If you were lucky enough to grow up in the late 90’s and early 00’s then there’s a good chance you watched Dragon Ball Z. It was on breakfast TV right after Pokemon, and a lot of school kids set up their VCR’s to tape it only to spend an anxious day at school waiting to come home and watch Goku power up his latest Kamehameha for 30 minutes. It was a grind of a show, but we all loved it and that’s why one of the first games of 2020, 20 years on can still be Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. No one can deny that DBZ is one of the most memorable stories of all time, and whether you’re a Goku person or Vegeta person, the best character will always be Chiaotzu.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is one of those games that arrives once in a generation – an open-world Dragon Ball Z game. Arriving four years after Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, DBZ: Kakarot retells the tales of Goku from Raditz to Buu. Working your way through the story, you’ll come across many recognisable locations, several small inhabited cities, villages, caves and much more. While DBZ: Kakarot isn’t completely open-world, the almost twenty zones in the game are somewhat large in size. It’s difficult to calculate just how much open-world space there is in the game, and the load times between the zones can be frustrating when a mission bounces you around the planet (and beyond), but playing through the DBZ sagas in 4K is extremely nostalgic.
While parts of the story drag on a bit (mostly due to characters not being fully voiced), the gameplay doesn’t faulter. There’s no 20 minute build-up for a Kamehameha in this game, the battles are pure adrenaline-filled madness, and the combat has a fairly easy learning curve making the game accessible to those that aren’t overly fond of the often tricky button co-ordination of the fighting game genre. Whether you want to just beat your opponent to a pulp with your hands and feet or use some Ki energy to hasten the battle along, the combat in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is diverse and every battle feels unique. You can fight high up in the sky, on the ground, or even under water, and the battle can end in a completely different location to where it starts.
Throughout battles Goku and the other Saiyans can of course go Super Saiyan and beyond (once you reach that part of the Dragon Ball Z sagas), and you can decide which form you want to take, with the higher forms being more costly to your Ki. Regenerating your Ki is exactly how you would expect, and holding the Y button to power up becomes a required ritual in each fight. There are also plenty of items that you can bind to a quick-use menu, including health and Ki increasing items, and Korin the cat even supplies you with Senzu beans every now and then. Outside of combat, you can eat meals or rest to rejuvenate your health, but eating meals will also increase other stats for a small amount of time and can be done at various campfires around the map or at cooks or Chi-Chi at Goku’s house.
In the open-world of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot you will find main and sub missions, vendors, training grounds, fruit trees, mineral deposits, dinosaurs, fishing, baseball, car racing ,enemy bases to destroy and much more. Orbs are scattered around the world which are used to unlock talents and upgrades throughout the game. Red green and blue orbs appear in environment-specific areas, as well rare rainbow orbs which are needed for the higher level upgrades. Each character has an extensive skill tree to unlock as you level up, and characters need to head to training grounds to learn new moves such as the Super and Ultimate Kamehameha’s as you progress through the story. The training event isn’t a tutorial on the new move however, it’s a grueling 3-on-1 fight where you need to bring your A game unless they’re much lower level than you.
Each unlockable character can reach level 100, however that’s more for the end-game and post-game content. Disappointingly, there are only a few playable characters while the rest such as Tien, Goten and Krillin can only be in your party. Throughout the story every now and then you can set up a party of a main character and two support characters, and at the end of the game this feature is permanent. This allows you to create the ultimate Z Warrior team with some unexpected combinations given the ages of the fighters. Unfortunately there’s no option to make Gohan a kid again or to have the original bald Krillin look which we thought was a bit of an oversight by Bandai Namco for those that want to enjoy the end-game in their own style.
As mentioned, there’s plenty of side content in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. From the missable side missions which all have great rewards to the fishing, hovercar racing, baseball and item collecting, there’s plenty to do when you’re not battling Cell or Frieza. The hovercar racing is a bit boring as it’s just a few time-trial style events, the fishing is a quick-time-event, the baseball is a bit silly, but the overall amount of side content in DBZ: Kakarot is decent, and the world never feels empty. Combining that with the random enemies, hidden caves and underwater shipwrecks, and of course the Dragon Balls, there’s a lot more to the game than first meets the eye.
An unexpected mini-game, if you will, in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the Community Board. As you help familiar faces around the world, you’ll unlock their soul emblem which you can place in one of the numerous communities. Each of the communities have a leader, e.g. Goku leads the Z Warrior Community, and there are bonuses for lining up the soul emblems in a way that groups characters that have relationships in Dragon Ball Z.
Other communities include Cooking, Training, Development, Gods, Adult and Adventure, and as you place more characters in these communities and give them gifts that you’ve found in your travels, you progressively unlock skills that directly benefit your gameplay. It’s a nice addition to an already jam-packed game, and definitely helps make the end-game content all that more explosive.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot looks stunning in 4K on the Xbox One X. It’s exactly how you could want a Dragon Ball Z game to look, right down to the grass effects and the sandbox environmental destruction you can cause not only in combat but also when you’re just flying around in the open world. With so many memorable characters, it’s great to see them all recreated to fight and behave the way we remember. From Spirit Bombs to Final Flashes, every move looks stunning and Bandai Namco have made sure to include a few bonus animations to make the fight scenes all the more glorious. It’s hard to fault the graphics in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, our only gripe is that sometimes the enemies would disappear beneath the earth or into a hill during combat, but they soon returned and we’re guessing this glitch will get patched out soon.
The voice actor line-up is star studded including all the familiar names you would hope for. From Sean Schemmel (Goku) to Christopher Sabat (Vegeta), Bandai Namco continue to pull out all the stocks to make sure their Dragon Ball games sound as authentic as possible. We do wish the voice actors were paid to voice all of the side missions as well though, as the grunts and groans and repetitive “What?” “Alright!” as you scroll through the text gets a bit tiresome. Speaking of which,
” . . . “
We were very eager to get our hands on Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot at launch and have been playing it non-stop since. While the main story takes around 30 hours to complete, you’ll be wanting to play through the side missions as you go, as most of them can be missed if you don’t do them at the time they appear on the map. This adds another ten hours to the game, then the collectables and full experience of leveling your characters to 100 and unlocking everything adds another 20 hours or so. We were kind of hoping that there would be more playable characters at the end of the game and more options to set up some rematches and fantasy fights, perhaps we’ll get more options in the post-game DLC.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on an Xbox One X in 4K. For more information, head to the official website.
- Enjoyable combat, easy to learn and fun to master - Nostalgia peaks several times - Open world areas are great, though we wish it was one big open world.
- Some of the dialogue was a bit of a drag - “…” - Unable to change costumes/forms in open world - Load times jolt the play.