Early this year, Bandai Namco revealed Dragon Ball Game – Project Z, an action RPG title from CyberConnect2. Known for their vivid action and glorious animation, it seemed like a match made in heaven. During the Xbox E3 Briefing this year, Bandai Namco revealed the true title for the game: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Giving a few snippets of gameplay and showing a bit more of what to expect, it got many fans excited. Even better, the game was playable on the E3 2019 show floor. Thanks to Bandai Namco, GotGame was invited to check out the game for a hands-on demo, and we left excited for more.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot tells the story of Goku during the early days of Dragon Ball Z. While it skips the earliest Dragon Ball stories, the characters and battles will still have an impact on the story of Kakarot. Characters from Dragon Ball that Goku may not have interacted with during DBZ will appear in the story and offer side missions and insight. Goku will even fight Red Ribbon Army robots and dinosaurs like he did in the original series. The most dedicated of fans will even find fun Easter eggs, like Goku using a tail, albeit fake at this point, for fishing. CyberConnect2 really went deep into the rich Dragon Ball history to deliver a product built with a love for the series.
The game plays similarly to an open-world action RPG, though the world isn’t fully open. Missions will take place in various areas and sometimes, that means Goku can’t travel to other areas during these moments. Even if the world isn’t fully open, the areas are still large enough for a man of Goku’s abilities. Goku will be able to fly (both using his own energy or Flying Nimbus), as well as run, utilizing stamina to reach impeccable speeds. During our demo, Goku was joined by his rival Piccolo, acting as an AI character. With just over 20 minutes, we were given free roam of a large canyon area, with the end goal focused on confronting Raditz, Goku’s brother and the one who kidnaps his son Gohan.
With 20 minutes to kill, I set out to experience as much as I could. First on the agenda was to find a side mission, which didn’t take too long. Coming across the friendly Android 8, he was happy to see Goku again after such a long time. A peaceful Android, he couldn’t bring himself to fight a rogue Red Ribbon Army robot, so Goku takes the task. With it marked on the map, it was pretty easy to make my way there, but I couldn’t help but take the scenic route. The world is riddled with items to collect, experience orbs to gather, and battles to fight. Goku can even fly up (with a special ascension boost) and search for ki to find specific things. Collecting some experience orbs, I eventually made my way to the rogue robot, initiating a battle.
Combat in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is rather interesting. While it doesn’t feel quite like the Xenoverse games, it does have a similar perspective. Goku has one main attack button, allowing for a series of combo attacks. Goku can also use ki blasts from a distance, allowing him to dish out light damage with more caution. Holding down the left bumper, Goku can unleash super attacks as well, like his iconic Kamehameha. Items can also be used by utilizing the d-pad, and for defense, Goku can block attacks. Players shouldn’t be too reliant on blocking though, as some enemy attacks can break Goku’s defense, leaving him open for an attack. With a few attacks, and the help of Piccolo, we made quick work of the robot and completed Android 8’s request.
While combat is fine and dandy, Goku can also utilize his time for fun. Searching along a river, I kept my eyes peeled for a fishing spot to try the mini-game. As mentioned earlier, Goku takes out a fake tail and attaches it to his rear, able to wiggle it to draw fish in for a quick reaction tug. The fish was massive of course, and went right into my inventory for cooking. Cooking is another gameplay mechanic of the game, as Goku can seek ingredients to bring campfires and make meals. Unfortunately, I had misplaced where the campfire was and was starting to run short on time. In its place, I went to fight a dinosaur, which seems to make Goku rely on ki energy blasts. I didn’t take any damage, but it implied that I would be in trouble if I were to be attacked.
It’s important to note that there is a great sense of speed when moving around as Goku. Flying around takes a little getting used to, but once you do, boosting in the air is a blast. Even running on foot is a lot of fun, making Goku feel like the Flash as he speeds all over the terrain. After getting a final time warning, I decided to hastily make my way to the story mission. Raditz was waiting, keeping Gohan in his space pod as he berates Goku and Piccolo without worry. True fans will know how this battle ends, but that isn’t to say there’s no challenge, even against Raditz.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot makes a point to make Goku the underdog. The game is supposed to pit you against uneven odds, and we really felt that with this Raditz fight. Raditz has a clearly larger health bar than any enemy before him, with more than a dozen health bars. It’s a clear mismatch, but with clever thinking and tenacity, players can still overcome the challenge. Utilizing combos and special attacks, Raditz can take quite a bit of damage. That being said, he’s able to handle it and dish out more in return. Goku may have to utilize his special power surge, a temporary power boost that Goku can access to deal more damage and chain more combos.
After taking out a few of Raditz’s health bars, a cinematic will occur, providing more exposition. It’s here that Piccolo starts charging up his Special Beam Cannon, needing Goku to hold his own for a bit. Deciding not to hold back anymore, Raditz changes up his attack pattern, unleashing more energy attacks to increase the difficulty. These are pretty powerful and can deal a ton of damage, even if players block. Players will want to keep tabs on their healing items, which can luckily be used at any time. No need to let let an animation play out. Different items can heal different amounts of health, recover ki, and even Goku’s stamina. It’s all about using these items in moderation, as you wouldn’t want to waste any.
After hammering away on Raditz’s health and utilizing every last healing item I had, I narrowly avoided defeat and made it to end. At this point, a cutscene takes over, with Piccolo having charged his attack and Goku grabbing Raditz’s tail. Goku not able to let his brother die so easily, he has a moment of weakness and lets go of his tail. Raditz, taking advantage here, gives Goku a sucker punch and threatens to kill Goku. It’s then that Raditz’s scouter senses a large power level. Gohan emerges from the pod and gives his uncle a superpowered headbutt. Winding Raditz, this leaves him open for Goku to grab him one more time. Piccolo takes no time in unleashing his attack, killing both Goku and his brother.
This moment is what ends the demo, though as Dragon Ball fans, we know this isn’t Goku’s end. It’s far from it. The demo may have been brief, but it was a real blast, keeping the action exciting and tense all the way through. Having grown up playing Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku on the GBA, this game was a true dream. While Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot may not cover the entire story, what it does cover brings extra depth and content that will hopefully fulfill the needs of the many fans. After the stellar Dragon Ball FighterZ last year, it looks like we’re already on track to a Dragon Ball masterpiece. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot will be releasing on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC early next year.