These days, we witness the making of many reboots, remakes, and sequels to the franchises from the past that are still very loved and have a giant fanbase. Some are good, some are bad, but all of them are successful precisely because of the love people have for those franchises and the nostalgic feeling they get, which trumps objectivity most of the time. The owners of the companies in the entertainment industry are well aware of this and have been using it for years, especially during the last decade.
Now, the turn has come to the Dragon Ball franchise. It’s begun in the 80s but it was at its peak of popularity during the 90s under the name Dragon Ball Z. Bandai Namco has prepared a Dragon Ball Z game this year too, and this time it’s decided to really, but really play on the nostalgia card. This can be noticed in the marketing campaign where we see middle-aged people who go home after a busy day and can’t wait to play Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, remembering their carefree childhood when everything was great when they played Goku, Krillin, and Vegeta, and when they were secretly trying to do the Kamehameha wave moves.
Now, let's see what we have when it comes to this game. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot begins at the same point where DBZ anime begins. Goku, the strongest fighter on the planet, lives happily and carefree with his new family but this ends when a mysterious being from space shows up, beats him and kidnaps his little son. Goku unwillingly makes an alliance with his life-long enemy Piccolo, manages to defeat this powerful enemy, but dies in the process. He continues his training in the afterlife while Piccolo takes little Gohan as his apprentice in order to prepare for the next attack from the space invaders which are more dangerous than the previous one. The rest of the story is well-known, and in this game, you’ll experience it in its entirety.
The game is basically an RPG. There are familiar locations from all over the world where you’ll take Goku or Gohan, complete various missions you’ll be given by other characters from the Dragon Ball universe, and you’ll go through the main story. This is where nostalgia is going to hit you the most. You’ll see Korin Tower, Kame House, you’ll encounter the Pilaf gang at several places, etc. There is also an encyclopedia of all the characters and locations that have ever appeared in the anime as well as the old pictures from the original anime from 1986.
All of these locations seem rich in content at first. There are little settlements with familiar oval-shaped houses where you’ll work with merchants. Also, there you’ll find quests, fight with random enemies. There are thousands of balls scattered around the map that you can use for shopping and upgrading your existing skills, etc. And that’s basically all you’ll do in the game, with some differences depending on your location.
It’s fun in the beginning, for about 10 hours, but you’ll need about 30 hours to finish the game, and it will probably bore you. There are few exceptions but in most of the quests you’ll need to defeat a certain enemy or find something, but that again comes down to fighting someone. You don’t have to do this but during the main campaign, it can happen that you'll encounter a very powerful enemy which means that you’ll have to “grind” a little in order to level up and get stronger.
What breaks this boring routine are certain mini-games such as fishing, baseball, and hunting dinosaurs. At one point, the possibility to collect dragon balls all over the world will get unlocked Then, you’ll be able to summon a dragon that can fulfill one wish such as more money, skill upgrade, or resurrection of an old enemy in order to fight him again.
One novelty that’s interesting about this game is Community Board. When you come across a key character and complete the quest they gave you, they’ll become a leader of their community. This way, Goku is the leader of Z fighters, Chi-Chi is in charge of the culinary section, Bulma controls the technology, etc.
As you encounter characters, you’ll be able to add them to a certain community. Depending on where you place them and how you match them, you’ll get attribute bonuses and strengthen your community. To get better bonuses, you have to strengthen your relationships with characters and to do that you can give them gifts you find while playing.
When it comes to the graphics, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot looks amazing. Because the cel-shading technique keeps getting improved, this game has come closest to looking like an anime. Cutscenes are also nicely animated. The fights look fantastic, they are full of explosions, special attacks, and transformations, but if I put aside this, I come to the greatest problem of this game.
Because Dragon Ball has such a large audience of all ages, it wasn’t easy to make a game that will please everyone. Since kids love Dragon Ball, the game had to be simple. However, it also had to satisfy the needs of the older players and fans but it seems that for this part, the devs relied solely on nostalgia.
There is one button for punching, one for flying, one for throwing projectiles, one for blocking and one for charging Ki. With the combination of R and L button, you can do some of the special attacks or transform, or activate some other fighter to help you. That’s about it. I’m pretty sure this sounds very familiar to you because it is basically the same game you played over and over again, with some small variations.
The fights come down to killing the opponent before they kill you because there are no special ways you can inflict damage on them or avoid it. It’s a little bit different when it comes to boss fights because there is going to be the changing of perspective which will make you dodge the attacks or overpower them with energy waves like in the mini-games.
The game is visually very pleasant but that’s not enough. The fact is that it’s almost the same as the previous games with some small changes but nothing new and exciting.
If you are a big fan of Dragon Ball but haven’t been in that world for a while, this game will remind you of your childhood and make you feel awesome even though it’s not that original or new. It’s okay, looks nice, and really follows the story from the manga/anime. However, if I look at the game objectively, putting aside love we all have for the franchise, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a game without real depth and variations with a well-known story and repetitive gameplay. I give Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot 8/10.