If you were a kid growing up at a certain time, chances are you accidentally hit the first wave of mainstream anime head on. Maybe you were a Sailor Moon kid. Maybe you were a Pokémon kid. Maybe, like me, you were a little of both and also had a thing for Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z. If you aren’t familiar with that series, well…I can’t do much for you at this point, but Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot sure can.
In fact, it’ll let you play through the entire thing. I don’t know if that’s a better option than watching it but the option is certainly there. We follow Son Goku, a martial artist, former wanderer and current family man as he fights to defend the people and world he loves. it probably won’t shock you to hear that we rapidly discover that Goku is an alien – a member of a simian warrior race called the Saiyans – and the other members of his species aren’t the good-natured sort that he is. Cue multiple galaxy-spanning adventures as Goku and his friends deal with increasingly more dangerous foes.
I can’t really tell you anything about DBZ that you don’t already know, really. Neither can Kakarot. What it does instead is give you the chance to experience the saga in a more interact way than pretty much any game that came before. The easiest comparison might be something like Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise; this is Yakuza meets DBZ.
That doesn’t mean you’re playing arcade games or collecting gachapon toys, though. Instead, you’re living your best Saiyan (or Namekian, or even human) life. You can fly around and explore the DBZ world, go hunting for ingredients to cook into stat-boosting meals and collect medals that you can slot into Communities, essentially a set of upgradable skill trees. If you’re a collect-a-thon fiend, Kakarot is happy to accommodate you. You’ll run out of patience before you run out of loot, and along with loot there’s the classic RPG staple of experience and leveling up. This one’s surprisingly heavy on the RPG elements and nothing feels shoehorned in.
Of course, it wouldn’t be DBZ if you didn’t spend most of your time fighting or training. Karakot’s take on this is pretty reminiscent of the recent Xenoverse games, mapping regular attacks and dodging to the face buttons and special techniques to held shoulder button/face button combinations. Battles move at a breakneck pace, much as you’d expect from the series, and there’s plenty of random mooks roaming the world to scrap with so you can Kamehameha to your heart’s content.
Random mooks are one thing, but the highlight of DBZ: Karakot are the boss battles. They take iconic fights from the series, like Goku’s early battle with his Saiyan brethren, and turn them into bombastic setpieces with bullet-hell energy blasts, cinematic cutscene attacks and no shortage of style. Kakarot’s bosses alone are enough to sell the game. They’re absolutely fantastic, on the same order as the best brawls from the Yakuza series.
DBZ: Kakarot looks, sounds and plays like you’d expect an episode of the show to look, sound and play. That really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at this point; we’ve been able to generate anime-like visuals on the fly for years now thanks to the magic of cel-shading, to say nothing of modern games like Guilty Gear Xrd that put classic anime series to shame. Fans of Dragon Ball Z are bound to have horrific nostalgia attacks while playing; seek medical attention as needed.
Fans of the show and newcomers alike – if newcomers can actually exist at this point – owe it to themselves to try out Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. It’s a little surprising how nicely the RPG and sim elements mixed into the action here. It also suggests that there might be a little more to the whole DBZ thing than just spending several episodes charging up before a fight. Y’know, things like driving lessons. What more could you want?