It’s hard to imagine being a super-powered metahuman borne out of an invasive alien species and whose DNA was engineered for conquest and war. In the case of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, Bandai Namco hopes to deliver you that experience succinctly and successfully through the eyes of the titular character, Kakarot, more famously known as Goku.
Despite the Dragon Ball Z video game franchise having been mostly fighting games up until this point, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot looks to keep things fresh by using an action RPG skeleton instead.
Although this will be a story-heavy game (especially with the notable omission of all multiplayer elements), there will be an increased emphasis on exploration, crafting and social interaction. And at our hands-on experience with Kakarot at E3 this year, we managed to get twenty good minutes as Goku.
Earth in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a sprawling landscape teeming with flora and fauna, as we’ve seen in the anime and manga. As a Saiyan, Goku has the innate ability to traverse the area in an omni-directional manner, as he can both fly and dash around at high speeds. Of course, Earth will be but one of the various worlds you can explore in Kakarot, so expect iconic locales such as Namek, Planet Vegeta, and more.
As you maneuver around the area, you’ll get to collect the in-game currency, which you’ll use to purchase consumables such as potions and ingredients for your cooking. Speaking of ingredients, you’ll also be able to collect those either by completing quests, or by hunting the wildlife that populates the area. Just be careful not to piss off the occasional wandering dinosaur, though. Not even budding Saiyans with the strength of ten men can withstand the wrath of a T-Rex.
In any case, the ingredients you collect consists of typical fruits, vegetables and meat, all of which you can either consume on their own, or throw together to whip up a dish. The food that Goku eats will give him a temporary buff to his various stats and abilities such as increased health or attack power, ultimately increasing his overall power level for the time being (more on power levels under combat later).
Of course, all the food we had access to were merely basic ingredients that gave basic benefits, but the idea seems clear in that part of the gameplay loop heavily involves scrounging for food to make yourself stronger. Also, it embodies Goku’s love for food, so it makes sense.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot wouldn’t be an ARPG without NPC interaction. Main quests are obtained naturally as you progress through the story, and while there’s nothing stopping you from tackling the main big bad for that story segment right away, the game encourages you to stay a while, and listen.
Pursuing side quests is a good opportunity to gain more XP and power levels so you can come to the boss fight more prepared and confident. As an added bonus to the more religious fans of the Dragon Ball series, there’ll be NPCs that were actually from the original Dragon Ball anime and manga — characters that adult Goku would never have had the chance to speak to. While this isn’t a detraction from the narrative of the main story itself, it does provide a good bit of nuance to the main story’s canon.
Your fights against the various baddies round up the three core pillars of gameplay in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Of course, being a DBZ title, how can one forget about fighting?
Taking cue from its fighting game DNA, Kakarot’s combat feels pretty fluid straightaway. Button inputs felt responsive and there was little input delay. What was more important, however, was that while these controls are in no way as comprehensive as the likes of Dragon Ball FighterZ or Dragon Ball Xenoverse, they’re pretty well thought out and intelligent enough. For example, when Goku attempts to punch a foe that’s a tad far away, he’ll automatically use Rapid Movement to close the gap between him and his opponent to land that right hook or roundhouse kick.
This makes your moves not feel so wasteful and makes it a little more accessible to players who aren’t so big on fighting games. Also, what’s a Dragon Ball game without being able to perform your favourite signature moves such as Kamehameha or Spirit Bomb?
Like the fighting games, there is also the ability to Power Up your ki and power level. Once full and you hold the Power Up button for a little longer, you’ll momentarily enter a beefed up state, which boosts your power levels and your attack power, giving you an edge over your opponents, especially if they’re bosses. It does feel significant enough for you to feel the rush as Goku in his powered state pummelling his Saiyan brother Raditz to a pulp.
And speaking of boss fights, they’re rather satisfying to play. Of course, these fights comprise of the most iconic fight scenes in Dragon Ball Z, such as Goku and Raditz in the climax of the Raditz Saga. In keeping with the spirit of unmatched odds as seen in the story, you’ll almost always start out having a lower power level than the boss. You can certainly tackle the boss fight early on in the level, but your odds will certainly be skewed heavily against your favour.
In any case, these boss fights are intense and fast-paced. They offer surges of challenge and complexity, depending on the boss you’re squaring off against. Raditz, despite being an early game/story boss, possesses a very brutal and unrelenting fighting style, so his attacks are as rapid as his movement. You’ll need to keep on your toes as Goku (quite literally) in order to keep up with him.
Thankfully, you’ll also have a companion or two by your side, in this case would be Piccolo. While your companion can distract the enemy or boss by taking a few hits and dishing out the pain at the same time, you can also command them to perform their own signature move or two. And when you’re in serious trouble, you can always count on your healing items that you purchased or found earlier in the game. The options available to you in combat are quite the significant amount, although what we’ve currently seen is early-game content.
So far, so good from the gameplay demo for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. It seems Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2 are adamant in creating a very hands-on experience as one of pop culture and anime’s most popular figures.
Let’s hope what they’ve shown us here will be expanded upon and improved once the full game launches in 2020.
Marion has a serious RPG addiction. Sometimes it bleeds into real life; he forgets to sleep because he thinks he has a Witcher’s body clock. Forgive him in advance if he suddenly blurts out terms such as “Mind Flayer” and “Magic Missile”, because never once does he stop thinking about his next Dungeons & Dragons game.