Game Recs

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Play This Epic Dragon Ball Game

The 2020 RPG captures the spirit of Akira Toriyama like no other.

Screenshot of Frieza from Dragon Ball Z Kakarot
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Our idea of immersion often runs on a false assumption. Creators and consumers alike often assume immersion means a facsimile of reality, a copy so finely detailed as to be indistinguishable from life itself. But we can immerse ourselves in the fantastical as well. Akira Toriyama, the late, great animation legend who passed away March 1 understood this. He infused his work with heart and soul so that we could walk into his worlds. Dragon Ball Z, his most influential creation, pulled us into manga pages and TV screens. And now, one of the greatest Dragon Ball games ever made will pull you into Playstation Plus.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is an action RPG from CyberConnect2 and Bandai Namco that serves as an open-world theater for the retelling (and in some cases, reimagining) of the series’ most popular moments. There are seven playable characters, from the obvious protagonists like Goku and Gohan to iconic fan favorites like Piccolo and Future Trunks, each tasked with reliving crucial story beats and battles.

The open world looks and feels amazing. (It’s worth noting the world isn’t truly “open,” but is actually a collection of open-map zones instead of one cohesive piece.) Still, the main hook of the game is that it's essentially a sightseeing tour through DBZ. Players who grew up loving the franchise will be fed a steady stream of solid meat and potatoes. Even if you’re only vaguely familiar with the series, it’s eye candy nonetheless. Toriyama’s signature style is handled with care and you can feel the love and adoration that’s been poured into how things look. Infamous locales like West City look like they’re ripped straight from the show.

Now looks aren’t everything, of course, but Dragon Ball Z Kakarot benefits from excellent traversal, too. You don’t walk or run — you fly. Like, really, truly, zip through the air at a zillion miles an hour. The first few moments are exhilarating. I’d liken it to your first experience with the web-slinging mechanic in Insomniac’s Spider-Man franchise. It’s exactly what you want it to be, and can become a distraction on its own.

Flying feels as good as it looks.

Bandai Namco

Flying is fun and all, but DBZ isn’t just a show about landscapes. We all know its about epic battles and kamehamehas. Unfortunately, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot goes light on the intensity when it comes to combat systems. It’s essentially a two-button mashing affair, with a healthy amount of dodge spamming thrown in for good measure. Anyone who comes in with experience playing Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 should prepare for a noticeable step back in depth. This is bad if you’re looking for a challenging experience, but good if you’re looking for something casual. And no matter what your preferred difficulty, no one will deny that the animations are amazing.

Kakarot is easily the best-looking DBZ game to date, and more importantly, one that embraces the source material. Unlike other recent titles that center player-created characters in new adventures, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot sticks to the series-defining sagas: The Saiyan Saga, Frieza, Cell, and Buu. Whether you know them or not, these tales are full of adrenaline-fueled drama anyone can enjoy. The fighting animations, especially in the famous showdowns, capture the right vibe perfectly. They look incredible, are scored beautifully, and some even include the exact camerawork you’d see in the series. Is it a little button-mashy? Yes. Does it feel epic? Also yes.


Bandai Namco

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is also a modern-day RPG, which means it’s crammed full of side activities. These are hit-and-miss, with more miss than hit, unfortunately. The fishing and cooking mechanics are fun but can get grindy pretty quickly, and there really isn’t much variety in the types of side quests you encounter. None of them are vital to the mainline story, so while cooking complicated meals yields recipes that give some stat buffs, there aren’t any scenarios where you’ll feel like you must have them in order to succeed. The baseball minigame stands out as the best of the bunch.

If you’re looking to do more than relive your Toonami days, or get a refresher on why this series’ character arcs and visual style are so beloved, you’re going to be disappointed. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is as close as you’ll get to being the hope of the universe — the answer to all living things that cry out for peace. Go on and make Toriyama proud.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is available now as part of the PlayStation Plus March lineup. It’s also for sale on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC.

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