The developer of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, CyberConnect2, is not only famous in the gaming field for giving birth to the .hack series but, above all, for being able to create a solid and fun digital universe for Naruto, the famous manga by Masashi Kishimoto. The development team promised to offer the definitive tie-in for lovers of Akira Toriyama’s immortal work.
I can tell you right away that the meat put on the fire by CyberConnect2 is really a lot, and tasty, but those who expect the perfect title dedicated to Goku, may receive a couple of surprises. Here is my Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot review!
A WORLD TO BE EXPLORED
Retracing the themes covered by Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot would be useless as the production of CyberConnect2 promises to faithfully retrace the events of Dragon Ball Z, inserting some storylines, which go to justify the “semi-open world” structure chosen for this new video game iteration of Goku’s adventures.
The Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot storyline is divided into macro-sections that go back to the famous sagas of Akira Toriyama’s manga. Each of these parts of the story is divided in turn into different episodes, marked by a defined series of battles, which requires the player to perform some tasks between one clash and another.
What makes Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot different from the productions inspired by the story of Goku, is the inclusion of different areas that can be freely explored and which represent the most representative places of the universe created by Toriyama’s pencil.
The real novelty introduced in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot lies precisely in the freedom given to the player to move in the various play areas between one main mission and another, devoting yourself to free exploration, the collection of objects and the accomplishment of various secondary missions.
Each area offers the player a range of optional activities that can be completed. Whether it’s hunting dinosaurs, wild animals, or even fishing in the various lakes, taking part in car races, collecting food or minerals or carrying out long mental training sessions, the activities available to the player are a lot.
The multitude of activities offered by Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, is full-bodied and interesting but, like many other open-world titles, after twenty hours of play, a latent symptom of repetitiveness begins to make its way, suppressed only by the charisma of the characters of Dragon Ball and the curiosity of the player in wanting to know the full story.
However, this repetitiveness will not affect the general experience offered by Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot which, especially as regards to the main story, manages to be an enjoyable and convincing game. Small technical errors and poorly understood stylistic choices can make the experience less pleasant for those dedicated players.
Z COMBAT IN ACTION
The part that will interest most of the users of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is, undoubtedly, the one dedicated to fighting, which has always been the central pivot of Toriyama’s work. It too is, however, afflicted by some errors that could be more or less important for the most demanding players.
The various fighters will move around a pre-defined area and come with generous dimensions, melee attacks, energetic waves, transformations of various kinds, and combos along with other support characters. If this canvas seems all too “already seen”, it is the strategic implementations inserted by CyberConnect2 that will further stratify the combat sessions of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.
Situational elements make the battles in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot even more varied. From the energy clashes (which will trigger when two special abilities collide) generating a mini-game based on the speed of reaction in pressing certain buttons, and you will be asked to counter, or flee, from a specific attack of your opponent.
Undoubtedly, the combat system developed by CyberConnect2 is rich and layered but it inevitably collides with a series of small flaws which, even in this case, makes the work less interesting and satisfactory. This, all in all, makes the entire structure designed by the developers lose a bit of thickness.
One of the major problems encountered during the fights are definitely the excessive speed of the game action, especially when compared with the more strategic system designed by CyberConnect2. The camera also does not always prove functional and well designed.
The end result of these two problems coincides in fights that risk deriving excessively towards button smashing due to a general difficulty in unraveling the various types of attack and their effects. The final result is not, however, unsatisfactory, thanks also to the excellent directorial cut chosen for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.
BEYOND THE SUPER SAIYAN LEVEL
The personalization of the characters and the related creation of teams of three fighters, is something on which the entire gameplay of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot focuses. Also, in this case, some errors make it imperfect, but there is no doubt the commitment that CyberConnect2 had, to make the gaming experience more profound and layered.
Starting with the characters, each of the various fighters have their own dedicated skill tree, which will evolve as your character gains experience. As you move up a level, new skills will become available which, however, can only be learned by paying the right price or by going to one of the numerous training fields.
The system, theoretically, works and stimulates the player to want to learn as many moves as possible to create his own character. What slows down the enthusiasm is the workload needed to unlock the skills. Constant and forced farming makes the entire game system excessively monotonous in the long term.
Undoubtedly a more contained farming would certainly have been more appreciable, especially considering the numerous elements capable of enhancing some statistics of the characters present in the title. Once you learn the various skills that you can assign to your character, you can decide how to build your style of play by orienting towards a more physical, energetic and colorful fight.
By progressing through the story, or by finishing some secondary missions, you will get Soul Emblems. By placing them within the various skill trees, you can earn permanent bonuses. The strategic element lies entirely in the fact that emblems are limited. You can freely move them, allowing you to define in which skills you will want to excel.
THE TECHNICALITIES OF DRAGON BALL Z: KAKAROT
The models of the characters are all well made, rich in details and with a plethora of animations, especially the various special moves, respectful of the original material. The same cannot be said for animations during dialogues outside the interlude scenes.
There is a general shortage of facial expressiveness, combined with a lack of detail when interacting with the various objects in the world. It may give a feeling that they moved too quickly with the details and pushed it aside to work on other aspects of the game as a whole.
As for the game settings, however, they are all evocative, large and full of the iconic characters present in Toriyama’s work. I particularly appreciated the strong will of the developers to try to recreate the same atmospheres present in the anime. Unfortunately, the various areas, accessible from the main world map, are all bare and too vast.
Don’t get me wrong, as I said before, everything is particularly rich in “things to do” but as soon as you scratch the surface you notice how you find yourself flying over acres and acres of land that is just too similar to each other and with lack of details, dictated by the excessive vastness of the play areas.
On PlayStation 4 PRO, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is fluid, with average loading times and free from annoying bugs and glitches. I found just a few short freezes given by some uploads placed directly within the game world but nothing that compromised my overall experience. It must be taken into consideration, however, that three corrective patches have already been released (at the moment the most recent version is 1.03).
As for the artistic direction, the devs worked hard to restore the player with a plethora of bittersweet emotions. Fan favorites is on the agenda: they took the music directly from the anime, summaries that bring the player’s mind back to the afternoons spent watching Dragon Ball and, of course, quotes of all shapes and colors.
One cannot but praise the work done and the respect for the source material. An excellent dubbing in Japanese and English, go to garnish an undoubtedly convincing production as regards with the artistic direction.
Have you tried Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot or any of the other Dragon Ball Z games? What do you think about this Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot review? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
If you want more of the popular series, check out our reviews for Dragon Ball Z: Budokai and Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle.