Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a game for the fans
Imagine being able to play through the entire Dragon Ball Z in one game? Well there are plenty of those games like that out there. Honestly, Dragon Ball Z focused games have been done to death. It’s the same story with slightly different gameplay each time. What makes Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot stand out from the crowd is that is an epic role playing game, which is a complete package that follows the 300+ episode anime journey with nods to filler content, like Goku and Piccolo getting their driver’s license, bringing back minor characters like Upa, Launch and Android 8 to recreating some of the most impactful moments from the anime with amazing visuals. New and old Dragon Ball Z fans can rejoice with this faithful game.
What I found incredibly enjoyable with Dragon Ball Z: Kakakot is that it brings back all the key moments from the original Dragon Ball (no Z), without making it cumbersome. The original Dragon Ball was good, but most would agree that Dragon Ball Z was fast paced and took the manga/anime to another level of excitement. (It probably explains why there are so many games and media related to this part of the franchise.) The Dragon Ball moments, i.e. where Son Goku is still a child, are discussed in various side quests and you can collect memories with actual scenes from the anime.
The game introduces an array of side quests in between the main quests, i.e. quests that all Dragon Ball fans know full and well, that add additional back story to most of the minor characters from Master Roshi, Launch, Mercenary Tao, Yajirobi, Oolong and Puar. Even before you take on these side missions, you probably will have an inkling that Master Roshi’s missions involve something inappropriate, given his perverted nature, while missions involving Yamcha are about him flirting and having flings with multiple females. The side missions are a nice reprieve from the main quests and often reward you well with character coins for the Community Board, experience points and some handy items.
Take control of those epic battles with your own flare
The main battles in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot are epic. You are forced to play as a particular character, whether it’s Goku against Raditz, Gohan against Nappa, Piccolo against Frieza (Second Form), etc, and fortunately most of the characters have slightly different playstyles with their super attacks. For instance, Goku can charge up his Kamehameha before unleashing it, Vegeta has an area of effect attack in Big Bang Attack and Piccolo can blow everyone in his vicinity apart with his Explosion Wave. If you want to be critical about the game, you can say that you can get through most battles by moving around the screen until an opening appears and win by pressing the attack button constantly. In fact, you get better mileage in the game by scoring a higher combo number by just melee attacking your enemy, since super attacks aren’t guaranteed to land a blow.
All boss battles involve some sort of maneuvering during their super attack moments. When the attack commences, you will be pushed back and then forced to decide whether you will need to either dodge, block or counter the attack. There are some tricky super attacks that make timing your moments and choices important.
In all my time, I found that moving away and then going straight into a block as the most efficient tactic. If I had enough ki, I would blink attack the opponent from behind. (However, blink attacks can be bad if the super attack has a homing effect.) I normally scored either an S or A at the end of battles, never scoring anything less. I learnt early on that you can get the score by pressing the Square button at the end of a chapter during the ranking screen. All I had to do was beat the enemy quickly (for time), score hits (for combo) and limit the amount of HP lost (for HP). If you score S for two out of three, you will get an S rank for the battle.
All the dramatic moments from the manga/anime were faithfully rendered in the game, from the Super Saiyan transformation of Goku before Frieza, to Gohan’s reaction to the destruction of Android 16 and even Vegeta’s sacrifice against Fat Buu. The visuals are incredible and probably looks better than any other attempt with in-game graphics. (There were the anime versions in Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi, but the game was horrible and I doubt people wanted to play through the game to get to see those short anime reels.)
The one thing that lets this game down is that most of iconic moments are short and usually end right before the actual fights and brawls. You don’t get many cinematic fist fights since the game cuts to the player to finish the boss. It’s a tad disappointing, because no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t match the visual aesthetics in those cutscenes with the in-game battles. (Albeit, there is one good battle cutscene, but it only comes near the end of the whole game.)
Side content is good and brings back plenty of memories
In between the sagas, you enter into Intermission periods, where there is plenty of free roam and side quests to partake in. This is your opportunity to do various things, subject of course to you unlocking them. There are several good, but not detailed mini-games that can be played for minor rewards like racing in a car, fishing, batting a baseball, killing a dinosaur, and playing an in-game card game.
I am surprised that they brought back the filler episode where Chi Chi, annoyed at having to do everything, wants Goku (and somehow nabs Piccolo) to get his driver’s license. What follows is a hilarious episode where Goku absolutely horrifies his driving instructor and destroys half a city when he decides to race against Piccolo. It was a light hearted episode, but boy were they few and far between. I am glad they brought it back, but the drivibg mini-game won’t make you return your copy of Gran Turismo.
Tips for newbies to the game
Like a typical RPG (or role playing game), you start with incredibly weak characters who do a maximum of three digits of damage. But almost like a skit on the ridiculousness of the power scaling in the anime/manga, those digits easily get replaced as the game progress and soon, after 30 hours of gameplay, you will be doing eight digits of damage. (For anyone thinking of staying at level 1 as a challenge, good luck to you, you’ll be doing 1 damage max to most enemies who are 10 levels above your level.)
