Review: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (34.31 GB)
Release Date: January 17, 2020
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: CyberConnect2
Original MSRP: $59.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: T
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Dragon Ball Z has to be one of the most enduring properties out there. Seems like every year there’s some kind of new game for it. Yet somehow Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot managed to pull in more hype than many of them, based on what I was seeing on social media.

I think a large reason for that is that Dragon Ball: Z Kakarot is a break from many of the other games. Rather than being a fighting game, as many are, Kakarot is an RPG. Not the first RPG, but it has been a while since a big DBZ RPG came out.

Sadly though, the hype seems like it was largely unwarranted. Kakarot isn’t a bad game, but it never really managed to grab me. While it was cool to be able to fly around in the DBZ world and play out iconic fights, the whole game is built around the same 3D brawler mechanics we’ve seen done to death in other DBZ (and even other anime) games.

Nothing about the combat feels especially unique: fly around, perform a few basic combos, fire off a blast or two, and that’s about it. Many anime brawlers feel a little clunky and built around just mashing some automatic combos and Kakarot doesn’t do much to remedy that. Sure, you can change around your special attacks, or upgrade certain abilities, but they don’t change much about how the game itself plays.

There’s a certain amount of clunkiness to the fights too, especially to move around in three dimensions. The fights are mostly made to play out in a way that you don’t need to fly up and down much, but the controls make it all the more clunky in those few situations that you do.

Outside the combat, Kakarot feels a little more unique as a DBZ game (at least based on my limited experience with mostly just the older ones). In between fights, you have access to larger environments to fly around and do side quests or minigames. The world created by Akira Toriyama might be one of the most interesting parts of Dragon Ball, and being able to explore it is a treat.

I also liked how the open world was used to tie in the franchise’s history. While those in the West are a lot more familiar with Dragon Ball Z, there’s a lot of history to Dragon Ball too, and much of that is referenced in Kakarot’s open world. Whether it’s doing quests for Emperor Pilaf or fighting Red Ribbon robots, it’s clear the designers went the extra mile to make a world worthy of Dragon Ball.

All that said, there’s still not a ton to Kakarot’s world. A fishing minigame, a relatively small number of optional quests, some towers to topple, and some NPCs to find and add to your in-game communities are really the most the open world adds. I still found it a worthy addition, but it felt like it could have been even more.

Unfortunately, the story is another area where Kakarot doesn’t shine. On the plus side, the game covers pretty much the whole show, starting with the Sayian arc all the way up through the Buu arc. However, this is the same story that we’ve seen before, both in the source material and in many of the previous games. Kakarot adds a few things here and there, some side content or embellishments on the existing story, but not enough to feel all that new to me.

Visuals:
The graphics are an area where Kakarot shines. From the fluid animation of flying around Goku’s world, to the graphical call-backs to the show, to the cool looking special attacks, Kakarot does a great job of looking like Dragon Ball. The recent Dragon Ball FighterZ might have a slight edge over it, but considering the added scope of areas to explore, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot does impress.

Audio:
Again, Kakarot does a great job of emulating its source material here. I don’t know that all of the cast has reprised their roles, but many of them sounded like I remember. One nice feature is that the narrator from the TV show also appears here, voicing episode titles and the interstitial parts when the game is emulating the episodic nature of the show. Sound effects and music are pretty spot-on too, all adding up to a package that feels like Dragon Ball Z.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot has plenty of draw: the faithful story and settings, or the ability to fly around in the Dragon Ball world. However, the mediocre combat and strict adherence to a story we’ve seen retold a dozen times keep the game from really being great. There’s just not a lot of draw to keep playing, and I only got through the Frieza arc before I got distracted and didn’t feel a pull to continue.

Anyone who eats/sleeps/breathes DBZ should find a lot to like here and if you’re already a fan of the 3D anime-brawler games out there, this is a souped up version of that. For normal fans or those who grow tired of the formulaic anime games though, I don’t think Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot offers quite enough. Perhaps wait for a deal or just give it a rent instead.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share func

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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