Dragon Ball has a long history in video games, but since Dragon Ball: Dragon Daihikyō released for the Super Cassette Vision in 1986, the series has dealt with an extreme mix of quality for each title.
Fans remember titles like Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo and the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai series fondly, but there were also games like Dragon Ball Z: For Kinect and Dragon Ball Z: Sagas that were huge misses. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot has a lot of potentials to be the best game from the legendary Anime series in a long while, or it could be the next dud that pushes more players away from the franchise.
The marketing for Kakarot is advertising that players will get to experience the journey of the titular character, Kakarot, better known by his Earth given name, Son Goku. This is something that has been done before, but never on the scale that Bandai Namco is aiming for here.
In most games under the Dragon Ball license, players go through a story that takes them through the story of the Anime. The main difference here is that players won’t be controlling different characters during each fight, or taking part in battles away from Goku; they will solely follow the Earth-raised Saiyan.
At least it looks like that will be the case until after the Cell Saga when it appears the focus will shift to Gohan. That change makes sense in terms of the game’s story and the show’s continuity, as part of Goku’s legacy is his son, and following his battle with Cell, Goku spends seven years dead.
But the story isn’t what is being drawn into question here. I fear that this game will suffer the same fate as Sagas before it, that being a mess of gameplay that is too complicated and broken to enjoy truly. And that isn’t to say the other recent games have been great either.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Xenoverse 2 were both mediocre games, with repetitive gameplay, shallow RPC mechanics, and artificial challenge added into later levels purely by giving enemies super armor and other cop-out mechanics. Xenoverse 2 was just a rehash of the first game with slight improvements, a tweaked story, and a bit more content.
Before that, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z was a critical failure, panned by reviewers for the same reasons Xenoverse would be.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is the only major recent success, as it is insanely beautiful and well-liked fighting game with incredible art that captures the series’ action and feel perfectly. But again, that is a fighting game, not an RPG with a deep story that casual fans can dive into.
Kakarot has the look of FighterZ, and from the gameplay, we have seen, I have hope that the RPG systems the developers have shown are going to be much deeper than the important stuff given to us in Xenoverse. The menu system does look cluttered, and I don’t quite understand how the stat system will work, but it seems to be on the right track.
The issues start popping up when you watch the gameplay that has been shown involving traversing the open world and fighting in it. Of course, every build we have seen is not finished, but a lot of the movements outside of Goku’s own look extremely choppy.
And unlike worlds like those in One Piece or Naruto, Dragon Ball isn’t known for having many iconic locations or a vast world that is dying to be explored. Outside of places like Kami’s Lookout, Kame House, and West City, there are very few areas that have been fleshed out in the story.
Sure the game could take its time and set up the world, maybe giving players a reason to want to fly around and explore more than just near mission areas, but it doesn’t look promising. Dinosaurs look to be the main enemy outside of story missions, which will probably get old fast, much like fighting the Saibamen did in Sagas.
That will probably change when you travel to Namek for the Frieza Saga, exchanging those Dinos for Giant Crabs and generic Frieza Soldiers, but will still get dull. Unless the Ginyu Force is running around for me to challenge outside of the story, there isn’t a lot of incentive to do more there.
The only thing that looks great about traveling the open world is the flying itself. It seems like the devs nailed how Goku looks while flying, with his hair and gi being affected by the wind. Everything appears to be fluid, even if the world has Superman 64 rings everywhere.
Everything about Kakarot looks better visually than Xenoverse, from the animations to the attacks, even down to the shading. But the gameplay looks extremely similar, and that worries me.
There were even instances in the fight with Raditz that was shown off recently that show Super Armor is still in the game. It might not work in the same way, but it is evident that not all of the junk that myself and many others hate has been removed.
I have the absolute highest hopes for this game. When they announced the game, it was the first time I have been excited to play through the classic story again since Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 came out in 2007.
The story has been told in every medium of entertainment, but playing through the entire adventure as Goku, including some of the gap between the end of the original Dragon Ball and Z that I have always wanted to experience. Those moments that were always just background information, or glossed over are what will make or break this title.
If the game can take players to Snake Way, King Kai’s Planet, and the small moments with Goku, Gohan, and Chi-Chi that haven’t been a focus in many games, while also making them enjoyable, Kakarot will succeed. And beyond that, if the transition to Gohan provides different gameplay, perhaps around his school life pre-Buu and fighting crime as The Great Saiyaman, this could be a special experience for fans of the series.
On the other hand, Sagas had a unique concept too, letting you play through the story with a friend with various ways to explore an otherwise linear area. But the game was poorly balanced, had terrible controls, and was an overall messy experience that left a bad taste in my mouth that I still have looking back nearly 15 years later.
It all comes down to the execution and how Bandai decided to spend its time and what areas were focused on. It the movement, combat, and RPG elements were the focus; this game has a good chance at succeeding and providing a unique look at the world of DBZ. But if the team focused on trying to add new elements to the story and sticking to the script while allowing shallow gameplay mechanics to coast by to release, fans, including myself, will be heading towards a disappointing experience.
So we just aint gonna talk about this shot in the Dbz Kakarot trailer… I might actually have to not skip these cut-scenes! pic.twitter.com/7ViV8YfHtu
— Dotodoya (@DotoDoya) September 12, 2019
The only thing we can confirm is how good the game looks, but beyond that, only time will tell if the game will be worth a look when Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on Jan. 17, 2020.