L1 button on PlayStation (LB on Xbox) allows you to bring out your super moves like the Kamehameha for example. While the combat itself isn’t complicated and makes for fights to be fluid, the controls themselves needed some time to get used to. I was struggling to get a good hold up until the end of the Saiyan arc. The biggest hurdle was flying.
Instead of using the analog sticks for both moving around and up or down, you had to use the R1 and R2 buttons (RB and RT on Xbox). On top of that I kept going up when I wanted to go down and vice versa. I still found myself doing it here and there throughout the game but not as much as the first few hours. After a bit of time it becomes very clear how fights can go down. Teleporting behind opponents as they’re about to use a special move of their own and smashing them to the ground is satisfying every time. A feature that I’m glad is back is the beam struggle and can happen during certain fights. I wasn’t able to hit the capture button but I was able to do it during the Goku vs Vegeta fight as well as some training missions on Namek. It does need to be timed pretty well however.
Speaking of training, this game is an RPG, and so as you level up characters you are going to unlock skills and moves that are more powerful as you go. Earlier I mentioned there are items hidden throughout the world, and these items called ‘D Medals’ will help you level up your skills in training missions. In the anime and manga you see characters do image training every once in a while and that’s exactly what these training missions are. It’s a fun way of incorporating something that doesn’t show up very often but is a known method in the series. Eventually you will get to transformations. All the big ones are here from the Kaio-Ken all the way to Super Saiyan 3. While we can’t transform while running around the hub world, the second we get into a battle it’s free game. There is also a Community Board which gives you perks as you rank up. Each community board focuses on different aspects like training or meal prepping. As you rank these boards the more abilities you will get such as doing more damage or lowering the price of items. There are also items that will temporarily give you stat bonuses for a limited amount of time. Hunting for meat and taking down dinosaurs and fishing will help you cook meals to get these bonuses. Big meals will permanently increase your stats as well.
As for the story of the game it’s a Dragon Ball story, it’s the same one we’ve been reading and watching for years. And somehow I don’t get tired of it. The story is mission based with whichever character you currently control heading to an area on the map. What I really loved however is how the game handles elements of the story we never see. Before going to Namek you are asked by Bulma to gather materials for the spaceship, or one of my personal favorites, tasked by Master Roshi to go look for Launch. Launch is a character that falls by the wayside in the Z story, but including her here is a fun nod. In between each major arc there are Intermissions where you have free reign to go anywhere you would like. This is where you can take care of other side missions and get more lore from the Dragon Universe. The only issue right now is that if you miss any side quests you cannot do them later as they have to be done during specific times. We have already been told that there will be a future update to use Trunks’ Time Machine to go back and do them, so it won’t be a problem too much longer. You can also look for the Dragon Balls and have wishes granted to get rare ítems, or revive fallen enemies to fight again.
‘Dragon Ball Z Kakarot’ still feels somewhat fresh in its storytelling. While it is mostly a retread of the series again, there’s some interesting side quests and lore introduced that will allow long time Dragon Ball fans to appreciate it even more than before. While the gameplay is solid, the controls do need some time to get used to. Overall I’d say that this is one of my favorite Dragon Ball games, and I hope that there is DLC to include Dragon Ball Super, and sure why not GT for good measure as a what if storyline. What is there however is worth it if you are a fan of the series and especially if you enjoyed the ‘Legacy of Goku’ games on the GameBoy Advanced. The nostalgia here is enough to say it’s a fun ride but the game itself is also up to quality and does the series justice.