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‘Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’ Review And Gameplay, Explained: What Makes ‘Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’ Worth Playing?

We have all pretty much seen “Dragon Ball Z,” right? I know it was my go-to show while I was growing up. Incredible animation and a really good story full of loveable characters, scary villains, and crazy fights made this anime stand out above everything else and it turned into the household name that remains even now. The series closely follows the manga, which was written and drawn by Akira Toriyama, and does a fantastic job at that. Everything just oozes style and personality, and the colors on display are nothing short of breathtaking. So, for the people who have seen it, they don’t need a long and drawn-out explanation for what makes this series special, but for those who haven’t, what if I told you there’s a way you can experience the entire “Dragon Ball Z” saga without watching it? For the record, you should absolutely watch it if you haven’t, but asking someone to watch over 200 episodes of a show can be too much, so how about playing it? Yes, you heard that right! Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2 joined forces and gave us “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot,” the retelling of the entire Z saga featuring every hero and villain we have met across the journey.

While the “Dragon Ball” IP, in general, tends to focus on releasing fighting games, incredible ones at that, with Kakarot, they decided to take the element of fighting and merge it with an open-world action RPG, and it paid off big time. Released in 2020, “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” is one of the best, if not the best, “Dragon Ball” games that ever came out and was adored and praised by the fans of the series and critics alike. An RPG at heart, set in an open world that looks and feels like the landscapes we saw in the show, “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” retells the entire Z saga, from the invasion of the Saiyans all the way up to the Majin Buu arc that ended it, featuring our favorite hero and series protagonist Goku. Goku is not the only hero here, as you will also take charge of Gohan, Vegeta, Piccolo, and Future Trunks based on the events of the story. It’s a fighting game at its core, but the way it blends open-world exploration and RPG level-ups somehow works wonderfully, and we’ll be taking a look at all of those elements soon.

Before we start, let me talk a bit about the story. This game doesn’t need a section dedicated to the plot since it closely follows the anime, and everyone who has seen it knows what happens. And for those who have not seen it, well, you’ll be playing the game anyway, so you’ll know what comes next. The game opens with a beautiful in-game recreation of the opening from the anime featuring the famous and beloved theme “Cha-La-Head-Cha-La ” from the Japanese version all the way down to the Z fighters standing and Goku turning Super Saiyan after the title card shows up. Fan service 101 begins the moment the game begins. As you start the game, you get an added scene of Goku’s image training with Piccolo, as he was the main villain of the original “Dragon Ball” series, after which he takes Gohan fishing. You then arrive right where the show started and take Gohan to Kame House to introduce him to Master Roshi, Krillin, and Bulma. The story follows the path of the anime from here, with Raditz arriving and being defeated by Piccolo and Goku, to Vegeta and Nappa showing up and Goku taking care of them. From there, you go to Namek and are introduced to Frieza and his goons, and we get to relive the moment Goku turns Super Saiyan for the first time once again, and it keeps going from there with Mecha Frieza facing Future Trunks on Earth to Androids 16-20 and Cell showing up and finally ending with Majin Buu and his various forms where Vegito and SSJ3 Goku also make an appearance.

“Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” is a love letter to all the fans of “Dragon Ball” and almost captures every moment of the show. Big moments get extra attention, and my god, they are breathtakingly animated. Everything in this game is chock full of personality and relieving the Z Saga for the umpteenth time was still as refreshing as it was the first time. With all of that out of the way, let’s see what makes “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” worth playing.

‘Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’ Gameplay

As mentioned, despite being an action RPG, “Dragon Ball Z” is a fighting game first. The controls are simplified and much easier here, with one button for melee combos and another button for Ki attacks. You can charge up your Ki using another button at any time, and you’ll be doing that a lot and then use it to unleash special attacks like the famous Kamehameha and more, depending on what character you are using. Transformations, one of the most important and loved aspects of “Dragon Ball,” are also represented very well here, with Goku being able to turn into a Super Saiyan all the way up to Super Saiyan 3 and also use Kaioken with the press of a button. Other characters like Vegeta, Gohan, and more can also transform to the levels they have attained throughout the show, with Vegeta being able to go Super Saiyan 2 and Gohan turning Mystic. The fights themselves are easy to learn, with attacking, dodging, and firing Ki blasts at each other, and every move your characters and enemies make in the game looks flashy and cool. There is also a surge meter that builds up as you keep landing hits, which, when fully charged, can be used to cancel attacks on each other, which means you can fire back-to-back attacks while teleporting behind your enemies without breaking a sweat, and more. There is depth to this combat that you can discover, but based on how simply they have designed it, even a toddler can pick it up and play and feel how we felt as kids when we saw the fights in the show. The best part has to be the boss battles, hands down. They are long, drawn-out battles that almost feel like you are watching an anime. The fight against Final Form Frieza, Perfect Cell, and Kid Buu deserves special mention with their crazy attacks and cinematic QTE-style moments that pop up in the middle of the battle. 10/10 stuff here!

