Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 24.02.2022

Review for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens on Nintendo Switch

Dragon Ball has had a long=standing history with the RPG genre since as early as the Famicom's heyday. Although most gamers are familiar with the franchise through fighters, Dragon Ball has always lent itself well to RPGs, from the long story arcs to the colorful characters, and even concepts like Power Levels. Kakarot is the latest in the line of DB RPGs, originally released in early 2020 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows. Over a year and a half later, Kakarot finally makes its way to Nintendo Switch complete with DLC and even new features. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens brings son Goku's life story to Switch in the series' most comprehensive RPG adaptation yet.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens adapts DBZ's core four story arcs - the Saiyan, Freeza, Cell, and Buu sagas - along with the final two films to carry the "Z" branding Battle of Gods and Resurrection F. This does mean the original Dragon Ball's six story arcs go unadapted, but ancillary dialogue, collectibles, and the Z-Encyclopedia offer valuable context for anyone unfamiliar with the story. That said, Kakarot's narrative very much expects the audience to have a cursory understanding of the series' storytelling and character relationships.

It is hard to imagine anyone not familiar with Dragon Ball getting much out of the plot due to certain cuts. Broad strokes keep the narrative coherent, but character development is pushed to the wayside in favor of only adapting essential character moments. Goku is often accused of being a flat character, but he changes gradually and matures throughout DBZ. Unfortunately, most of his development was subtle and in the background compared to characters like Gohan, Piccolo, or Vegeta. Kakarot's little cuts pile up and result in Goku's arc coming off undercooked when this was the perfect opportunity to highlight how much he grows during the series' latter half.

The main story begins right before Raditz's arrival during the Saiyan saga and cuts off right after the final battle with Kid Buu in the Majin Buu arc. Immediately it is worth noting that Kakarot outright ignores the series' original ending and does not feature a time skip to the 28th Tenkaichi Budokai. Anyone anticipating the "full" story as it was in the anime or manga should temper their expectations accordingly. Likewise, not every saga gets the same amount of respect. The Saiyan and Namek arcs undergo some cuts, but they come out the other end otherwise respectable. The same cannot exactly be said for the Cell or Buu arcs, both of which omit enough key scenes to lessen the story's overall quality.

Screenshot for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens on Nintendo Switch

The Saiyan arc is the strongest in terms of adaptation, only glossing over stretches of story that would not lend themselves well to gameplay. The plot frames itself around the father-son bond between Goku and Gohan, jumping between both characters periodically. Gohan's half of the arc is expanded in particular, fleshing out his training under Piccolo while building pathos towards what is already one of DBZ's most emotional moments. The sheer carnage amongst the Saiyans is also adapted nicely through cutscenes, with Goku's battle against Vegeta standing out especially. The only real downside to Kakarot's Saiyan saga is that most of its emotional impact is lost without the original Dragon Ball's six arcs of character development and context.

The Namek arc is more of a mixed bag, but finishes strong when all is said and done. The pacing is a notable step up from the anime's slow crawl, although not quite on the manga's level. Cutscene direction is arguably even stronger than the Saiyan arc, with Vegeta's fight against Recoome and Goku's transformation into a Super Saiyan/battle with Freeza are brilliantly reinterpreted. Even better, having the opportunity to interact with Namekians and take on side quests heightens the emotional impact of the species' plight while expanding their culture. For better or worse, Kakarot also increases Goku's prominence in the Namek arc. Gohan, Krillin, and Vegeta do lose some of their spotlight, but Goku's character really shines here. Unfortunately, the Cell arc is where the story starts to get spotty.

Dragon Ball Z notably introduces time travel during the Cell arc, along with Trunks - an extremely important character whose presence ties the entire saga together both narratively and thematically. Trunks is arguably the single most important person in the Cell saga, more so than even Goku and Gohan themselves. Bafflingly, Kakarot outright removes most of Trunks' major scenes, even skipping out on battles that could have been boss fights. This consequently means Trunks' relationship with his father Vegeta is barely touched on, brushing over some of DBZ's best character work. It is also here where attention to detail starts to flounder and canon gets ignored in favor of keeping Goku relevant. The Cell arc is where Goku passes the torch to Gohan, but the build-up lacks the manga and anime's grace by emphasizing Goku over Gohan.

Screenshot for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens on Nintendo Switch

The Buu arc isn't as meager an adaptation as the Cell arc was, but the saga completely cuts out Dragon Ball Z's ending. Goku's development is not over until he meets Uub and takes him on as a student, so Kakarot removing the 28th Tenkaichi Budokai means the protagonist never fully completes his character arc. The lack of an epilogue also means Gohan never achieves his dream of becoming a scholar, leaving him in a developmental limbo too. Not just that, the cutscenes to gameplay ratio completely falls apart by the end. Get ready to sit down and watch some Dragon Ball in earnest, not play it. For what it's worth, some of the best cutscenes are tucked away in the Buu arc - so the story does at least end on a high note - but having control ripped away so often gets exhausting.

