Dragon Ball Z has seen a sort of resurgence in the gaming space in the past few years with Dragon Ball Xenoverse and FighterZ, but the series has always struggled in delivering a prominent single-player experience for players to get invested in. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot seeks to change that as the most memorable take on the story of Goku since the Legacy of Goku series on the Game Boy Advance. While I don’t think Kakarot will make as big of a splash for its genre as FighterZ, I’m fully convinced it’ll deliver the best single-player telling of this story yet.
I got about 20 minutes to sit down and play around in the opening world of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, which is right before the battle versus Raditz, kicking off the beginning of the Saiyan Saga. I dedicated about three-fourths of my playtime to exploring as much as I could, tinkering with the sidequests and additional mechanics that’ll add longevity to this title.
Players will surely stay for the story of Goku, but does everything else hold up? With an explorable and expansive world with sidequests, cameos, and challenges for you to take on, upon jumping in, it’s actually really cool to be able to go in any direction. While the developers say that they haven’t pulled any inspiration from previous titles of the series, fans of Budokai and Legacy of Goku will definitely enjoy the freedom of flying around and exploring.
Right off the bat, I was able to find characters like Android 8, Nam, and Launch roaming throughout the world offering sidequests. I didn’t get to dive too deep into these sidequests due to the fact I wanted to see the finale with Raditz and was put on a relatively strict timer. However, completionists should be pleased as these quests did seem to encourage exploration among other things, like collecting, fighting, etc. I do hope to see some more variety from the world, maybe things that reference filler episodes with more whacky objectives. I think that could be fun, and I think it could add a lot of character to a game already brimming with it.
Combat is another big selling point for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, as the series’ most memorable moments are defined by the techniques used by its cast of heroes and villains. I’d say that from my brief time playing, it’s a bit like Xenoverse 2 but more refined in some ways. Something I spoke about with the developers was their experience moving from the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm series to Dragon Ball. They admittedly found it a bit more challenging to incorporate flying into fights, as this requires camera adjustments among various other things that need to be tweaked.
Going back and forth between the two did take some getting used to, but I’m sure after extended time with the game it’ll eventually just come naturally. It was a bit more involved and you can’t just wail on an enemy, like Raditz for example. He’d become invulnerable, I’d have to take a step back, and during specific attacks, I’d have to do nothing but dodge. You have to learn your opponents, and while the game doesn’t ask too much of you in that regard, it’s generally fun to dish out iconic moves from the series on enemies.
There’s a lot that I didn’t get to explore, but there are some things that I remain very optimistic towards. Kakarot will focus on Goku’s eating habits, which will play a significant role in his fights and progression. It’ll be more than just slight buffs, but I wasn’t given much more to go off of. Furthermore, it’s still unclear as to whether or not you’ll be taken control of other characters during battles when Goku isn’t present. This is due in part to the developers not sharing this information, and us, the audience, not seeing anything past the Frieza Saga. I don’t think I’ll necessarily have any gripes if you just play as Goku; new techniques and transformations can and will be introduced over time, so I’m excited to explore how each plays out.
If you had any doubts about Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot as a fan of the series, the final battle from my demo ends with Hironobu Kageyama’s “Cha-La Head-Cha-La,” and it’s absolutely wonderful. While it may not turn out to be the deepest RPG, it is seemingly the best single-player-centric game based on Akira Toriyama’s original manga.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is launching for PS4, Xbox One, and PC in early 2020.
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