Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Review
The following review of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PS5), is in addendum to our original review for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, released on January 16, 2020 for PlayStation 4. For our original review, click here.
Well this was an absolute treat. Revisiting one of 2020’s gems in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot was indeed a delight, especially with its core engine completely upgraded for the latest generation. Generally, next-gen updates are considered a quick fix, re-packaged and re-released but DBZ: Kakarot’s impressive revisit will have fans incredibly elated. Performance wise, the title see’s an incredibly smooth framerate patch that allows the PlayStation 5 to output 4K/60fps as well as implementing HDR into the game’s image, which makes for a sharper, vibrant and precisely detailed escapade through its campaign. Load times are non-existent with seamless transitions through each chapter, giving off that feeling you’re actually in the anime itself. One gripe I had with the initial launch version of the game was some stuttering through opening moments of each area.
With the help of new hardware, those qualms have been completely wiped allowing players to traverse through each world without any worry. The gameplay itself is exactly what you would expect with some subtle changes to the DualSense controller that’s exclusive to PS5 owners. Soaring through the skies of Earth, fighting Raditz in an early hand-to-hand combat in the lush fields of an open plain, or destroying Frieza through the destruction of Namek, the interactivity of it all seems so heightened. There’s an appreciation for how generous the combat system is with a higher refresh rate to the game, with bouts bearing emphasis to combination strings and eccentric cinematics, all akin to the television series. It’s what made Dragon Ball Z one of anime’s greatest, along with its utterly convoluted plotline, but it’s anime logic, right?
Showdown in the Past...
✔️ Kakarot at 4K/60FPS + HDR is unreal. Makes overall presentation eye candy.
✔️ Encounters and reaction time are incredibly smooth, and make for some seriously awesome cinematics.
✔️ Bardock DLC is a lot of fun if you love DBZ’s entire lore.
❌ Still a massive grind.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s largely perfect delivery was already immaculate with only few blemishes that held it back on prior platforms due to certain hardware constraints, but the fact that we have an updated version of the title to trudge through without hesitations make it a comfortable experience. The seamless and cinematic transitions now push its overall presentation to what is expected from the ultimate anime to video game translation, especially fans that love the small screen adaptation.
As a Dragon Ball Z fan, I was so happy to go through Gohan’s coming of age story after his supposed kidnapping from the Namekian Prince, Piccolo Jr. The incredible misunderstanding of this narrative alone opens the campaign for fans that are unfamiliar with the series humble beginnings, only for it to become a peace treaty for two warriors that become best friends. The title paces itself perfectly with timid beginnings in our protagonist tried through Earth’s invasion which ultimately boils over in arguably, the most popular arc of Dragon Ball Z, Goku vs. Frieza.
The upgrade is free for existing owners, and I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to. Along with an extended Season Pass that’s purchased separate to the base game, a second wave has begun with BARDOCK – Alone Against Fate, an untold origins tale of Goku’s father, the tyrannical leader of the planet Vegeta, and the father of Kakarot, later known as Earth’s champion and protector, Goku. The campaign gives fans a look into Bardock’s life as an uncaring, blood thirsty, nefarious killer that shows no love toward anyone but his immediate family and comrades Fasha, Tora, Borgos, and Shugesh. It’s an imperative chapter that gives us eyes on Goku’s birth-right that never was, and what his father had planned for his son before being used as a pawn to avenge him, his home planet and his death. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot remains one of the greatest JRPG’s I’ve had the privilege of playing, and now it’s even better on next-gen platforms. If you haven’t played it already, this is the ultimate way to experience Dragon Ball Z and its compelling tale.
Original Review by Dan Rizzo – First Published January 28, 2020.
If there is anything that I could express, is my absolute adoration for this incredible franchise. The Dragon Ball saga is undeniably one of the best shounen stories to be adapted into the mainstream populous, breathing life into the action genre and garnering outside attention towards a medium most near and dear to my heart, Japanese animation. So when the announcement for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot was made, I was incredibly excited to re-experience the entire “Z” story once again, from the perspective of our favourite hero’s from the entire series. To have a canonical understanding of an iconic generation in anime and manga, translated to gaming for an entirely new generation to experience is something iconic and makes me so glad to sit back and see. In saying this, yes there was some apprehension of converting an entire series run into a 35 hour experience. It was a question of what was going to be filtered out, and how was an entire JRPG going to revolve around the Dragon Ball universe, after having some rather questionable experiences from the Xenoverse and Budokai titles.
The promise of the title’s premise alone was enough to garner attention from myself and millions of Dragon Ball Z fans alike, salivating over the fact that we get to dive back into this world, and act upon these encounters all over again, but this time it’s all in our hands. Kakarot no doubt derives it’s essential formula from it’s previous titles within it’s gaming franchise. While there have been a multitude of JPRG title’s never seen in the west within the Dragon Ball universe, having experienced the much more recent entries was something I had no doubt been accustomed to, and could only compare with. Borrowing many ideas from it’s more successful predecessor’s in the Budokai franchise, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot does an amazing job at revitalising what was missing throughout the Xenoverse series.
