There’s no doubt that Dragon Ball Z is easily one of the most iconic anime from the late 1980s. With such a sprawling legacy, tackling the entirety of the saga in one game is quite a feat and developer CyberConnect 2 has done a really great job bringing it all together in a package that’s easy for old fans and new fans to explore and enjoy. While it can be rough around the edges, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot does a great job of bringing Goku’s story to life and covering all the most important bits of the Dragon Ball Z story.
Tale as old as time
Spanning over 291 episodes from 1989 to 1996, Dragon Ball Z has a lot of story to tell and fitting all of that into a single package like a video game is no small feat. Everything you need to experience Dragon Ball Z is right here in Kakarot, and there’s plenty to do to keep you busy. Story arcs that took tens of hours to complete in the show can be experienced in a matter of six to seven hours, all while giving you that epic feeling of being the one to put an end to big baddies like Frieza and Cell.
What CyberConnect 2 has managed to accomplish with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is fundamentally amazing. Smashing the entirety of the Dragon Ball Z story into one easy-to-enjoy package that’s all built to give Dragon Ball fans the ultimate Saiyan fantasy. With such a heavy focus on story, though, the developers had to be sure not to skimp on other things—like gameplay and world design—and neither is missing in the latest Dragon Ball Z game.
Despite the heavy cutscene and story focus—the game aims to really tell you the entire Dragon Ball Z story, and it handles this very well—you’ll also find plenty of battles and exploration opportunities. That doesn’t mean the game is perfect, not by a long shot, but as far as playable Dragon Ball Z experiences go, CyberConnect 2 has reached a high point. You’ll find plenty of exciting battle moments, and every battle makes you feel like a truly powerful fighter, complete with plenty of punches and iconic Super Attacks like the Kamehameha, Spirit Bomb, Galick Gun, and more.
Not quite mortal combat
Despite the heavy emphasis on battles, though, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s combat can leave a bit to be desired after you’ve put in several hours. With a runtime of roughly 40-100 hours—depending on how much of the game’s side content you undertake—Kakarot’s combat can get mind-numbingly repetitive after a while.
There’s no complexity here like you might find in a game like Dragon Ball FighterZ, so if you’re looking for that kind of combat system, you’re going to be disappointed. Still, the more beat’em up approach is enjoyable for the most part. You’ll find plenty of attacks available to you—including the more iconic moves from the anime and manga, but a lot of the battle still comes down to punches, dodges, and spamming the right attacks to whittle down your opponent’s health.
That’s another somewhat negative about the game. CyberConnect 2 has done a lot of stat-padding and inflation in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, and while you might start off with a few hundred health at the beginning of the game, you’ll soon find yourself with millions upon millions of health points. It’s inflation we’ve seen in previous DBZ games as well, and just something that still feels weird and out of place in video games despite how much it has been done in the past.
I wish that combat had been a bit more complex and that combos had actually played a much larger part than just pressing the same button again and again. Still, though, considering the audience that this was designed for, it makes sense to have kept things as simple as possible to make it available to anyone.
The camera can also make combat a bit wonky, as the game locks you onto targets, and then follows them closely. If you're too close to the ground when an enemy darts upward, you'll find your vision obstructed by the ground, making it hard to follow enemy movements. There also doesn't appear to be any real way to change your own altitude during combat, which means you have to work around the enemy's position if you want to move higher.
The curse of open-world games
When it comes to the world, CyberConnect 2 has done a solid job of making Kakarot feel pretty open. Flying around the different regions can be enjoyable for a bit, as you complete sub-quests and collect Z Orbs to unlock new powerful attacks. But, after a while, things start to blend together, and the world just begins to feel dull.
There are only so many random enemy encounters you can play before you're just tired of just repeating the same button presses over and over. The sub-quests, while enjoyable for the most part, often end up just being fetch quests for different characters like Chi-Chi or Bulma, or they end up in a fight—something you’ll already spend plenty of time doing in Kakarot. It’s not all bad, though. It is really cool to see some of the side characters that helped flesh out the anime a bit, I just wish that the side missions had more variation to them.
Despite focusing so heavily on the story, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the different regions of Earth that play a part in Kakarot’s story. After each major saga (there are four on display here, the Saiyan, Namek, Cell, and Buu sagas) you’ll be given an intermission to complete some sub-quests, collect the Dragon Balls, and gather up items or money. It’s a nice time to take a break from the cutscene heavy story moments, and really just chill out and live out your Saiyan fantasies as you roam the earth taking out baddies with characters like Gohan, Vegeta, and even Trunks.
Still, after the first intermission, I had pretty much seen many of the main areas of the world and collected the Dragon Balls all that I cared to. If you’re a completionist, you can continue to wish for past encounters to come back, which unlocks new sub-missions for you to complete. It’s fun, but considering the Dragon Balls are always marked on the map, there’s no real challenge to finding any of them, making it just another way to grind for experience in a game that’s already rigged with tons of ways to grind.
Rebirth of a legend
At its core, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot leaves a lot to be desired from a video game. The semi-open world can be boring at times, and the fighting is a bit too simplistic to keep you engaged for more than a few hours at a time. The real bread and butter here are the characters and story that Dragon Ball fans know and love. That’s what really makes Kakarot stand out. If you’re looking for the definitive Dragon Ball Z experience, one that gives you a full look at the series without having to sit through 291 episodes, then Kakarot is exactly that.
Despite the roughness that comes with some of its systems, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is one of the best Dragon Ball Z games we’ve ever seen. CyberConnect 2 has really brought some of the most iconic bits of the Dragon Ball saga to life with its work on the cutscenes, and the game has plenty of offer fans looking to get lost in the world. You just have to be willing to look past some of the more shallow systems and repetitive combat to experience the good.
This review is based on a pre-release code provided by the publisher. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is now available on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot
- Experience the full Dragon Ball Z saga in one place
- High-quality cutscenes and design
- Tons of content to dive into
- Combat is simple and fun in small spurts
- Combat gets repetitive after several hours
- Open-world can get dull after a while
- The camera can get janky during fight sequences
Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot review: Tattered but not beaten