Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 16.03.2020

Review for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on PlayStation 4

As the familiar tunes of Head Cha La reach their glorious crescendo, a montage of iconic moments from Dragon Ball Z play out on the screen, hyping fans with glimpses of promised encounters to come. Goku and Vegeta's first battle; Frieza revealing his true form; Gohan at the Cell Games; Evil Buu looking down. Dragon Ball has had game adaptations for over 30 years and this promises to be the biggest and best yet, but can it live up to it? Take a look at the review of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot for the PlayStation 4 to learn all about it.

CyberConnect2 has a history of reinvigorating shonen game adaptations. Its Ultimate Ninja Storm series landed well with fans, delivering cinematic retellings of the greatest moments of the hyperactive Ninja who became the Seventh Hokage - although there were issues with the series, and some of the best aspects were abandoned as it progressed. It still delivered something that overjoyed fans, however. Now, the developer is turning its attention to the legendary king of battle shonen. Now, considering the way the Ultimate Ninja Storm installments went, it would be expected CyberConnect2 would focus its efforts on putting out a fighting title with a basic retelling of the story, and some highly cinematic boss battles.

Luckily, expectations were subverted, when an open-world action-RPG was announced; one opening at the genesis of Z with the Raditz Saga, and running all the way through to the conclusion of the Buu saga. Admittedly, considering the immense amount of games that have been released covering these stories, it's more overdone than the death of Batman's parents or Uncle Ben. But, as the Naruto games have shown, the developer is adept at breathing new life into a story. Some of the battles of the Ultimate Ninja Storm series far outshone the anime adaptation.

Screenshot for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on PlayStation 4

Now, each saga is split up into short chapters, made up of story missions, interspersed with intermissions to explore the world (or worlds, as the game develops), in many open-world zones. While these zones are wonderfully realised recreations of Toriyama's world, they often feel sadly underutilised. At points, the world feels desolate, with huge swathes of land that feel empty, even for all the side activities found within. Those activities fall under familiar categories. For the intrepid explorers, there are Z Orbs to collect. Balls of various shades that encourage flying through locals in the signature Toriyama style, beneath the waves, and between the trees.

There are some rarer 'rainbow Z Orbs' that are suitably hidden away, and it's a chill, yet addictive experience flying around and hunting them down, occasionally crushing the odd random enemy encounter along the way. They aren't the only orbs to find, as the titular Dragon Balls are on hand, and randomly scattered 20 minutes of real-time after a wish is made, to track down again and again. For those not satisfied with just exploring the world, there are plenty of little activities to take on, like fishing, cooking, collecting minerals to build vehicles with Bulma, shooting dinosaurs for their meat, and chasing down game.

Then there are the side quests… these are disappointingly shallow for the most part, though. It's a real shame, as they're often used to develop the story and add some extra depth and lore to each of the ongoing sagas - but, the actual gameplay of these quests feels like it belong in an MMO from 15-years ago. Dull fetch quests and missions to go and kill a set amount of trash mobs. It's the weakest aspect on offer, and it really sours the experience. It feels like if CyberConnect2 had focused on just half of the Z story, it could have concentrated more on delivering a more robust and complete experience.

Screenshot for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on PlayStation 4

A nice little touch with the expansive content is the 'Z Encyclopedia;' a book of items to collect through the story and the open world that has hundreds of entries falling under headings like Story, Bestiary, Vehicles, and Relation Chart. This populates alongside the story, and with side quests, or even just by stumbling on items in the world, like fishing up a new species. Collecting enough of them grants rewards, and one in particular is especially charming: a section of the encyclopedia entitled 'Cards' which fills with recreations of classic Dragon Ball trading cards.

Now, while Akira Toriyama has long given a guiding hand, or provided some extra little piece of content to creation, it's particularly little here, as he has designed a brand new ex-Ginyu force member named Bonyu to be included entitled Bonyu. Her battle data happens to be in a pod Goku uses at one point, and she can be used for some training. It adds nothing of value really, shame he wasn't more involved.

Fighting is, obviously, a massive part of this, and the mechanics build nicely as the game develops to delivering an addictive and fun experience. At first, it's easy enough to mash through almost every battle. The core mechanics give a melee combo attack, a ki blast, and a dash/teleport on the face buttons, with super attacks assignable to a hold of L1 and a face button. It's a great blend of familiar elements, making it light-hearted and simple, but fun. Especially as the game develops and starts adding in assist attacks from party members, group combos, and, of course, the iconic transformations. What also helps in the combat is the RPG style elements in the background.

Screenshot for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on PlayStation 4

There are two systems of importance, Community Boards, and Skill Trees. Community Boards are systems of grids which unlock passive buffs ranging from bonuses when buying and selling with NPCs, stat enhancements like extra health or stamina, or even bonus experience for certain activities. These boards are empty at first and need to be filled with 'Soul Emblems.' These are medals of each of the members of the cast that are unlocked over the course of the adventure. These medals can be powered up by being given gifts, and when placed next to other characters they have a relationship, they give a bonus amount of experience to the skill board they're assigned. It's a very overly complex system for the very minor gains that it returns.

Conversely, the Skill Tree system couldn't be much simpler. Offering up hosts of enhancements for each character, from passive increases to attacks, stun damage and the like, to unlocking various signature moves, which can be switched out of the four special move slots. These abilities are purchased with the Z Orbs collected in the world. Though these orbs become some ridiculously abundant later on, there is little incentive to go and collect them.

From the open-world, to combat, to the retelling of the story, and the presentation, every element of the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The best parts of the story are recreated with aplomb, delivering dynamic and hype-intensified moments, while the moment in-between often show a slapdash approach, with characters flying off into the air while their character models raise unmoving and inanimate. The world is fun to explore, but it feels like an undeveloped MMO, with little character or originality in the experience. But it feels truly Dragon Ball, and it's easy to just get lost in the experience of smashing Frieza force goons through mountainsides.

Screenshot for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

This is clearly a true labour of love, with CyberConnect2 clearly caring and being invested in Toriyama's legendary tale. There are plenty of flaws, but they mostly come down to the ambition being a little too high, and the mechanics not quite fitting right. Yet… for all these flaws, this Kakarot manages to hype the fans in the audience like the source material has done for all the years. Key moments from the series are showcased absolutely perfectly. Just like how filler can be abided to see and experience the fan-favourite arcs, the missteps here can be forgiven. At least by the hardcore Dragon Ball fans. This is a series that deserves to continue, let CyberConnect2 perfect its creation. There are still the OG sagas to cover, along with the many movies, and even better, the recent stories of Super. It's exciting to think of those recreated, and of this game receiving the improvements it deserves.

Also known as

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot

Developer

CyberConnect2

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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