While an arena style 3D fighter can only deliver a limited amount in quantity, it’s what quality assurance it brings, and boy does Kakarot do that well. While I will admit, a button mashing experience is what will attract many of the casual market to this title, it may deter many hardcore gamers away from understanding what kind of ideal experience the title is trying to deliver towards many of it’s older fans that aren’t trying to participate in a a time-sink. What it does however, is aims on dependency in a custom combo system that allows quicker pacing, and an understanding on how the old Tenkaichi fighters used great free-roaming encounters for ideal combat and story-telling simultaneously, something I absolutely miss. There is no doubt that the open world may seem a little void of anything worthwhile at the beginning, but as you make your way through the many sagas in the title, the interactions with many side-quests will come into play and is a great example of how writers here filter or extend the campaign while sticking to the source material.
While many original interactions are sparse, it’s a warm welcome that is truly appreciated by this Dragon Ball fanboy. Gameplay wise, there is not much to it’s arena based combat system. It’s pretty simple actually, and truly a lot of fun. Mashing the action button to simply apply a base combo, and then hitting the teleport button is all so satisfying and is what makes everything about Kakarot connect with what Dragon Ball truly is. Keeping an eye on your energy gauge as you build it up with your Ki, you may hit the left shoulder button to expose a myriad of special moves to apply to your opponents, and hell yes, the Kamehameha is right there from the get-go. Smacking raditz right-upside his spiky head and delivering a one-two teleported jab, followed by a special move had my teenage self coming right out of me the glee.
Keeping a lock to your character is automatic here, as you will orbit around your opponent while in battle ala Xenoverse and Budokai, so there won’t be an issue of keeping up the pace of any battle. Granted, you will find difficulty spikes certainly apparent here, with many an enemy with their own power level applied. In some cases, it’s due to campaigns continuity of the mainline story followed from the manga or anime. So don’t fret too much on that front. Using teleport to evade an enemy’s attack won’t work every time, but if you’re smart on how you evade, you may very well deliver an all so satisfying combo that will bury them six-feet deep. Try to remember thought, it’s all about balance here, as you fight you will have to keep an keen on eye on your Ki, or you will lose the battle almost instantaneously.
✔️Re-tells a vital arc to the Dragon Ball narrative perfectly.
✔️Notable cast members reprise roles with some inclusion from DB Super.
✔️Pacing starts a little slow yet gradually builds to an ultimate climactic act.
❌The grind can be somewhat tedious. The monotony of levelling is a tad run-of-the-mill RPG.
It’s all fun and games to swerve your opponent, but there are some disadvantages that do apply when trying to perform an incredible “Super Finish” that will have you jumping out of your seat in awe. Much like any JPRG, comes in the world of gaining offered XP for your party. While the campaign is mostly built around molding your characters into the ultimate fighting machines, you will need to collect different items along the way that will make each character stronger, and with the possibility of making each battle a tad easier. With that said, some combat challenges won’t be that easy of an experience, but must be performed to garner that much needed XP.
Yes, it’s probably the worst part of the title, but once you get through it and build each characters skill tree up, it will be total gratification on the title’s forefront. In terms of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s presentation, it’s amazing. The title shines through it’s beautifully constructed universe that has been re-imagined and reconstructed here in this awesome open-world for fans to roam through in absolute awe. Being able to fly right through the beginning stages of the title on Flying Nimbus alongside Piccolo took my breath away. Having characters interact with dialogue while zooming though earth, and even Goku’s fatherly dialogue with his son, Gohan was something that emotionally tugged on my nostalgic heart strings.
To hear some of the original cast back, filling in their respective roles within the universe bought out so much emotion to each character and what they bought to their initial encounters all those years ago. Sean Schemmel will forever be Goku, the lovable quirky, clueless yet intense and fearless hero of earth, with Christopher Sabat returning as the rough and gruff Vegeta, who everyone grew to love at the end. With original music applied from the series, and each saga introduced in traditional manner. While we are treated to many of the original cast, we cannot stress that there will be some new voice artists introduced here that do an incredible job at taking on these iconic roles.
While it will be argued that Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is not perfect, I would argue that this is still my favourite retelling of any Dragon Ball saga, ever. It’s the perfect example of re-experiencing the iconic shounen franchise and why it has inspired many an action anime or manga franchise since. Kakarot set’s an example of why casual action experiences will forever be fun, when done right and also provides a younger audience an imagining of what it would be like to experience what we did at their age in a condensed fashion. While we sat there for many an hour watching Goku yell and scream over an exaggerated amount of episodes to finally hit Super Saiyan on Frieza’s pale and purple behind, being able to physically land the final blow on evil emperor makes everything come full circle in what I consider to be the ultimate nostalgic set piece of any fan of this incredible franchise. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, is a must have and must play experience for fans of this generous and enthralling generational franchise.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Review
AVAILABLE NOW ON:
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a semi open world action role-playing game developed by CyberConnect2 and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, based on the Dragon Ball franchise, released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.