I’ve never gotten into Dragon Ball Z. The interest is there but the art style ALWAYS turns me off whenever I get the itch to delve into the series. It might be blasphemy to some, but I really dislike Akira Toriyama’s style of drawing faces and eyes.

Hated it in games like Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest Builders…hated it in Dragon Ball Fighter Z.

I can look past it if the gameplay’s awesome of course (like in the games I mentioned)…but is Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot one of them?

Read on to find out.

What is Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot?

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a 3D action RPG developed by CyberConnect and published by Bandai Namco. It’s available on the PC, PS4, Xbox One with a rumored (but unconfirmed) Nintendo Switch version coming later.

The game retells the Dragon Ball Z saga, though most of the ancillary plots are either ignored completely or just glossed over. It’s a good starting point for a Dragon Ball Z beginner (like me), somebody who knows the gist of the series but haven’t started it in earnest.

The game starts off at the beginning of the saga, a few beats before the first major conflict of the series (Vegeta’s arrival) begins. The prologue teaches you the gist of the gameplay systems; the battle mechanics, the Community system and the exploration of the open world maps.

The intro is quite through but you’re definitely going to feel like a fish out of water for the first few hours as you get the hang of the game. That’s partly due to the convoluted controls; they’re much too complicated for their own good.

Ascending and descending in flight requires TWO different buttons; why not just have it pegged to the player’s view? Look up, you go up or look down and you descend?

Have a simplistic flight control mode when you’re exploring the open world and a more technical one for the battles! Best of both worlds.

FIGHT!

Speaking of battles, they’re the sole reason to play the game…but they also suffer from control issues.

Using special moves or items also require multiple button presses or combination. In the case of the special moves, it’s fine as the game goes into slow-mo, but not so for item usage.

Fighting enemies is fun, there’s no denying that. The anime’s over the top combat moves make it to the game intact. There’s an undeniable thrill of punching somebody through rock pillars and then dashing to them just to hammer them even more.

In fact, while the super moves may be flashy, I honestly just love the feeling of punching somebody so hard they fly a mile into the sky or sea or into a crater on the ground. It’s like watching an episode of the DBZ anime in action, but with much, much smoother animation and sharper visuals.

If you thought that Dragon Ball Fighter Z was as true to the anime as you’d get, then you’ll probably revise that opinion once you play Kakarot.

Infamous scenes from the anime are recreated faithfully in the game; you’ll witness Goku getting blasted to King Kai when he died holding back Raditz, Yamcha’s infamously stupid death and other events from the anime, faithfully recreated with Kakarot’s engine.

At times I wished that Toei would hire Bandai Namco and remake DBZ with Kararot’s engine. I’m certain it’d attract a whole new generation to give the anime a new look.

Unfortunately, while the battles (and the visuals) make it seem like you’re playing an episode of the anime, the rest of the game is a mish-mash of unwieldy parts.

Not all is awesome.

One of them’s the customization aspect of the game; the Community system.

The Community System is a great idea that allows customization of nearly all aspects of the game, but it’s too under utilized and you’ll realize that you’ll only want specific Soul Emblems (I call them badges) for specific Community groups.

Badges correspond to characters from the DBZ saga and they give bonuses when they’re placed with badges they have an affinity for.

If you place Goku and Gohan together for example, you get a bonus because of their familial ties. Place Goku and the rest of the Z warriors linked and you also get bonuses for that. You get the gist of the system, right?

Problem is you’ll get a boatload of Z warrior badges early on, which skews the system to martial bonuses (instead of XP or item boost bonuses) that are boons from other Community groups. It doesn’t get better for a long while, as the slow drip feed of badges only increases when you’re a good deal into the game.

The game’s open world also doesn’t do it much favors.

I love that it’s fun to soar through the air through some of the more iconic locales of the DBZ saga (visiting Kame House is AWESOME) but the open world is lifeless and boring.

Apart from the orbs that decorate the landscape (which you’ll need to collect as they’re used to unlock new skills), there’s not much to do.

There are side quests (marked by a blue icon) but they’re incredibly rare and short to boot. While they’re a definite welcome diversion, they need to be much more involved AND be meatier to pad out the open world element.

On the subject of the open world, how I wish that Bandai Namco had made a true open world with you transitioning from one section to another in real-time instead of via menus.

I’d have loved to fly from Kame House to West City seamlessly instead of exiting to the World Map menu and then picking West City as a destination to go to.

The bottom line.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a much more enjoyable game that I thought it’d be. There’s a lot of things that CyberConnect did right with the game; the visuals, the sounds, the battles but there are also a host of issues that detract from the whole experience.

The open world is boring and there’s not a whole lot to do other than the sidequests and gathering orbs/items to upgrade your character skills. Controls for the characters (particularly for flight) can be needlessly complicated as well.

At the end of the day though, the awesome parts outweigh the crappy ones and the game is still worth trudging through whether you’re a fan of the series or a newbie to the whole Dragon Ball schbang.

TLDR:

The Good.

  • The battle system.
  • The visuals.
  • The voice acting.

The Bad.

  • The controls.
  • Boring open world.
  • Loading between locations.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. Recently, Sal served as a juror for the Indie Game Awards at Taipei Game Show 2020. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.