Developed By: CyberConnect2 Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment America Categories: RPG, Action Adventure Release Date: 09.24.21
As a kid and teenager when Dragon Ball Z was airing, I was obsessed. Buy the manga, buy the tapes and DVDs. Best of all, play the games. The thing about Dragon Ball, especially Z is that so many of the games are fighters. Not that this is a bad thing, I love fighting games, but for adventure we had Legacy of Goku (a GBA game) or Sagas (awful). Early in 2020, Dragon Ball Z Kakarot launched and it was the Dragon Ball Z game of my dreams. About a year and a half later, it falls on Switch, now bundled with some extra DLC and some bonus perks.
But it’s Portable Though
Falls may not be the best term, as surprising to me, Dragon Ball Z Kakarot on Switch is actually a good port. First impressions, by the way of the E3 announcement trailer were not exactly glamourous. It looked fine, but ran pretty sluggish. I can safely say it runs just fine in the final release, especially in fights. A big improvement for me is how much shorter load times seem to be compared to the PS4 release.
Something has got to give though, what’s worse? The biggest one for me is the BEAUTIFUL pre-rendered cutscenes seem to be compressed, which if you know what to look for or play in anything not handheld, can be an issue. Graphics aren’t as clean as next gen either, obviously, but it still looks pretty good, thanks to the art style.
Legacy of Goku
So what exactly is Dragon Ball Z Kakarot? A bit of an open world RPG with combat pretty close to the Xenoverse games. Visually, the anime is the head inspiration, especially in cutscenes that masterfully recreate key moments, which is much to be expected from CyberConnect2. Story wise, we follow the manga with a few extra moments spliced in. This means, unless it’s that drivers training episode, most filler is cut. Thankfully, Gohan’s training is intact due to gameplay context. The story goes through the entire Z story. This meaning, from Raditz’s arrival to the defeat of Kid Buu. Controlling not just Goku, but Gohan, Piccolo, Trunks, Vegeta, and a few fusions.
Outside of the main story, DLC adds a retelling of the Battle of the Gods and Revival F films, as well as the History of Trunks special. The former of which is included with the Switch port. I’m not the biggest fan of Dragon Ball Super, so that included DLC might not really be for me, but it is more gameplay.
WE GOTTA POWER
One button for physical moves, one for Ki. A shoulder button held down with a face button allows for the use of the series’ signature special attacks. This can also be used for assist attacks from partners in battle. You can block and dodge, but the combat isn’t exactly deep. It’s fun and feels great to do well with, but it’s practically Xenoverse combat, which was again, not deep. You can upgrade your moves, or even get new ones by skill trees, though most of it is story dependent. That all aside, when fights get really in the grit and action packed, there’s no better feeling than pulling off a beam struggle, which you can totally do.
When not in battles you can do quite the bit though. Fly around and collect colored orbs. Fish, hunt, scavenge any sort of stuff you can find. Find memories in special places, which have cute little screencaps of the anime. Cook! Cooking outside of leveling up is how you’ll get precious stat boosts. These offer both temporary and permanent buffs. Cooking yourself is nice, but going home and having ChiChi cook a full course meal can offer huge boosts.
Maybe the Dragon Balls might even show up.
Side Quests are my favorite part of Dragon Ball Z Kakarot. Much like side stories in the Yakuza games, these offer little detours. You’ll interact with a large number of Dragon Ball characters by doing these, and some can get incredibly silly. One example has to do with Yamcha’s love life, nuff said. On top of bonus experience, items, and food, the biggest reason for doing these side quests is Soul Emblems, of which can be used on the Community Board.
Wait. Adult Community?
With these Soul Emblems, you’ll bring them into their own communities for passive buffs. Need a little extra experience gained, healing items stronger, or cooking enhancements? Put characters in certain communities. You even get bigger bonuses if you link certain characters together. Try linking Goku and his family together or other characters you know have a bond. This is all optional at the end of the day, but I find doing it all rewarding.
Z Encyclopedia…It’s like an Encyclopedia for Dragon Ball Z
I absolutely love this part of the game. Want to look at a character model for any character in the game? Any version or saga of them at that? Go nuts, it’s there. Need history or context to things going on? Read on. Do you need to see the elaborate character relation webs? Each saga has them. I’m an absolute sucker for games with model viewers and lore dumps like this, even if it’s just a licensed game.
Here you can also listen to any of the in game music, much of which is from the anime. The original music while not immediately memorable is still good, with boss fight music, a nice butt rock tune being one I really like.
Which Part of DBZ is your favorite?
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot has one big issue, though you’re probably not going to notice this until near the end. Like everything else Bandai Namco releases that’s licensed, it has a feeling of being rushed. Majority of the game is voiced, but in “Intermission” segments and side quests, you just get grunts or small comments. Early on in the game, you’re going to get the nicer looking pre-rendered recreation scenes, but come Buu Saga, it starts slowing down. Infact, important events are just made into blank text screens unless it’s truly vital. This makes me think that CyberConnect 2 ran out of budget near the end of development when they go around to the end of DBZ.
It’s a given, but you are given the choice of English or Japanese audio. I’m not exactly a fan of the voice cast changes that Funimation made around 2010 for Dragon Ball Z Kai, so I’m more apt to switch to the Japanese audio. Options to mess with the music, granted you buy the music pack DLC is also available, though it’s not going to be the awful dub music thankfully.
I can safely say this is the Dragon Ball game of my dreams. I’d love if there was effort to make a game like this for the original Dragon Ball much like the excellent Origins games or one for GT. Maybe even the films. There’s so many possibilities. Dragon Ball Z Kakarot was ported gracefully and if you’re a DBZ fan and didn’t get the PS4/Xbone versions, now is definitely the time.