Battle of Gods and Resurrection F are included through the DLC packs, A New Power Awakens 1 + 2. Both movies were already on the light side in terms of story, so their adaptations can afford to play things a bit loose. The former is designed for grinding while the latter sports stronger battles. Both unlock new transformations, feature new side quests, and generally serve as the post-game. That said, it is possible to start A New Power Awakens at the start of the game in order to power grind ASAP. Both packs are solid contributions to the post-game while adding just a bit more meat to the narrative. Neither DLC is essential, but A New Power Awakens serves as a better conclusion than the Buu arc.

Kakarot is rounded out by one final piece of DLC, Trunks: The Warrior of Hope. Separate from the main story, The Warrior of Hope fleshes out Trunks' backstory and can actually be played standalone from the menu. Trunks even has his own leveling and equipment independent from the main story. Trunks: The Warrior of Hope specifically adapts The History of Trunks TV Special, Trunks' epilogue fights from the original Cell arc, and his battle against Dabura which was depicted in Dragon Ball Super. As a self-contained story, the DLC manages to carve out an incredible character arc for Trunks filled with the emotion that was missing from the main game. Future Gohan is even included as a playable character, adding a deeper layer to Trunks' tragedy and fleshing out his dark future.

Screenshot for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens on Nintendo Switch

Like the story, Kakarot's combat is hit or miss. The battle system takes cues from the Xenoverse sub-series, leading to fights that take place primarily in the air and in 3D arenas. Combos are also satisfying to pull off, packing weight behind their flashiness. While this adds to the "Dragon Ball Simulator" feel the RPG is going for, the action is all style, no substance. Gameplay is shallow, the default difficulty curve is pathetically easy, and virtually every single enemy can be defeated with the same strategies. Combat's only saving grace is how customizable everything is. Party members have their own individual skill trees, special attacks can be fully edited at the player's leisure, and the assist system at least keeps battles from becoming completely braindead. The Nintendo Switch release does include adjustable difficulty modes, but do not expect much depth even on the hardest setting.

Both characters will become playable in a future update for other consoles, but Kakarot's Switch port also promotes Vegetto and Gotenks to permanent party member status. Where they were once relegated to single fights in the main story, the fusions can now be unlocked through new sub-stories for some added replay value. While Dragon Ball's focus is the action, DBZ:K is at its best when simply letting the player freely roam around the world. Exploration is nothing special and just for show in the grand scheme of things, but seeing the Dragon World recreated with so much care is a treat for any fan. Taking the time to walk around each map, soaking in the minutiae and countless references to the series' history elevated the experience. There is even fishing, hunting, and cooking to indulge in as side activities - all of which can be fun in their own right.

When it comes down to it, though, this is still an action RPG where the action is not the star of the show. As engaging as the overworld can be, it is also not much beyond the surface. Intermissions between major arcs serve as playgrounds to fool around in, but non-fans of the series and newcomers will likely get next to nothing out of the Dragon World. Side quests do not fare much better either and can comfortably be ignored by anyone who just wants to play through the story at a healthy pace. The vast majority are tedious affairs that can be found in any basic MMORPG.

Perhaps to be expected but still disappointing, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on Nintendo Switch pales in comparison to other consoles. Which is not to say the RPG runs poorly or even looks bad. Gameplay controls fluidly both docked and undocked, and the visuals are perfectly serviceable. Load times aren't bad either, but anyone who has played the title on modern hardware already will likely see the Switch re-release as a downgrade. The graphics are admittedly not as crisp as they could be and a few cutscenes are on the choppy side, but the performance gets the job done. The Switch exclusive content makes it the definitive version of Kakarot for the time being, but that'll change as soon as the other consoles get their updates.

Screenshot for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

While far from bad, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens is a hard sell for anyone who is not already a fan of the series. Even then, franchise diehards will likely notice the changes and omissions in adaptation to the point of annoyance. Combat also leaves much to be desired, lacking in depth and devoid of real strategy more often than not. At the same time, overworld exploration is surprisingly relaxing, side content outside of side quests is engaging, and the story mode does make for an enjoyable way to revisit Dragon Ball Z thanks to stellar cutscene direction. Those who connect with the gameplay will also be delighted at the sheer amount of content available, from the three DLC packs to new playable characters. Kakarot is a Dragon Ball love letter that often forgets to be an action RPG, but never loses the unique charm that has defined the series.

Developer

CyberConnect2

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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   

Comments

Comments are currently disabled

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
jb, Sandy Wilson

There are 2 members online at the moment.