Almost all of the Dragonball games have been made around the fighting game genre, and rightfully so. With its trademark explosions and faster than the eye can see movements, it seems like the Dragonball franchise was really built with fighting games in mind. Enter Dragonball Z: Kakarot, an action RPG game (NANI?!) that raises questions but somehow delivers some pretty good gameplay. We got to try it out for a bit and while it doesn’t look to be the next great game out there, it at least appears to be a serviceable game for fans of the series who want to experience Dragonball in a fairly different light.Basically, Dragonball Z: Kakarot is the story of Goku that covers around the Saiyan arc all the way to the Majin Buu arc. If you’ve been following DBZ since before, then this is something you basically know of already but if you don’t, then it’s a good time to jump into the DBZ lore.
There are several playable characters in the game, ranging from Picolo to Vegeta and even Trunks. Helping them out is quite a lineup of supporting characters such as Krillin, Tien Shinhan, and Yamcha. To be honest it’s a pretty good lineup, but don’t expect any of the newer characters and even their Ultra Instinct counterparts from Super, these may come in as DLC story arcs but as of now there is no news of them yet.
We were treated to a couple of scenarios by our friends from Bandai Namco, one of which focused on exploration and a beginners tutorial for battles and one which focused on some roughly end game content in a battle with Cell. In our time with the exploration scenario, we took control of Goku as he traveled around this mountainous region using his Flying Nimbus. No enemies can be seen on the map but at least from what we played, the enemies seemed to pop up as random encounters while exploring and you may choose to ignore them if you wish to. Scattered across the map were NPC’s you could interact with, some offering typical RPG type quests that could help you level up as you gain experience points. It’s pretty basic RPG stuff, but seeing it plastered on a Dragonball game was an odd feeling that I’m still not fully sold on at the moment.
The culmination of the exploration scenario ends with a fight against Raditz and if anything, one thing that did excite me about the game was the battle system. We were handed a cutout that showed the game controls and to be honest, there was just so much to look at that I just went in blind. During fights, there are a number of attacks that you can unleash, each of them flashier than the other. Most of the time you’ll be far away from the opponent and the best way to cover the space is by pressing O repeatedly, allowing you to rush towards the opponent and pull of a combo which you can end with the other buttons, resulting in a special attack. There is Ki (or Mana in RPG terms) that you can gain by pulling off attacks but you can also charge as an alternative way to build up Ki, allowing you to dish out some special attacks that each of the characters have.
Character specific special moves can be brought up by pressing and holding L1 and then pressing one of the 4 symbol buttons. Since we had control of Gohan during the Cell fight, we got access to a bunch of his special moves like the Masenko, which was visually very impressive. During a fight, things can get very crazy, crazy enough for you to actually get lost in what’s happening. Everything happening on screen without missing a beat is a good thing though, and while I did notice some slight frame drops, it’s nothing too big to damage the gameplay experience. The tradeoff is a bunch of smoke, explosions, and HUGE fireballs that is very reminiscent of watching the anime and the feeling is faithfully translated into the game. If there’s anything at all that a Dragonball game should get right, it’s the high octane and fireworks filled battles, and you’ll get a lot of those here in DBZ: Kakarot
When in doubt, your best friend will be the L2 button, which allows you to block most, if not all attacks, and take minimal damage. During my first encounter with Cell, I got my behind handed to me just because I failed to block all the projectiles flying my way but I made sure to get my revenge the second time around. Fighting some of the tougher bosses like Cell will require a bit of strategy, which I like, as it avoids reducing the game into button mashing sequences.
From what I saw, there was no semblance of armors or equipment (I may be wrong, but this was just from my playthrough) so I’m wondering what sorts of RPG elements are actually in the game apart from the quests and leveling up. Will there be some sort of equipment system? How about a party system? Maybe even some towns and dungeons? There’s a lot still left to uncover for the game but for the moment, it’s shaping up quite nicely and maybe more info about the game in the future can sway me into purchasing this on day one.
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