Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Review

Publish Date : 2021-03-24


Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Review

With more than 30 games to its name, some dating back as early as the 1980s and most only available in Japan, Dragon Ball Z is no stranger to having its story adapted to video game form. But rarely has it been done in such a way that the story has been the star, as opposed to taking a back seat to the action. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the most comprehensive and loving recreation of the DBZ canon there’s ever been, telling the story through the lens of a free-roaming action RPG rather than a straight-up fighting game like Xenoverse or FighterZ. It’s about as rough around the edges as Vegeta’s personality, but underneath it all is a game that overflows with nostalgic love for the source material.


Every IGN Dragon Ball Game Review

Our history of Dragon Ball reviews dates all the way back to 2002, and wow, is it a wild ride. While it's become downright respectable in recent years thanks to hits like Dragon Ball FighterZ, it's also got more than its fair share of truly terrible games to make up for.

 

Dragon Ball Z Budokai is a success and failure on multiple levels. On the positive side, the game has managed to embody the energy and playfulness of the animated television series perfectly, while still maintaining the show-accurate vocal talent and art direction with devastating precision. On the flipside, the accurate art direction that I speak of gives the game a somewhat dated look and the ultimately unfulfilling fighting engine does nothing at all to further or enhance the genre. <br><br>A poor fighting game disguised by an excellent presentation, Budokai could have been something a lot more entertaining than it turned out to be. In the end however, Dragon Ball Z fans have nothing to worry about as its still going to sell a jillion copies more than Sega's stellar Virtua Fighter series, and perhaps even Tekken. A reality? Yes. Justified? Probably not.
 

 

With all the references made during the adventure, both subtle and obvious, the Legacy of Goku series was definitely made for the Dragon Ball Z fan. The casual gamer can definitely get the gist of the confusing storyline even with the unfortunate lack of character development, but it's clear that the developer's goal was to give the fanbase Dragon Ball Z games where players can go, "Hey, I remember that!" But even that said, the adventure design in Legacy of Goku II -- a far better game than last year's offering -- has enough going for it that it can actually grab non-fans into its storyline, possibly convincing players unfamiliar with the Trunks, Android, and Cell sagas to watch all 38 hours of the anime to get the full experience.

 

"Budokai is far from a perfect game, but Dimps has gotten one thing right and that's the presentation values. They've essentially taken an episode of Dragon Ball Z, put it on a GameCube disc, and inserted playable fighting sequences. It looks and sounds exactly like the series. The only problem is, as a fighter, it doesn't quite live up to its Saiyan namesake.
A combination of odd choices, like the illusion of flying, button mashing combos, and an overly simplified fighting engine, detract from what could have been an enjoyable, if not technically impressive, fighter -- whether you're a DBZ fan or not."

 

For diehard fans of the first title, Dragon Ball Z Budokai 2 is exactly what they're looking for. It's familiar enough to appeal to casual players and packed with enough of the extra stuff to delight its more dedicated followers all at the same time. In fact, the incredible improvement on load times alone (Budokai 2 loads about 3 times faster than Budokai 1) should be enough to excite its fanbase right out of the gate. Let alone its more balanced damage system, increased character roster, and better production values.<br><br>
Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy deeper more traditional fighting games, Budokai 2 still leaves plenty to be desired. With the addition of jumping or ducking abilities, an improved movement system, or the ability to fly independently outside of the launch attack, DBZ could definitely have potential to break through its already enormous demographic and become something even bigger. And with Dragon Ball GT headed for the PlayStation 2 sometime next year it's a possibility we can certainly anticipate; but only the passage of time and the cries of its fans can make it happen.

 

The Dragon Ball Z series hasn't smoothly sailed into the fighting genre; when Bandai had the property years ago, it was very difficult to find one that was any good. For the first GBA fighter, the developer put a lot of effort in the collectibles and extras part of the game, but the overall fighting engine is what kills this design. It's a very unsatisfying experience, and I can't imagine Dragon Ball Z fans forcing themselves to enjoy it simply because it's the very first fighter that features their favorite anime characters. Hopefully, if this game does end up a sales success this holiday season, the next Taiketsu will have a bit more effort put into its fighting engine, because this first outing is incredibly weak.
Kakarot strikes an unusual genre balance between an arena fighting game and a semi-open-world action-RPG. Put another way, it feels sort of like a Dragon Ball powered version of Yakuza in its free-roaming segments, and then shifting to a traditional Xenoverse/Tenkaichi-like fighting game once combat starts. And as an arena fighter, it’s great. Combat is simple, focused on one-button combos and a customizable selection of four special moves, but loaded with little intricacies that go a long way when it comes to keeping the action from ever becoming thoughtless. You’re always locked on and tethered to your opponent, too, allowing you to move toward, away from, and orbit around them midair with ease, and you can switch between targets with a simple flick of the right stick.

