“Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” is an open-world, role-playing game based on the same classic story that’s made the series a fan favorite. Long-time admirers will recognize these events, as the game makes little to no changes to the lore of the franchise.
That being the case, this updated version of “Dragon Ball Z” lacks the charm and prowess of its preceding installments. “Kakarot” is held back by lackluster dialogue and a story that barely maintains attention during its 40 to 60 hour campaign. Whether I was fighting Frieza and his minions or Cell and his many transformations, I couldn’t wait to put down the controller and call this one a wrap.
The game starts at the beginning of the Saiyan saga, where the player switches betweenplayingas Goku, Piccolo and Young Gohan. At first, I enjoyed swapping between each character and using their different abilities in battle. It was nostalgic to see Gohan using his first prominent move from the television series, Masenko. However, its appeal was short-lived.
Each playable character has the same generic move set. I could spam the punch or Ki button, and it would look the same whether I was playing as Vegeta or Piccolo. Another downside is the limitation of only having four specific character-based moves throughout the entire story. The player has the option to switch out these moves as the story progresses, but this didn’t provide enough variety to keep me excited for the next battle. It wouldn’t be a problem if the game had been 20 or 30 hours shorter, but the campaign in “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” is sadly much, much longer.
The game includes the four main sagas from the original “Dragon Ball Z” manga: the Saiyan, Frieza, Android and Buu saga. In between each one is an intermission where the player can openly explore Earth and participate in side quests.
The side quests consist of fetching items marked on the map or simply traveling to a random location to fight an enemy. To make each horribly boring side quest even more enjoyable, the dialogue seemed to be written by a group of middle schoolers that had nothing better to do with their weekend.
The map of Earth itself also lacked any detail that would normally motivate me to explore the in-game world. I could teleport between different map sections, but I would only find the same empty, bland world waiting for me on the other side. After spending so much time searching for a reason to enjoy this version of Earth, I only encountered more reasons to dislike it.
I found myself spending countless hours searching for collectible items throughout the world that didn’t seem to have any meaning whatsoever. One of the most memorable collectibles was Master Roshi’s soft porn collection. I spent hours searching for his collection of half-naked women for seemingly no reason. Sexist jokes made in poor taste seemed to be one of “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s” favorite ways of passing time.
I can’t recall how many times I had to help Yamcha — one of Earth’s many heroes — swoon helpless women or hide his bad habit of cheating. This game advertised its open world and the ability to fish and camp with the player’s favorite “Dragon Ball Z” characters yet seemed to only want me to waste my time doing pointless side quests and collecting items I only wanted to forget about.
One of the few things I enjoyed while playing “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” was the collection of characters used to boost my communities. Communities are collections of characters the player discovers through the main story or side quests. Each one has its own specific buffs, and to gain them, the player has to assign a character to its matching community. Goku, for example, best fits in the Z Fighter community because of his incredible strength. Once added to the community, the player gains buffs to their melee or Ki attack.
Managing and making sure each character thrives in their community is an interesting add-on to a game that struggles in about every other area. As mentioned before, the player also has the option to fish, camp or cook meals in their free time. However, I rarely ever found the need for any of these extra tasks. I was always strong enough to beat my opponent, and I always had an absurd amount of health potions to keep my characters going.
It’s features like these that made me question why developer BANDAI NAMCO adapted the beloved franchise into this strange take on the open-world genre. All of the elements within the open-world seemed unnecessary or completely irrelevant. If anything, I would’ve enjoyed just fighting through each saga without having to deal with the other distracting elements.
“Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” starts off smoothly, but as the hours passed, I began to dread every moment I had to play. Between its dull and tedious side quests and its poorly written sagas, this game doesn’t offer anything to new fans of the franchise. Perhaps hardcore fans can overlook the problems that plague “Kakarot,” but for me, this game was a nightmare I was all too ready to wake up from.
Contact Daniel Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.