Moving on to the open world and RPG shenanigans, there’s a giant world for you to explore that is divided into areas. From the wasteland where Goku and Vegeta fought to Kame House all the way up to Kami’s Lookout and even Namek, all of these places are here, and their transition from 2D animation to 3D rendering has been done beautifully. “Dragon Ball Z” took place on Earth, but the regions and locations were never specified, and everything had a familiar yet distinct look to it. The open world also has ingredients, materials, currencies, and more floating about that you can pick up and use. You can also pick fights with the enemies that occupy this world. In the later stages of the game, you can also pick up the Dragon Radar, which allows you to find and collect the 7 Dragon Balls and make a wish. The wishes are simple, like giving you more money or ingredients or allowing you to fight previously defeated bosses. It’s nothing special but a fun novelty, regardless. There are also side quests available that are mostly forgettable, but you can do them if you are interested. CyberConnect2 did a fantastic job with recreating that look and turning it into a 3-dimensional world that players could explore, and despite the world itself not being seamless and being divided into sections, it is a commendable effort and shows how much love and care they put into this game.

The RPG stuff, on the other hand, is your standard fare of level-ups to buy and unlock more skills from the skill tree. Enemies naturally scale their levels with yours. Then you have perks and bonuses that you can unlock by eating food. A Saiyan’s stomach is a bottomless pit, after all, for which you’ll be gathering ingredients while doing missions or roaming the world. You also have community boards where you get pins for each character that you can assign to the different boards available and get bonuses out of them. This plays like a fun mini game of sorts where you figure out which character will go on which board, as having a well-set board can give you bonuses that act as major upgrades and bring differences to your gameplay. 

Finally, you also have stupid and comic stuff like driving cars, finding treasure, fishing, and more than just lets you be a part of this weird, wacky, and charming world. If you are up for the challenge, you can also fight villainous parties that are tougher versions of the enemies who roam the world and have previously fought bosses. Once you have defeated all of them, you get to fight a secret boss, the identity of whom I won’t be spoiling here. There’s a ton to do in “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot,” and if you wish to see and do all of it, then you’ll be locked in here for many hours. That shouldn’t be a problem, as all of the staff here is very well structured and streamlined and is incredibly fun to play. This game is a blast to play, and it’ll make you extra giggly if you grew up with the series.

The Technical Stuff

A quick rundown is in order here, as there isn’t a lot to say. The game looks good and plays well, but it is unfortunately locked at 30 fps on consoles right now; that will change soon. The sound and visual effects are fantastic and sound and look just like they did in the show. The voice acting is also phenomenal, with the likes of Shaun Schemmel, Chris Sabat, and more returning to voice the characters in the English dub, while the legendary Masako Nozawa, Ryo Horikawa, and more return for the Japanese dub. I had no bugs or glitches in my experience, so I can confidently say this game is a good package, technically. On January 14th, 2023, this game will also be getting a free next-gen patch that will make it run at 4K 60 fps with updated visuals, so current-gen players and Dragon Ball fans are in for a treat early next year. 

The Verdict

I think I have made it clear that I love this game. I mean, how can’t I? After all, it’s “Dragon Ball Z!” It’s such a beloved and long saga, and it truly is commendable how CyberConnect2 was able to recreate it so well. Sure, they had to cut some corners, and that inconsistency is the one thing that holds this game back from perfection, but at the same time, I can’t complain too much. This game is awesome. Everything from its sounds and voice to its visuals and gameplay is fantastically done, which shows how much CyberConnect2 themselves love this series. There’s DLC here as well if you are interested, that lets you unlock and play as Super Saiyan God and Super Saiyan Blue forms for Goku and Vegeta while also letting you fight Whis, Beerus, and Golden Frieza from “Dragon Ball Super.” There is one more piece of DLC that takes us to the alternate future of Trunks, where he has to defeat the androids, and finally, with the free next-gen update on January 15th, they’ll be releasing a second season pass for the game featuring three new expansions. The first of which will be about Bardock, the father of Goku. This game is awesome, especially if you are a Dragon Ball fan, and if not, I can assure you that this game will make you one. There are some issues here, but then again, nothing is perfect. With that being said, I’d like to take my leave by saying that “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” is a game you should play and it is a solid recommendation from my end.

See more: ‘Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus’ Review & Gameplay, Explained: What Makes ‘Wolfenstein 2’ Worth Playing?

Kartik Sharma
Kartik Sharma
Kartik is sometimes a freelance content writer and an actor. He loves spending his time reading books, playing videogames, dabbling in music, exploring different cultures and languages, etc. loves everything that is art and loves to explore new horizons.