I’ve been hype for Kakarot since it was announced. Sat up watching trailers and pissing myself over the Vegito reveal… Though now I’m starting to think, why? What made me so excited seems to have faded into obscurity and now I’m thinking the best way I can sum up my experience of Dragonball’s latest retelling is “have you played a DBZ game before? Then expect nothing new”.
Kakarot has been touted by the developers as an RPG giving us the complete story of the leading man, Goku’s, life. Of course, when I see the word complete I’d expect Dragonball and Super arcs too, but apparently I’m a silly little bitch to assume that and I should be content with only Z. Anyone who knows much about the series however will be aware that Goku doesn’t appear all that much throughout Z… He spends most of his time either dead and in training or travelling to the fight… While training. So really, it’s a retelling of the entire series where you play as whichever character is the most key at that time, the action splitting then between Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Gohan and Trunks. With occasional stints as fusion characters Gotenks and Vegito. So, the title, Kakarot, seems redundant, in fact in terms of playable sections, Piccolo has more! Though Dragonball Z: Piccolo doesn’t have the same ring to it I suppose?
Gameplay wise, Kakarot is attempting a strange fusion between the 3D arena battles we’re used to from a Dragonball game with a few RPG elements tossed in. For example you can call in your allies for support attacks and use items, and occasionally when an enemy attacks they will do a huge super move that requires you to move out of the AOE. These moments would be just fine if the camera wasn’t garbage whenever it happens. For example, when Nappa tried to deck me with his exploding wave, the camera panned up to give me a top down view. This change was so jarring that I had no idea what to do, so I tried to flee the red area only to realise that since Nappa was my target, and he stood just inside the red ring of death himself, I just kept flying into him and getting wiped out by the coming storm. This has been an issue with each battle as every boss character has a move like this that fucks so badly with the camera that the fight isn’t a challenge anymore, it’s a piss take. The best comparison I can give you for combat would be the Xenoverse games, since the movement is fairly similar and the way that your moves are all activated by holding a shoulder button and picking from a list, though a nice touch, is in Kakarot, the game slows down while you decide what attack to bust out, though this feature falls flat when you unlock transformations as the transformation menu is set to the same trigger as your block, so whenever you block, the game time slows to a crawl, absolutely destroying the pacing; something which Dragonball usually needs!
Fighting is of course a major part of the franchise, but this game was sold to us as an open world adventure… So, the Dragon World is presented a large area to fly about in and find fun for yourself; the only snag? There isn’t all that much around. The world is populated by NPCs who’s entire life if just to give you hints about where certain item crafting resources can be found. There are side missions now and then, but they appear on your map instantly anyway, ruining the point of exploration. There are random encounter enemies here and there too, but not much variety in the enemies you encounter. The usual enemies can be broken up with a more powerful variation, and the game gives you zero warning just how much stronger they will be, a point noted by myself when my level 6 Gohan was soundly smashed into the ground by a level 29 Red Ribbon robot. The Android building bastards will show up on the map sometimes too with a freshly constructed base to deal with, and you can deal without in 5 seconds, from half a mile away, with Ki blasts – Sorry were these meant to be a challenge?
Frankly the entire experience can be summed up the same way I ended that last paragraph. Was any of this meant to be a challenge? I spent pretty much the entire time playing Kakarot doing something else at the same time, whether it be watching TV, listening to a podcast, or even writing this review; it’s just a background experience. It rehashes the same story we all know (and love, but still), and whenever it tries something new, it does it badly to the point where you just stop trying any of it; after a few hours I gave up doing side missions and flying about, since I could just steamroll the story with ease. That’s just what I did too, my aim is just to finish now, not even to enjoy myself when doing it; the whole thing is a chore. With a little more polish and maybe some real and surprising variation to the story (like Xenoverse), this could have been a fun little RPG, but overall, its just an exercise in what could have been.
My original final score was going to be 6/10, a fair score for a mostly harmless experience… However, my mind was made up for me by a promise I made… To deduct 1 full point if I didn’t get to play the greatest story arc in the series… So because Garlic Jr makes no appearance in game, Dragonball Z: Kakarot gets: