I experienced Goku’s story so many times by now that I wasn’t really excited about Kakarot, even after playing it multiple times at game events it never really clicked for me. I think this form of fatigue struck many Dragon Ball Z fans. But the unexpected happened, after playing it for some time I started to notice that I was continuously playing it for hours, without keeping track of time. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is like a senzu bean, replenishing my interest in Goku and the other familiar faces to the fullest.
What we liked!
- Addictive combat gameplay: You can’t go around the fact that it is a button-mash party, but it is such a fun one. The combat isn’t much different as fighting game Xenoverse, with a simple one-button combination and a pretty big selection of many special skills. You’ll have to choose four of them, that might be a shame but the customization and limitation forces the player to come up with fighting tactics. The unique gameplay of managing your Ki and avoiding attacks from the enemy remain s fun throughout the long single-player experience. (Ki is what you can compare with a mage’s mana, this allows special moves like the famous Kamehameha or some important defensive mechanics like teleporting behind an enemy or dodging attacks) And when things become really dodgy you have another gauge that slowly fills while battling, when this one is full and activated you can string together special moves. Ending in this mode rewards you with an extra super finish cutscene too.
- Boss fight signature attacks: Rather new for Dragon Ball games are the signature over-the-top attacks that every boss fight contains. This normally means going full defensive and trying to avoid extra powerful Ki-blasts. The camera angle changes a little, giving you a more cinematic view. Learning to dodge or counter these attacks is the key to winning these tough battles.
- RPG mechanics: Improving your playable characters is done by collecting experience from fights and orb hunting, you have four different kinds of orbs, some are harder to find than others. With these orbs, you can unlock new fighting skills. It is a fun time filler to collect some orbs while you travel around the map to go from fight to fight, this can become a nuisance as you’ll need to be flying around and be on the exact altitude. Stats are boosted temporary or permanent by cooking food, but this requires collecting resources first.
- Community boards: Also part of the RPG influence are the community boards. I really, really liked this fancy and unique linking of characters to get benefits in several boards. You collect characters by interacting with them or solving sub-quests, placing them on the board levels up specific stats or reduces the item costs in shops. You can improve every character with gifts. The real fun starts with placing characters next to each other, for example linking Gohan with Piccolo gives you an extra bonus. Knowing character relationships helps with making this easier but everything can be found in the tutorial section. You’ll be spending more time than you expected in the community boards but that isn’t a bad thing, I loved finding out where to place who and deciding what bonuses would benefit me the most.
- Beautiful visuals: Goku and his friends look fantastic in Kakarot, considering that this is an open-world game I wasn’t expecting improvement with character models compared with Xenoverse. The world looks diverse and detailed too, you’ll notice some pop up here and there but the colorful vistas never stop to amaze.
- Rounds up Kakarot’s story really well for newcomers, not so exciting for Z-fanatics: It isn’t an easy task to stamp Goku’s entire story in a single videogame, as this is told in the anime-series by over 100 episodes. While not everything is included, newcomers will completely understand and be introduced to the fantastic Dragon Ball world and characters. For people like me who breathe and bleed Dragon Ball, it is nice to see so many references and experience it all again, although knowing what is going to happen takes some enjoyment away from the cutscenes and storytelling. We have been spoiled by too many games that tell Goku’s story so by now most gamers that are fans from Dragon Ball can say every line and action that happens.
- Sub-quests: Did this really need to have so many fetch quests? I’m all for meaning tasks but collecting apple after apple seems a little bit silly when you have the likes of Frieza and Cell breathing behind your back. The example of how it could have been done better is even inside the game, as it does have the odd few decent and funny sub-quests with helping known Dragon Ball characters. Completing them doesn’t really reward you either since the EXP or item rewards are significantly less than story missions.
- Consistent quality: Don’t get me wrong, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the first time to place characters and stories before the combat and it shows. This is a really well-made single player game but you will notice some weird quirks, especially with animations. Another example is the voice acting, most parts are completely voiced and some are silent. The “works 85% of the time” approach is clearly happening with the camera too, it happens often enough that the angle is stuck in the ground or that you don’t clearly see your protagonist.
- Performance and 30fps: I understand the decision to abandon 60fps for an open world but I was used to having it with Xenoverse 2. You’ll notice the drop in combat even though the responsive controls and vibrant visuals. I don’t think I’m wrong in expecting a 60fps mode on Xbox One X would have been possible?
What we disliked
- “I think I can handle this” No Gohan, I can’t handle that you say this a million times: One thing that I really dislike is how many times the dialogue is repeated while exploring the open world. Passing an enemy, flying over an apple tree, fishing or exploring a town comes with the same spoken sentence over & over again.
Z-fanatics honestly can’t complain, we have an excellent PvP game with Dragon Ball FighterZ and now an even better single-player experience with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Lovely visuals, lots of content and fun RPG mechanics make this the first real must-have for 2020.