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Title: DRAGON BALL Z: Kakarot Publisher(s): BANDAI NAMCO Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: 2020 Website
Ever since I first played the mediocre DRAGON BALL Z: The Legacy of Goku in 2002, all I have wanted was a real DRAGON BALL Z game that both lets me explore the world, talk to the other Z fighters and supporting case, and to really feel that rush of power Goku gets when he finds someone that can stand toe-to-tail with his Saiyan blood. DRAGON BALL Z: Kakarot (formerly known as DRAGON BALL Z Project) is everything I have always wanted and more. In the twenty-minute demo that I played, I was dropped into a game ‘episode’ titled “Dream Team to the Rescue!” inside Lucca Village at level four. From there, I was told to face down Raditz and get Gohan back. Instead of going to do so, I decided to do pretty much everything else I possibly can.
The very first thing I did was fly around on both the Nimbus Cloud and under my own power in what amounted to a small open-world environment. I could ascend and descend with the Right Bumper and Trigger, Roll with Y, and fire off a Ki Blast with Left Trigger + X. By far though, the most “Woah” moment of flying was when I would press and hold down the Left joystick and Goku would suddenly boost across the sky with his trademark sound. Flying was almost effortless to do and I was quite happy just zooming around everywhere in the landscape and seeing the world float beneath me.
Eventually, I landed in Lucca Village and talked to Nam, a character that Goku originally encountered at the World Tournament in DRAGON BALL. Nam set me off on a trading quest that I admittedly abandoned after trading my shiny stone for an ammonite fossil elsewhere. I also ran into Eighter, a robot from the Red Ribbon Army, who sent me off on a quest to kill other Red Ribbon Army robots. I even encountered Launch at one point. Unlike the main storyline cutscenes, which are fully voiced, these interactions were weirdly set with just nonsense sounds or phrases from each character. As I would speed through each dialogue, it would create a series of grunt sounds in an amusing but slightly annoying fashion.
In addition to questing, there are also day-to-day slice-of-life gameplay elements such as hunting and fishing. During my DRAGON BALL Z: Kakarot demo, there were opportunities to hunt and fish across the landscape that I unfortunately did not take the time to do since I was too busy falling in love with the combat system.
There are a variety of special moves that Goku can use when his Ki Meter is charged as he fights his opponents in a 3D battle arena. (Image courtesy of BANDAI NAMCO).
Combat is where DRAGON BALL Z: Kakarot is at its best. When you run into an enemy (as I experienced during Eighter’s quest), Goku perpetually faces the enemy and starts to fight. You charge up your Ki meter (complete with shouting!) by holding down the Y button. You can then use your Ki to use Super Attacks that you bring up via a Button with the Left Trigger that include the amazing and classic Kamehameha. When you do enough damage via regular attacks and Ki blast, and your Ki meter is full, you can enter Surge Mode. In Surge Mode, Goku lights up, his attacks go faster, and he can even hit the enemy through multiple mountains in spectacular DRAGON BALL Z fashion that is then followed up by a QTE event.
In the last five minutes of the demo, I finally took on Raditz while Piccolo was charging his Special Beam Cannon attack, and it was then that I finally got to experience the power scale of Goku facing down an enemy that clearly can outclass him. More than once, I had to rely on using items from my inventory that refilled my health bar as Raditz and I tore into each other. It was only at the end of the battle when I the game switched to a cutscene again and I was treated to the famous sequence of Gohan escaping and defeating Raditz with a headbutt to the chest.
Gameplay cutscenes are used to advance the story of DRAGON BALL Z in DRAGON BALL Z: Kakarot. (Image courtesy of BANDAI NAMCO).
DRAGON BALL Z: Kakarot, in summation, is a gorgeous cel-shaded game that I wanted to explore in depth. I have watched the anime in all its incarnations since it first appeared on Toonami, and it is exciting to see that there is finally a video game that will do the world -and all its goofy humor- justice. The combat was amazing and fun, and I really felt like I am a Saiyan who is dodging and fighting enemies in the air when I wasn’t performing quests with old ‘deep cut’ friends. While BANDAI NAMCO is tight-lipped amount all of the different content possible in this game, I simply cannot wait for the final game to be released in 2020.