While this may seem very button-mashy – and to an extent it is – it’s a combat system that nonetheless forces you to be reactive to what your opponent is doing. Most enemies have dangerous attacks that absorb strikes in order to deal one of their own that can immediately stop you in your tracks and leave you stunned, forcing you to carefully balance offense and your extremely mobile defensive options. Fortunately, Kakarot’s combat is smartly designed so that you can always evade to cancel out of a combo and get the hell out of the way when you can see something dangerous is being obviously telegraphed.


Ki management is also very important, as your ki meter dictates not only your special move usage but also your ability to use vanishes to instantly get close and punish projectile attacks, your ability to use a super dash and follow enemies up after knocking them away, your ability to use a burst of energy to knock an opponent away when they’re about to break through your guard, and of course your various transformations, including going Super Saiyan. I really like the way Kakarot uses Ki, tying just as many useful defensive techniques to it as it does offensive, making it a vital rechargeable resource during battle.

There’s also a tension gauge that fills over the course of a fight, and once it’s full you can activate a Surge mode which allows you to cancel special moves into each other. That means you could string together a series of kamehamehas, one after the other, for massive damage – as long as you have the ki for it, of course. It’s a nice trump card to have once things get tough, and especially satisfying since you get an awesome “Super Finish” animation when you end a fight with a Surge-powered beam attack.

All of these small intricacies add up and elevate what is otherwise a very basic but flashy combat system.

Since Kakarot is single-player only and doesn’t need to be balanced with competitive play in mind, developer CyberConnect 2 was able to go a little bit wild with its enemy design and give them special moves that would typically be too powerful in PvP. Cell, for example, can split into about 20 weaker versions of himself, all of which start preparing attacks aimed directly at you, while Kid Buu and Frieza can create planet-sized energy bombs that force you to rush out of the blast zone or suffer massive damage. It makes these villains feel appropriately epic to fight.

All of these small intricacies add up and elevate what is otherwise a very basic but flashy combat system. That said, Kakarot is a long game, clocking in for me at around 33 hours, and by the time I was about halfway through I felt like I had already seen just about everything it would throw at me. That made the last half a bit less exciting and challenging than I would have liked.



While Kakarot works great as an arena fighter, largely by keeping the action pretty similar to previous games, its RPG side weighs it down. Sidequests are almost always painfully plain, relying far too much on banal tasks like finding ingredients for a chef to make you a dish, getting mechanical parts for Bulma to repair a machine, or defending a helpless NPC by fighting the same three generic Red Ribbon Army robots that you’ll blow up a million times over the course of the campaign. Worse still, the EXP offered for completing most of them simply pales in comparison to the amount you get for beating main quests, making them feel incredibly unrewarding as well.

There are a scant few sidequests I experienced that broke the mold, like a standout one involving “the ghost of Yamcha,” which has you following around an imposter Yamcha as he goes on various dates after the events of the Saiyan saga. I won’t spoil the big reveal of the quest, but it ended up being very sweet and was a great example of how sidequests could have been used to tell interesting substories about established characters. If more sidequests were like this, instead of a bunch of different variations of fetch, collect, and protect quests, Kakarot would’ve been a much stronger game as a whole.

Beyond that, the other RPG elements of Kakarot just kind of get in the way. Roaming enemies in the field are nothing more than annoyances since the EXP they offer is barely a drop in the bucket when it comes to what you need to level up; many skills on the skill tree are frustratingly gated by combat challenges that are almost always either more trouble than their worth or against enemies that are at such a low level that they can't even damage you; and the fishing and baseball minigames are good for a laugh, but not much else.

You can also collect various cooking ingredients to make dishes that will provide both temporary or permanent buffs, or you can save those dishes to have Chi-Chi make a full course meal for massive increases in your stats, but that rarely pays off. While thematically amusing, cooking is ultimately a ton of boring and tedious work that’s often better off skipped entirely, especially because you get all of the stat upgrades you need through natural level-ups by playing through the main quest.



Where Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot shines brightest is in its mostly comprehensive retelling of the entirety of the Dragon Ball Z storyline. Die-hard fans will no doubt notice some parts that are left out, like Trunks’ showdown with Cell in his Ultra Super Saiyan form (or Super Saiyan 1.5, or whatever you want to call it) but, for the most part, CyberConnect2 did a very respectable job of condensing well over 100 episodes of plot into a



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