- Total Score - 8.2/108.2/10
“Dragon Ball Kakarot isn’t without faults, but the love, dedication and engaging battle system do the series proud.
Ultra Instinct….Jiren…Super Saiyan God Super Saiyans, these are phrases that have have invaded pop culture whether you like anime or not.
While writing this review of Dragon Ball Kakarot, it was hard to keep the focus purely on this single title. While Kakarot is the first in a presumably new series of games from Bandai Namco, it’s the latest title based on the classic manga, Dragon Ball.
Dragon Ball games were on a down turn, just like the anime they’re based on in the early 2010’s. A lack of new content to base games off saw games that were lackluster and stagnant in quality. A random spattering of mediocre titles made it seem as if Dragon Ball games were finally on the outs, a relic of the licensed game era of previous generations destined for used game bins and rental stores (remember those) everywhere. The absolutely godawful DBZ live action film surely didn’t help matters much.
*Editors Note* Attack of the Saiyans, a DS RPG created by the makers of Xenoblade, Monolith Studios, would be the lone exception during this era.
In 2013, a new animated film was released that actually continued the DBZ storyline and was fully created by series visionary Akira Toriyama. Battle of the Gods was the first good Dragon Ball content in years, and it got the gears turning for all of the years to follow.
In 2015, a sequel named Resurrection F would return Dragon Ball’s greatest villain, Freeza, and introduce the world to blue Super Saiyans. In the gaming world, Bandai Namco unleashed Xenoverse and the comeback was in full swing.
Xenoverse was basically the dream game fans had been pining for their whole lives. A Dragon Ball game, with support for fully created characters across multiple races in the anime’s history. It also featured a persistent online world, in which players could take their custom heroes online and fight in some of the shows vast history of battles alongside friends.
Although it wasn’t perfect, Xenoverse was a clear jump up in terms of graphics, gameplay and fan service that gamers hadn’t had since the Budokai and Tenkaichi games came and went.
Soon after it’s enormous success a sequel was announced, and a new show called Dragon Ball Super would debut as the first official new series in decades.
The combined success of Super and Xenoverse 2 seemed to reignite Dragon Ball fans across the world. Every week, fans were talking about that weeks latest episode of Super. You couldn’t scroll through Youtube without seeing some Xenoverse compilation or fervor around a new DLC release based on the show.
Bandai Namco was smart, and decided to expand Dragon Ball in different ways to keep the content fresh. Dragon Ball FighterZ would debut during the 2017 Xbox E3 conference and the first look at an Arc System Works versus fighter was like throwing a grenade on a pile of dynamite.
The absolutely incredible visual style and versus gameplay was a stroke of genius. It came hot on the heels of Marvel Vs Capcom being a letdown, and at a time where Arc System was creating compelling and unique titles.
In 2018, FighterZ would launch and become a huge success. Hot on the heels of it’s reign, Xenoverse would continue to get massive new dlc expansions based on the Tournament of Power. The TOP saga in Dragon Ball Super was absolutely massive. It would invade all chat rooms an talks between friends as a spectacle to watch week in and week out.
During this time, Bandai Namco would also release Super Dragon Ball Heroes. Heroes was a port of the popular Japanese arcade card battler based on it’s own unique universe. A new spin off anime was also created that has seen moderate success.
It didn’t stop there however, it wasn’t long after when Dragon Ball: Kakarot would get announced. Developed by CyberConnect2, this was a full blown single player action RPG covering the entirety of Dragon Ball Z. From Raditz, all the way to Kid Buu.
If that sounds a bit ambitious for a single title, in a way it is. Dragon Ball Kakarot is packed with a ton of heart, love and dedication to the source material, but 250 plus episodes is a lot of ground to cover.
It’s a third person game in a huge open world, with lot’s of places to see but not much to do in that space. After spending dozens of hours with it, the open world is essentially a set designed to lead you from mission to mission and allow for some very minor distractions outside of the big moments.
The actual traversing the world is a ton of fun. The controls are simple but satisfying. Flight is the closest anybody has come to delivering on what it would feel like to control one of these characters in a realized world. The actual open world design and gameplay elements however are rudimentary at best.
At it’s best it’s merely a flood of collection quests that feature more items than the N64’s entire line-up of platformers. Orbs, food, minerals, animals and more are scooped up for the most part by simply flying head long into them like a crazy person.
The side missions in the open world provide much more than the world does itself. After each main story battle, the world gets repopulated with various side missions that range from the odd fetch quest to recreations of infamous show moments. Certain topics such as the origin of Senzu Beans to Goku and Piccolo getting their drivers license.
These side missions provide some of Kakarot’s best moments. The sheer fan service is astounding. Many of these sidequests are similar to each other in terms of mechanics, but the little bits of lore, story and banter that sometimes call back to the original Dragon Ball are great.
The game also features collectible postcards from the shows history, and paired with the in game encyclopedia provides a great resource for longtime fans to reminisce. New fans can explore and learn about the series and it’s roots.
Even though it wasn’t billed as this, Kakarot is actually a great way to take in the massive show outside of watching the hit web series DBZ Abridged. Truncated sagas and abbreviated show moments keep the game flowing well from it’s start up until it’s end. Plenty of side quests and an assortment of things to poke at in the open world are there if you want more, but aren’t needed to complete the experience.
The game also does a pretty bang up job of recreating those moments we all know with style. Seeing Goku go Super Saiyan and the great Cell Vs Gohan beam battle have never been rendered quite like this. Overall Kakarot sports some pretty fantastic visuals outside of the simple textures the open world is full of. Big aura’s, flashy attacks and decent environmental destruction help the battle system feel dynamic.
As for the battle system, it works out pretty well and is actually a departure from the standard arena DBZ titles in the past. The RPG elements also come into play with most battles allowing you to have two support characters who fight alongside you. The combat system also has a lot of hidden mechanics such as triggering world ending super animations, and cut-scene version of signature attacks if certain fight conditions are met.
Outside of some major boss fights though, the game tends to stay on the easy side for much of it’s run time. It’s not the biggest hindrance in the world, but some options to adjust difficulty would have been welcome.
Bandai Namco promises to support Kakarot as well, and soon will release a Time Machine update to allow players to travel to earlier time periods to complete side quests they may have missed.
This follows in line with other Dragon Ball games in the last few years. Xenoverse continues to expand and include more content from Super frequently.
FighterZ is on the verge of their annual world championship and Ultra Instinct Goku will be leading the charge for another season of content.
World Heroes frequently gets updates and card packs and I won’t even go into the mobile games and how absolutely massive they are worldwide.
It’s a great time to be a fan of Dragon Ball. From the varied line-up of games, the continued high quality of Dragon Ball Super and the Broly movie, to the latest release of Kakarot. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
As for Kakarot itself, a serviceable open world and rudimentary RPG elements don’t take away from the sheer love and detail the game is filled to the brim with. Excellent side quests and a fun battle system carry the game during the slow sections, and elevate it during it’s climactic series moments.
It’s a world of Dragon Ball out there, and Kakarot is another in a line of strong titles that is rewarding for fans of the series and a great entry point for newcomers.