Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: CyberConnect2
Release Date: Jan. 17, 2020


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot'

by Thomas Wilde on July 10, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is an action RPG that takes players on the most dramatic and epic telling of the Dragon Ball Z story, experienced through the eyes of Kakarot, the Saiyan better known as Goku.

Pre-order Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot

Bandai Namco has had a Dragon Ball RPG in the works for a while now, under the working title "Dragon Ball Project." At the Microsoft conference at E3 2019, it finally debuted its official name, Kakarot, after Goku's actual name.

DBZK is an action-RPG set during the opening arcs of the Dragon Ball Z anime, which follows Goku's rise through the various arcs of the show. You play as an adult Goku at the start of his run, before he was the universal-scale fighter he is in more current Dragon Ball episodes, and you get to build him up to deal with the opponents he faced at the start of DBZ. Raditz, the first major antagonist, was a multi-part boss fight that was playable on the show floor, and Frieza was in one of the trailers, which suggests the game will go at least as far as the Namek saga.

However, the game isn't strictly limited to the events in the show. You can freely explore various areas within the Dragon Ball Z world, meeting characters, hunting dinosaurs, fishing, collecting orbs, and pursuing side-quests. A lot of cameo appearances can be found around the margins of each area, such as Eighter, or Android 8, and Nam, characters who appeared in the original Dragon Ball and were mostly relegated to cameos thereafter.

The first challenge of the E3 demo was against Raditz, Goku's elder brother, where players got to reenact one of the first big fight scenes in the show. Raditz has kidnapped Gohan, Goku's son, to lure Goku and Piccolo into a confrontation. The E3 demo gave players 20 minutes to explore the area, pursue side missions, fly around (either under Goku's own power or aboard his cloud Nimbus), and talk to villagers before the demo ended. Naturally, I rushed over to Raditz to see how the fight went.

Fights in DBZK feel a lot like they do in the Xenoverse games. Most of them seem to take place in the sky, with a combination of small ki blasts for harassment and going up close and personal to deliver the real damage. You need to keep an eye on both your health and your stun meter; if the latter gets too high, you end up vulnerable for a few crucial seconds.

It's easy to learn, though. You can do a lot of damage easily by ending a basic aerial attack string with a ki blast, which sends most normal enemies flying into the distance. As you fight, another meter fills up, which eventually lets you hit a button to Surge, enabling a short-lived period during which you can freely cancel your moves into one another.

Random encounters in the world tend to drop random ingredients, although I never found out how to use them in the demo. The trailer highlighted the fact that Goku, historically, is one of the biggest eaters in fiction, so a big part of the game can comfortably be assumed to revolve around gathering ingredients to cook up feasts for him.

Bandai Namco's staff explained that in Kakarot, since it's an RPG, the designers feel comfortable making fights that are deliberately unbalanced. Raditz initially has an enormous amount of health and can send you flying more or less whenever he wants, but on the other hand, you can heal by using items (such as Senzu beans, naturally), and at least in your first bout, you have the help of an AI-controlled Piccolo to deliver some extra damage.

A second round starts with you as Goku going head-to-head against Raditz, while Piccolo charges the Special Beam Cannon to deliver a finishing blow, and that's where DBZK gets a little crazy. Raditz can deliver a vicious series of homing projectiles whenever he feels like it, and if you manage to land a full combo on him, he'll often get annoyed and try to sweep the arena clear of life with a double-handed plasma blast from both hands, rotating slowly around himself.

In general, Kakarot reimagines the crucial arcs of Dragon Ball Z with free-roaming exploration within certain areas, lots of additional detail to find in the world, fast-moving combo-based combat akin to what you've seen in other recent Dragon Ball games, and giant action-RPG fights with the series's major antagonists. It's definitely aimed squarely at the fans of the series.

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