After a lot of screaming and powering up, I’m ready to review. Developed by CyberConnect2, who are also known for working on popular Japanese anime series Naruto, this time out they have been tasked by Bandai Namco for the next Dragonball game. The reason I point this out is that DBZ: Kakarot has a lot of similarities with the two Xenoverse games developed by Dimps. Any fans of the Xenoverse games are in for a treat, as Kakarot does feel a bit more robust. Fans of the Dragonball Anime will likely know that Kakarot is the birth name of Goku – the main protagonist of the Dragonball series. DBZ: Kakarot is all about Goku’s story, starting from the appearance of his brother Raditz, who informs Goku that he is from another planet.
I was looking forward to Kakarot, as I heard this was supposed to be a Dragonball Z game with a strong RPG element. I am a Dragonball fan and I have played the recent Xenoverse games, so I was eager to see what this was about. I have to say it was a medley of emotions, not all of them good, for a number of reasons. First off, the game looks much better graphically. It does look similar to the models of the Xenoverse games, though much work has been done on the graphical detail. The cutscenes are interesting to watch and almost look better than the animation used in the anime itself. The combat in the game itself doesn’t feel any different from the Xenoverse games – though that’s not exactly a bad thing as I like that combat model. The music in the game is just as you’d expect from the series, with lively energetic background tracks to keep you hyped up. The voices in the game use the original American voices from the dubbed versions of the animation, lending a great air of authenticity. The bad emotions come from the story itself and the RPG elements. The story is only a slight negative for me because as a fan I am very familiar with the story of Goku having seen it covered in many games -and of course the show – in the past, so it’s not breaking any new ground there. The RPG elements are where I wanted to be most excited but instead, I ended up a bit confused.
I will explain the RPG elements as that was the main aspect that caught my attention. First off is the standard gaining experience for every battle you have. There are baddies waiting to trigger a random battle encounter around the map if you enter their space or you sit still too long. These tend to match your battle level and generally are not too tough to dispatch. You only seem to use experience for levelling up which increases your stats steadily from health, strength, KI (energy attack bar) to defence. When you are outside of battle you can roam across the different areas which are quite large. In each area, you can collect orbs of 4 different colours. These orbs are required to unlock moves and stat bonuses from the skill tree, with each character you control or supports having their own. However, collecting them isn’t really that fun; you have to keep flying around in circles around the map to collect them or move slowly and make sure you are at the correct altitude to pick them up. Luckily you also get orbs as the spoils from battles, so I haven’t needed to go on too many orb hunts.
Other RPG elements are around cooking and building machines, for which you need materials to be able to do. For food you can find the fruit in trees, sea-related items in and around water,catch animals or kill dinosaurs for meat or play a fishing mini-game to catch fish. You can also purchase materials from a vendor – required when making complex dishes. The food is not used as a health benefit but as a stat booster and temporary enhancer. There are fireplaces where you can cook known recipes or vendors who will cook for you providing you have the right materials. The more complex the recipe, the better the stat boost, with these being permanent. They can raise your hit points, increase your strength, increase your defence or raise your KI level. But the stats only increase for the character who eats them so you may want to spread the feast around.
The last RPG element I found is the community board which is quite interesting. Whenever you interact with anyone through the storyline you gain an emblem/medal of them for the board. There are multiple community boards that provide different benefits; warrior community gives battle benefits, cooking community boosts the impact of meals, training community and many others to help with other elements of the games. Each community board has slots which connect together in a certain pattern and there is a main emblem for each community. The way it works is if the main emblem is Goku, then you want to add other emblems which relate to Goku to form combinations. For example, setting Gohan next to Goku triggers the father and son combo and provides bonus points for that community. It does obviously help to know your Dragonball Z characters to work out all the combinations for the characters. But they are not fixed so you can transfer emblems between communities depending on what your focus is on the game.
The flow of Kakarot feels a little bit odd to me. It is linear in the fact you are playing through the sagas in order in a direct timeline. You only ever really focus on one character at a time and you cannot switch – at least, I haven’t been able to so far in my 19-plus hours with it. The same applies to the missions, as there is the main mission which progresses the story. Occasionally there are side stories on offer which can be interesting, but they are quite few and far between. There are also mini achievements in the form of tasks set by Master Roshi, who gives you rewards if you meet them. The downside is you have to travel to his island and speak to him to collect the reward which can be a bit of a distraction. Don’t get me wrong, when you are flying around the island you usually have a license to fly between islands and explore but there is little you can do with each. You can collect orbs, but you cannot unlock parts of the skill tree until you progress the story. You can hunt for food or mechanical materials, but until you have the recipes or blueprints which you get through progressing the story you cannot create anything.
DBZ: Kakarot has taken some interesting steps to move on from the Xenoverse games, but only some of them have paid off. While it’d great to follow Goku’s arc through the Z saga’s, the fact remains that this is far from the first time we’ve done so. The graphics, music, voice acting and cut scenes all look great though, and take some of the sting out of the repetition. The RPG elements are laid on quite deep, though the “open world” is hardly as open as first impressions suggest, with proper progression – both in the world and for your characters – locked off until you get to certain beats in the story.