It is a tale as old as time, well at least as old as April 26, 1989, when #Dragon #Ball Z premiered on Japanese television. In the years since, more manga, merchandise, television series and video games have spun off from the original Dragon Ball manga. This time around, Dragon Ball Z: #Kakarot returns to the source material, but instead of purely being based in the fighting genre as the video game series has become best known, Bandai Namco has switched to the role-playing genre. This is not the first time a Dragon Ball video game has been set in a RPG setting on console, as many forget the likes of Dragon Ball Z: Sagas in 2005, if you consider that game to be an RPG. But then there are the great games like the handheld Legacy of Goku series.
I am not going to recap the story, because chances are that if you are tuned in here, you are most likely already aware. Although, I would like to point out the nice bit of fan service sprinkled throughout. Dragon Ball characters make appearances despite never being in Dragon Ball Z, but I suspect we can thank the popularity of Dragon Ball Super for resurrecting these characters. Despite that, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot follows the main story beats of the anime, but adds a layer of side events and polished story elements. Think of it like the Dragon Ball Z: Kai of Dragon Ball Z video games.
Looking at the graphics, I have to say that it looks like the anime where it counts. The 3D character designs and structures match the aesthetics perfectly. The energy attacks provide a nice bit of realism in the way they are lit. However, sometimes the camera during battles can be annoying. There were a few times where I was stuck in front of a wall or behind an object, unsure which way I should move to get a view of my enemy. In the meantime, I am getting slammed and unable to fly up or down to get out of the way.
Which brings me to another complaint… Battles do not allow for manual vertical movement and the way the face buttons operate seem inverse to those of Xenoverse, something that I have become accustomed to over the years. To top it off, you cannot customize your controls. During heated battles, I would revert to my Xenoverse controls and lose a battle as a result. The learning curve to adapt to these new controls is annoying, to say the least. At least the shoulder buttons are not so far off that they are a detriment. My ideal face button setup is Square/X for Attack, Triangle/Y as Rush, Circle/B as Ki and Cross/A as Jump on PlayStation and Xbox controllers.
The background sounds are typical Dragon Ball, as is the music. The only problem that I have with the sound is that the music in the open areas gets tedious. It is easy to lose time collecting items and the like, but eventually the music got on my nerves, so I had to turn it down. The voice acting is top notch as most of the original cast reprises their roles.
However, I discovered a few bugs while playing version 1.02. First, a copy of Goku was standing in the woods where the game started. Second, during the intermission before tracking down Raditz to save Gohan, I ended up battling some robots and when I returned to the open area, Goku fell off Nimbus into the ocean. In the open areas, if you cannot fly or speed run, you will drown if dropped into the middle of the ocean if you cannot find dry land in time. That is something that I did over and over. Luckily, my auto-save from nearly 15 minutes earlier was from when Raditz initially took Gohan from the Kame House. I lost a lot of collected items and power-ups when I hit that bug, but the show must go on.
The only other bug that I have discovered was that sometimes after story beats, the enemies in the open areas would stop noticing me. I would get in front of them, blast Ki at them and rub against them to no avail. It seemed to fix itself when I switched areas.
Despite my complaints, I still really enjoyed myself. I spend at least 75 percent of my play time collecting items and exploring. It was not always intentional, but it happened and I accept that because the world is alive and immersive. Nothing that you do in the open areas provides much experience points, but you gain a lot of experience points during main story battles. The exploration of the open areas allows for a few customization opportunities to make the characters more your own.
If you love Dragon Ball Z and role-playing games, this game is definitely for you. If you are looking for a fighting game and did not like Xenoverse as much as FighterZ, you probably should look elsewhere.
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