- You don’t need to collect the orbs in the sky, you will get more orbs battling enemies. The best way to beat those annoying minor enemies is to have your lead character at least 4 levels over the enemies and activate your power flight with the X Button. That way, you will score some instant victories with the all the rewards without actually having to fight those minor enemies.
- If you want to fly, just jump by clicking the X Button and just press R1, that way you don’t need to power fly all the way to the top of the skies to then descend with R2.
- Whenever a side quest pops up, always prioritize these as they are only for a limited time and they usual reward character coins that you can add to your Community Board. Plus these side quests disappear if you go too far.
- With the Community Board, always add the character coins to the board that those have the highest affinity to, but take note that board placement is important and you want characters that grant bonuses (you can find out by pressing the Triangle Button) next to each other. The characters must actually touch to get the bonus and the bonuses can stack, so a bonus +3 for all characters applies to all character coins. (I prioritize the Training Community Board, because it has the best effect, 100% bonus experience. The coins for this Community Board are usually from villains wished back with the Dragon Balls.)
- Whenever you can, always get new super attacks for your characters by visiting the Training Grounds (e.g. those blue flame things on the ground).
Here are some other things that might be helpful:
- Lookout for people with speech bubbles, because if they say something about a recipe. Speak with them and you are bound to get a new full course recipe for Chi Chi to cook.
- Chi Chi is the only person who can make full course recipes and they are by way the most useful way to get the most out of the ingredients for stat boosts (and note that some of the stat boosts are permanent)
- Use L1 whenever you can to sense your surroundings. Sense for purple orbs to either get D Medals (to unlock more super attacks) or items (to boost your character coins or to sell for Zeni.)
- The only way to make Zeni (or money) is to sell certain items, which you can obtain by collecting on the world map, destroying the Red Ribbon towers or Freiza space crafts.
- Always go into Super Saiyan in tough battles, the power increase is huge and the extra attack strings you get can make huge differences
- If you can’t beat the Villainous Enemies (i.e. the enemies with the red aura), just wait until the next Intermission, because their levels don’t increase or scale with your level
- Whenever possible, speak with Master Roshi to be rewarded a whole bunch of things for doing what you will normally do in the game, collect orbs, beat enemies, level up, etc.
- Around the Cell saga, you should speak with Korin to get your free Senzu Beans (he can store up to 9 at a time)
- You can collect the Dragon Balls at almost any time, but if you wait until you complete the main quest with Dende as Gohan after Cell is defeated, you can get three wishes granted instead of two (or one).
Things that could have made the game even better
Most of the iconic moments in the game do appear in the game, but unfortunately here is a list of the things that weren’t included:
- Trunks just blasts away King Cold and doesn’t even talk to him. Also King Cold can never be fought in-game (even when he is wished back with the Dragon Balls)
- The fight between Krillin and Imperfect Cell doesn’t even get a mention (it may be due to Krillin being just a support character and can’t be controlled)
- You don’t control Android 16 in his fight with Imperfect Cell. The whole scene is quite short.
- The fight between Super Trunks and Perfect Cell doesn’t take place at all (in fact Ultra Super Saiyan doesn’t even appear in the game)
- You don’t get to replay as Gotenks or Vegito, except during those moments in the Buu Saga.
- Except for Battle of Gods and Resurrection F DLCs, there is no movie related material in the game. That means no Broly, Garlic Junior, Janemba or even everyone’s favorite villain Dr Wheelo (who is he again?)
The things that surprised me in the game
Having grown up with Dragon Ball Z, I can pretty much talk about every nook and cranny about the anime, but the game did manage to surprise me:
- You get to fight Frieza’s Third Form (i.e. the alien form), which was a short lived form in the anime thanks to Gohan unleashing his potential.
- You get to fight Semi-Perfect Cell with Goku. You may remember in the anime that Goku merely appears before him and just takes Piccolo and Tien to safety. There was no fight. Getting to fight Semi-Perfect Cell was a great surprise.
- The final battle against Kid Buu was epic, but right before the Spirit Bomb is launched, you get one more showdown with Kid Buu as Goku.
- Both Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Dragon Ball FighterZ have representatives in the game with Towa and Android 21 making appearances in the game.
- There was a sixth Ginyu Force member and that she was female.
- You can control Future Trunks after you complete the game and Android 18 becomes a support character (that you can add to the party).
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot does a lot of things right. This game is a game for the fans. You will relive the anime and all its glory. I felt the power scaling felt right, because Dragon Ball has always been about more powerful enemies each and every time. I certainly thought there was more care taken in the earlier parts of the game than the latter. The Buu Saga felt quite rushed and there wasn’t anything new in terms of gameplay introduced during the saga.
A future version of this game could do with a FighterZ type combat to increase the attack input from just the Circle Button to more button presses.
I bought the game when it was $39 at Big W and think it is well worth the price. I am even obtained the Platinum Trophy for the game (gathering the Dragon Balls ten times was the last thing I achieved.)