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Growing up I was a big DBZ fan. I stayed up late at night to catch the 11 PM telecast of the show under the Toonami banner on Cartoon Network. In fact, Dragon Ball Z and Wrestling are the 2 things that I started using the internet for background information. Having said that, I never actually finished the DBZ Original series for I had to move to college before it was telecasted in its entirety, and at college, I gravitated more towards movies and video games than anime. So when Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot was announced and promised to offer an RPG experience while recreating the mega-popular story arcs of DBZ I was on board immediately. But did the latest reincarnation of the franchise satisfy the craving of a DBZ fan dying to shoot out Kamehames of his own? Let’s find out.

Story & Narrative

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot covers the first 4 sagas of the series: Saiyan, Frieza, Cell Saga, and Majin Buu. When the series originally aired, the first arc lasted thirty-nine episodes. That’s at least half an hour each episode. That’s roughly 18 hours. In Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, I was fighting Vegeta 4 hours in. The story is sped up, without missing out the important story beats and of course the battles only last as long as you want them too, and there is no cliff-hanging suspense to be built up every 20 minutes. This makes Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot a great way to experience the story, even if you don’t want to spend your time in the semi-open world taking part in side-quests and exploration.

A lot of fat has been shed and the entire narrative is better for it. Having said that, I did expect some of the side missions to pick up the extra flack that the main story had decided to cut out. Instead, side missions are simple fetch quests introduced through multiple edges and forgettable characters in the series and rarely (read never) do they tie into the main narrative.

But overall I can’t complain. On the contrary, I stand impressed by how faithfully the devs have created some of the events. Of course, not all events are recreated equally, and there could be times when something that had touched you deeply while watching the series is missed or has been altered, even then I believe that the more widely accepted iconic events like Vegito’s fusion, Frieza’s death, etc have been done very well.

Gameplay & Mechanics

Unlike most other games, which tend to rely heavily on great game mechanics to hide their weak non-existent stories, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot finds itself in arguably the reverse situation.

The gameplay is OK. That’s all I can say about it.

Once the game opens up after the initial missions, you will find yourself in one of the areas of a bigger world map. You are free to explore the area, continue the main story, or take up side quests. Though neither the side quests or the exploration have much to offer. While most side-quests are repeatable in nature and add nothing to the narrative, the exploration turns out to be pretty mundane too once the novelty of flying as Piccolo or as Goku wears off. Even side activities like fishing, baseball and cooking add little to the fun to the overall experience, and none of them add any significant bonuses to your character for you to seriously consider them.

All of that leaves the main story as your primary motivation for carrying on in the game, which basically consists of 2 parts: Cutscenes and Fights. The fights are not much different from earlier Dragon Ball games like Xenoverse and play out in the same manner. However, without the shackles of creating a balanced and deep fighting game, CyberConnect2 has made the fighting mechanics much simpler to understand and execute. The fights revolve around one-button combos and 4 customizable special attacks which use up your Ki. This is where the combat becomes super interesting as managing your Ki becomes increasingly important as the fight’s progress. You can queue up your strongest attacks upfront but that can leave you open to a counter-attack later, you can turbocharge your Ki in the middle of the fight too but that leaves you open for attacks during it, and just depending on your melee attacks for the entire fight is just not an option. All of this with the fast-paced action of DBZ that you are familiar with, complete with the signature sounds that will pop the nostalgia bubble in your head, and the signature moves that you have practiced millions of times in front of the mirror. It’s all a lot of fun until you get caught in the middle of 20 Advanced Cells pointing their attacks at you. That’s not fun.

My advice Keep Moving.

There is a leveling up system too which grants you new moves, HP and Ki as your progress but its a little confusing at the start. For example, apart from the traditional skill trees, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot also has something called Communities. There are multiple communities like Fighting, exploration, (Adult?) , cooking and so on. As is clear from their names, each community offers bonuses to the players as they upgrade those communities. Now how are these communities upgraded? By adding Souls emblems (which are basically a token representation of your friendship with different characters in the game). Each of these Soul Emblems has different stats for each community board and compliments it accordingly. Some special benefits may also be unlocked if certain Soul Emblems are placed on the same community board. But that’s not all, each of these Soul Emblems may be leveled up by offering them gifts, which will not only make your community board stronger but will also improve the stats of the character itself. Phew!!! Got all that, but wait there is more.

Even the standard Skill tree, isn’t your run of the mill grind out to gain EXP and level up. You do level up characters as you fight and complete missions, but most moves are locked behind episodes (which makes sense since canonically, Goku can’s use the Spirit Bomb On Raditz), while others are locked behind combat challenges (which are rather frustrating). The dishes that you cook can also provide various boosts to your characters, and there is also a micro-economy to buy ingredients and health potions and other such stuff, but in my experience, while most of these layers just complicated the mechanical layers, they didn’t add a lot to the gameplay experience.

Graphics Performance & Sound

Graphically Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot follows the same art style that the anime has been so popular in, I do think it wouldn’t have worked any other way. Character designs and attack animations are also on point, especially when villains like Frieza execute their AOE attack, which does justice to their planet-killer personalities.

Performance-wise though Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot does have some gaps. I tried out the game on the PS 4 Pro, and I am satisfied with the loading times (considering games takes ages to load on the PS4 these days). I did notice a lot of bugs like stuttering and sometimes downright missing loading of environments. Sometimes, the cut scenes will start playing before the animation begins, and sometimes the subtitles would appear after the conversation was done. But all of these bugs dwarf in comparison to the issues I had with hit-detection. Most attacks in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot have a forgiving hitbox, however sometimes the hit detection is completely out of whack. It almost always happens when both characters execute a super move close together, and only one of them connects through a random mysterious game of rock paper scissors being played out in the GPU somewhere.

Sound design is decent, and while I had watched the original anime dubbed into Hindi (I know) and later in English (I know), I decided to play the game with the Japense audio with English subtitles (I KNOW). The downside of that is that Goku sounds much more childish than I remember, and all of them sound much more nasal. Personally, I prefer the English dubbing (I KNOW!!!). English or Japanese, the problem of repetition strikes in the sound department too, since there is only a handful of times I can hear Gohan comment on how he can take on enemy and how Goku has to admire the quality of every apple he flies past IN THE EXACT SAME WORDS.


So there you have it guys. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is hard and sharp around the edges. But all of its edges seem to fade away when you are actually playing the game because it removes the one thing that the fans didn’t like about the anime, the flack. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot has put itself in a position where its judged by how faithfully it has recreated the stories, the locations and the characters from the original series. I am happy to report that on that front Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot has passed with flying colors. To that end, none of the faults in the game are big enough to stop a fan of the game from having fun.

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