Dragon Ball, Game Night, Video Games

Dragon Ball Z Kakarot: Stylish Fan-Service Devoid of Substance

I originally intended to review Resident Evil 1 today. But I’ll get to that another day. For now, I’m going to talk about a completely different mess!

I’ll admit, I had pretty high expectations going into this game! Not just because we’re living in a post-DB Fighterz world, although that was certainly a factor! The marketing was all great, the graphics looked amazing, it used classic music from the show, it was going to add extra lore to answer long-lasting questions, and it was made by CC2, the studio behind the Naruto Ninja Storm games! Surely this game was going to be great! At long last, we’re living in a golden age where Dragon Ball games are good!

Well, no. This game is pretty (sometimes), and it’s got a lot of good Dragon Ball fan-service (except for when it doesn’t). But the actual game attached to it is boring, repetitive, and shallow. It is far from the worst game I’ve ever played. But it was a slog to get through!

Buckle the fuck up. Because this is going to be a long one!

Story: Hey kids, you ever watch Dragon Ball Z?!

There you go. That’s the plot.

DBZ: Kakarot takes us from the start of Z with Raditz all the way to the end with Buu (not Uub, for some reason; probably because they’ll do Super in the DLC). All the familiar fights are here. Nappa and Vegeta, Zarbon and Dedoria, the Ginyu Force, Freeza, Androids 16-20, Cell, Babidi and his minions, and every form of Buu (yes, every form of Buu), they’re all here. It is exactly what you’d expect.

However, there are a few cosmetic changes. Certain scenes from the show are cut entirely to various degrees of effect. Removing fat/skinny Gotenks and the entire Saiyaman mini-arc? Good! Removing the Final fucking Flash? Not so good. Do you want to see your favorite scenes get reanimated? Well, good luck! Because it is a coin toss on whether or not you’ll get your wish!

This game also adds a whole ton of extra lore on top of it. Unfortunately, all of the extra lore is fucking stupid! My favorite being that Piccolo apparently didn’t blow up the moon, but rather chose to cast an illusion around it to make it seem like it wasn’t there. You know. Piccolo! The guy who, at this point in the story, was still the reincarnated version of a demon king who slaughtered thousands of people and brutally tortured Goku (three fucking times) for fun! He seems like the kind of guy to think about the consequences of his actions!

Why did they even do that? They fucking animated him blowing it up in the game!!

Now, there are extra stories in here aside from the classic tale of DBZ. There are tons of sidequests to add extra playtime- I mean depth to the game! These stories often include classic Dragon Ball characters, like Lunch (MY FAVORITE CHARACTER IS BACK, BITCHES!!), Eighter (who is still adorable and I love him), and even the Pilaf trio! Sure, the quests themselves make me want to kill myself! But it’s nice to have these classic characters brought back and get some time in the spotlight!

There are also special collectibles that can clue you in to the plot of the original Dragon Ball! Throughout the game, you can pick up various items in specific areas. These special items will reward you with a screenshot from the original show, as well as a text blurb that explains what happened. It isn’t much, but it is nice to see the original (superior) series get some representation!

Aside from that, you know what to expect. It’s Dragon Ball Z. While there are a ton of great moments removed, all of the most important ones are still here. If you like DBZ, you’ll have no complaints here.

Unless you’re like me and you have a boner for the Final Flash scene.

Presentation: Meh, Alright, and Great

In terms of visuals, this game has four identities. The first is the game itself, which looks pretty good. The second, third, and fourth are the cutscenes. These range from boring and infuriating to drop-dead gorgeous! Unfortunately, it is far from consistent.

Let’s get the cutscenes out of the way. The first type of cutscene is the static dialogue exchange. This is where all the character models stand around in static poses and talk for way too long. These often end with two or more characters flying up into the air, taking a battle stance, and fading into a fight. These wouldn’t be so bad if there were an auto-advance function. But much like an RPG from 2008, you need to press a button every time there’s a dialogue box! Hope your controller’s durable; otherwise, say goodbye to one of your buttons!

The second is the slightly more dynamic cutscenes. These are prerendered cutscenes where the static models are used for slightly more complex movements. These aren’t especially impressive either; the animations are stiff and kind of awkward. But hey! At least I don’t have to press the A button every two fucking seconds!

The third and only good one is the fully animated cutscene. These are few and far between, but god damn do they look good! The animators go all-out, fully recreating some of the show’s most iconic moments in gorgeous detail! These made it all worth it, even at the game’s lowest points! There’s some genuinely amazing sakuga in here!

In actual gameplay, this game does look really good. The character models are mostly solid and extremely faithful to the original (some characters look a bit rough though; what happened, Tien?). The environments are all fairly detailed, colorful, and delightful to look at (even if exploring them is boring and draining, but we’ll get to that). All of the animations, especially for the super attacks and transformations, are super nice and pop right off the screen! The game runs at a smooth and consistent framerate, never once dipping for anything. When you’re actually playing, this game is a treat for the eyes!

Oh, and have I mentioned the soundtrack yet? Because god fucking damn man, this game has some killer music! Yes, the old tracks from the show (the original tracks, not the Faulkner score) are an immediate win. But the new tracks are just as great! Every song in this game is an absolute banger!

I’m willing to admit that I never skipped the opening cutscene. You don’t skip Cha La Head Cha La!

Gameplay: Thirty Hours, Five Enemies

If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, then you should know that I love RPGs. Persona 5 is my second favorite game of all time! The Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Cyberpunk 2077 are my most anticipated games of this year! Looking at my game’s collection, you’d see that a good sixty to seventy percent of my library is comprised of RPGs! My point is, I love a good RPG.

