GotGame was recently invited by Bandai Namco to check out their most recent build of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. We previously played the game earlier this year and even nominated it for Best of E3 2019. Getting CyberConnect2 to develop an action RPG for the iconic manga and anime series definitely seemed like the right call. Our previous demo was only for 20 minutes, giving us a brief idea of the mechanics. With the new demo, we were given several hours to mess around in the beginning of the game. With that extra time, we really had a chance to get a better idea of the full experience.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a story that many have seen in several games, but not quite like this. Retelling the story of the series protagonist Goku throughout Dragon Ball Z, the game adds several new details and plot points. Characters from Goku’s past appear to offer Sub Stories, dialogue is extended, and new scenes emerge. While we can only confirm the game covers the Saiyan Saga through the Buu Saga, there may still be some surprises in store.
The demo starts with a short combat tutorial by fighting Piccolo. Soon after, we’re in the forest, Goku is spending some bonding time with his son Gohan. One thing to note about Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the emphasis on expanding Goku’s role as a father. It can definitely be felt with the game as Goku shows even more care for his first-born son. Bonding with his son isn’t the only goal here though. The game introduces Soul Emblems, collectible medals that players can earn from many support characters. To earn them, players will usually have to perform various tasks usually relating to the corresponding character.
Soul Emblems are more than just a symbol of the affect plays have on the support characters too. They have a use in the gameplay with the Community Board. The Community Board is essentially a skill tree that uses Soul Emblems to unlock bonuses for the playable characters. They fall into various categories that may fit certain Soul Emblems better than others. For example, the Goku Soul Emblem works best in the Z Warrior category while Master Roshi’s falls into the Adult category. Not only can these categories rank up with more Soul Emblems, but players can use items to level up the Emblems themselves. Overall, it creates a unique bonus system that helps with various gameplay situations.
Aside from Soul Emblems, there are several other types of collectibles in the game. Players will collect various ingredients and materials for cooking, potential crafting, and even selling. There are Z Orbs to collect as well, which can be used to improve a characters abilities. There are at least four different colors, most of which will match their surroundings. Blue will be near water, green near grassy plains and forests, and red in canyon and desert areas. The rainbow one is much rarer and needs a bit more observation to track down. Exactly how these work, our demo didn’t show, but we expect it to be something like Red Orbs in Devil May Cry.
One other type of collectible seemed to be less about function and more for show. Players will occasionally find items that represent lore items in the series. These will typically come with a brief lore entry and some screenshots from episodes of the anime. For example, in the Kame House, you can find the Turtle School “Uniform”, though it’s not the uniform players might expect. These items seem less common, but offer fun insight into the early days of the series. Finally, there are D Medals, which can be used to enter Training grounds. Training Grounds are essentially fighting trials that allow players to earn new skills for their characters.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is full of tons of collectibles, all scattered in large open areas. While the game isn’t exactly an “open world”, it does have several areas players can explore. These areas will have several Sub Stories, main objectives, and many other things for players to distract themselves with. Perhaps you’ll want to fight Red Ribbon Army robots to earn extra experience? Maybe you’ll go hunting for gazelles or dinosaurs? Players can even go searching for minerals and ores that they can find in the environment. They can do this on foot, by flying, or if playing as Goku, using the Flying Nimbus. As that last line suggests, yes, you can play as other characters.
Despite being called Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, there are moments where players will switch perspectives away from the titular hero. While players start as Goku, after the ill-fated battle with Raditz, Piccolo and Gohan will have their own segments. This mostly involves Gohan’s training, as his potential makes him a valuable asset in the battle against the Saiyans. Of course, Goku will still have his moments too up on Snake Way, though only after passing King Yemma’s quiz. One thing that was surprising was the lack of filler moments here. Goku never falls off of Snake Way to enter Hell, and he never has his encounter with Princess Snake. In fact, the entirety of Snake Way is kept to a simple series of cutscenes.
Either way, the Sub Stories do still add some extra story, even if minor. These Sub Stories do add some variety to the gameplay too, like Nam’s short trading quest or Android 8’s troublesome robots. When complete, players will earn several rewards, potentially including the Soul Emblem of the quest giver. One thing players should know about Sub Stories is that some only show up during certain times, meaning there will be potential missable missions. It would be worth checking the world map just to make sure all the Sub Stories are taken care of before a main objective.
Combat itself will feel pretty similar to many of the 3D Dragon Ball fighting games. Players will be able to target one enemy at a time, using one button for melee attacks and another for ki blasts. Charging ki may be necessary to power special moves, which can be accessed in a shortcut menu by holding the left shoulder button. This actually took some getting used to, as the left trigger is the block button, and I would often find myself pressing the wrong one at times. Something new in this demo was the assist menu, where support characters can perform attacks at the request of the player. All a player has to do is hold the right shoulder button and select an attack. Otherwise, support characters will typically attack on their own.
Getting further into the demo, we were given the opportunity to fight Vegeta. Having Goku at a much higher level, it seems like he did everything to prepare for the battle. The area map suddenly had new elements, like Villainous Battles and Fortresses to take down. After attempting to fight a Villainous Battle, it was clear I was no match for these powerful foes. Without even attempting the various Fortresses, I simply went to the main objective.
Despite the build up to this part of the demo, it unfortunately didn’t go on for as long as I was expecting. Perhaps it was tweaked for the purposes of the demo, but the fight with Vegeta didn’t feel all that difficult. There were still great moments, like close-ups of some of the follow-up attacks. This allowed for some fun animation quirks that players wouldn’t see in normal fights. After fighting Raditz, it seems that many of the boss fights will have their own unique segments. Raditz has a part where he spins around with a continuous energy blast from both hands, players needing to dodge them to avoid heavy damage. Vegeta has a different segment, where the camera shifts to a birds-eye view, as Vegeta rushes across the screen for a deadly attack.
After finishing the first fight with the Saiyan prince, he’ll transform into a great ape. This fight was interesting, as getting close to the transformed Saiyan was difficult. Despite this, for some strange reason, activating Goku’s newly acquired Kaioken transformation makes it a cakewalk. Again, this may just be the demo, but the fight goes by in what feels like seconds using this technique. At least without using it, there seems to be more of a fight. Early impressions of the game had a lot of people complaining about difficult boss fights, so it’s entirely possible this won’t be an accurate representation of these fights. Either way, the visuals keep these fights entertaining and very stylish, courtest of CyberConnect2’s brilliant animation.
Despite having more time with the game, it still seems like there are more features to uncover in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Luckily, we won’t have to wait too much longer. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is due to release on January 17th next year, in just over a month. It will launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC, and currently has a preorder bonus. Are you looking forward to experiencing Goku’s epic story? Let us know in the comments below!