When it comes to Dragon Ball Z games, it may feel like gamers have had “over 9,000.” With Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, the big question is whether this will be the best of them or whether it will leave you asking the Great Dragon for a better game.
Ultimately, Kakarot is a flawed-but-passionate game. There is plenty of material for super-fans, but not enough to really recommend this title to anyone who is new to these characters and stories.
Gaming On Rails
At first glance, you may think Kakarot is an open-world game. After all, there are plenty of places to explore, including some odd choices like Yamcha’s hideout.
However, it never truly becomes an open-world game. Instead, this “on rails” experience feels a lot like making your way through the Dragon Ball Z series. Different episodes bring you different quests, side quests, and fights. But you never really get to cut loose and fully explore what this animated world has to offer.
So, is this an RPG or a fighting game? The answer is “yes.” While this has many RPG elements (such as fun exploration and a confusing skill tree), it is still filled with plenty of the fighting that the Dragon Ball Z franchise is known for.
Like the show itself, these battles are big and colorful. However, they tend to get a bit repetitive. While boss fights are the exception (more on this in a minute), most of your smaller, random battles are a repetitive slog. The only thing really memorable about them is the character dialogue: you’re sure to be haunted by hearing the same phrases over and over again!
The happy exception to the boring battles are the boss fights. Bosses tend to have major (and often rule-breaking) attacks on their side. To triumph over these challenges, you need to start thinking strategically. No button mashing for the big fights!
As an added bonus, these boss fights scale in difficulty quite nicely. Much like Goku and his friends, you will develop more fighting skills and strategies as time goes on. For example, you’ll likely struggle against early battles such as Raditz. But by the time you are going toe-to-toe with Frieza or Cell, a Raditz-level challenge will be very easy to handle.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is filled with plenty of annoying tutorials. However, you rarely get tutorials about things like the skill tree that helps you unlock more moves. And you never really get any hand-holding when it comes to the lore of these characters and their world.
As a result, you get a game that is not very newbie-friendly. Newbies to Dragon Ball Z will spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out certain story beats from context. And newcomers to this kind of action RPG may spend a fair amount of time figuring out how to properly level up!
Speaking of leveling up: it’s pretty weird in this game! Most RPGs have the option to grind and level up your characters. This is always a great option for gamers who want to be super-prepared for the harder parts of the game.
In many ways, though, Kakarot makes grinding feel useless. While you nominally get experience points from fighting random mobs, it pales in comparison to the insane amount of experience you get from completing story missions and side quests.
The end result is a game that generally keeps you focused on your mission rather than on grinding. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it feels like a very weird choice for an RPG to make.
One thing worth noting is that it’s generally fun to explore the world of Kakarot. While the showcase of the game is the fighting, there are plenty of other side quests that take you all over the place.
You’ll drive, fish, hunt… and, of course, collect Dragon Balls! This offers a welcome break from the fighting and gives you a chance to really soak in the ambiance of the game. And while no one side quest is going to make everyone happy, there are so many side quests that there is truly something for everyone!
By Fans, For Fans
Kakarot is something of a double-edged sword because it is clearly made by fans, for fans. Each quest, side quest, and fight is filled with Easter eggs and awesome references to the show. If you’re already a fan of the franchise, then you’ll enjoy this high level of fan service.
What about non-fans? There is still plenty to enjoy between the gorgeous graphics, fun exploration, and intense combat. But the overall confusion about who is who and what is what may be pretty distracting to anyone who doesn’t already know who “Kakarot” is before they play.
What’s the final verdict? If you’re a big Dragon Ball Z fan, you should buy this game. Heck, you probably already bought the game!
If you’re not a big fan, though, it’s worth passing on this particular title. There are better fighters and better RPGs for your time and money. Unless you love the DBZ wrapping, you’ll quickly discover that this game is all style and no substance.