So take my word for it when I tell you that this game is boring and bad.

Combat is basically a prettier, less clunky version of the Xenoverse games. You fly around in a 3D space fighting one or more enemies. By pressing one of the triggers, you can pull up your list of special attacks or the special attacks of your party members (you’ll never use those, don’t worry). If you hold down both, you’ll access your transformations (which you will use very often) for a quick power boost. If the enemy gets close, you can press the ki blast and block buttons at the same time to knock them away. If you’re blocking a long-distance attack, you can expend roughly half your ki bar to warp behind them for a devastating attack. If your Spirit gauge is maxed out, you can charge your ki even further and enter a superpowered state.

Sounds pretty deep, right? Well, no. It’s really not. Because here’s how you actually play!

Step 1: Mash the attack button until they get knocked away
Step 2: Fire an energy beam to end the combo
Step 3: Repeat until they die

Then, when the enemy goes on the offensive, here’s what you do!

Step 1: Block or dodge
Step 2: Wait for them to be vulnerable
Step 3: See steps 1-3 of the attack process

Get ready to repeat this process over and over again for up to twenty-five hours or more!

It doesn’t help that, excluding boss fights, the enemy variety in this game is pathetic! Six hours in, I had only fought three enemies! By the end of the game, that list had grown to seven! Here’s the list!

  • Skull robot
  • Bulky robot
  • Support robots (comes in three flavors!)
  • Saibaman
  • Freeza soldier

And that’s it. There are lots of different color schemes for those five, but they all still play exactly the same. Now, let’s compare this to other RPGs!

  • Persona 5: over 200 enemies, excluding boss fights
  • Dragon Quest 11: 726 enemies over the course of the game
  • Final Fantasy 7: hundreds (I couldn’t find a solid number), over six within the first ten minutes excluding bosses

Do you see the problem here?

Now, to be fair. The boss fights are amazing! They feature stronger animations and more unique attacks that force you to vary up your tactics. Sure, the winning strategy is still the same as all the other enemies. But at least it feels cooler!

Alright. So the combat blows. How’s the exploration? Well… It’s also pretty bad. The maps are all wide and well detailed, but there isn’t a whole lot to find within them. Everything that you can possibly find, from sidequests to crafting materials, are all labeled on your minimap, which makes exploring basically pointless! Rather than combing a massive world for its secrets, you’re running from point to point like a fucking connect-the-dots puzzle! The most fun you’ll have is running fast and jumping super high!

Speaking of sidequests, let me tear those a new asshole! They all boil down to one of three things!

  1. Run around and talk to people until the game tells you you’re done
  2. Gather materials
  3. Kill the same generic enemies that you’ve been slaughtering on the overworld

Some sidequests will vary it up further and put all three together! Thrilling, right?! So much fun!

Fucking kill me…

Most of the ‘exploring’ in this game boils down to following trails. See, scattered throughout the world are colored orbs called Z Orbs (the fountain of creativity was clearly flowing powerfully in the studio that day). These are necessary for upgrading your various attacks, so you should collect as many of them as possible. Unfortunately, gathering them is about as much fun as flying through rings in Superman 64.

Side note: Kinto Un (Flying Nimbus for you dub viewers) is in the game too. But it’s so fucking slow and pointless that you’ll never fucking use it. So… it may as well not be in here. Which makes me really fucking mad, because Kinto Un is fucking rad!

Finally, there are the minigames. Let’s make a quick list of those!

  1. Fishing
  2. Riding a bipedal robot thing
  3. Driving a hovercar
  4. Baseball

Unfortunately, these minigames have about as much depth as an ashtray. Fishing boils down to rolling the stick around then properly timing a button press. Both driving minigames are just holding down the trigger and moving the stick until it’s over. Baseball is literally just a timing minigame! Sure, they’re a refreshing change of pace, the animation is great, and they have a bit of fun Dragon Ball charm to them! But the games themselves are only worth a few seconds of enjoyment!

None of this is helped by the game’s tutorial system. Do you prefer an in-depth system that teaches you how to play? Too fucking bad! Here’s a still screen that shows you what each button does on your controller! Hope you can remember that! Now play the game! I fucking hate these tutorials and I especially hate them here!

That’s a testament I can apply to the rest of the game. The combat is fun at first, but it quickly becomes boring! Exploring loses its luster almost immediately! The boss fights are great, but they are few and far between! This game is a long, repetitive slog that succeeds at nothing as an RPG!

In short: this is a solid Dragon Ball game. Not a phenomenal one, but a decent one. However, it is far from a good video game!

Conclusion

Fucking hell. I feel like I just ran a god damn marathon! Let’s wrap this shit up like a late Christmas present.

There is plenty to enjoy about DBZ: Kakarot. However, for every positive I have to say, I have an even more powerful negative! If you’re a Dragon Ball fan, you’ll get a kick out of it! But if you’re not and you want to play a good game, there is nothing for you here! It is a dull, repetitive slog! A pretty one, sure! But a shiny turd is still a turd!

If you’re a huge Dragon Ball fan, I would recommend playing DBZ: Kakarot. However, I would recommend waiting for a price drop. This game is not worth sixty dollars. Wait for it to go below thirty or twenty. So long as you’re getting it cheap, you should be fine.

If you aren’t a Dragon Ball fan and you just want to play a good RPG, look elsewhere. This is not the game you are looking for. This is a game meant almost exclusively for fans of the franchise. If you want to play a good anime RPG, go play Persona or Final Fantasy. Literally anything is a better alternative to this game.

Jesus Christ, I’m tired. I’m going to go to bed and never think about this game again now…

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