Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (previously known as the placeholder name of Dragon Ball Game: Project Z - An Action RPG) was officially featured on the E3 stage during Microsoft’s press conference. The trailer features classic scenes from the original show recreated in a 3D environment. Fans of the franchise are optimistic about the new title, and rightfully so. With the success of Dragon Ball Fighter Z and the promise of an open world game that players can freely explore, it looked like Bandai Namco was gearing up to hit another home run.
An Authentic DBZ Experience?
Before trying out Dragon Ball Z: Karakrot for myself on the show floor at E3, I had to watch a 20-minute video that highlighted what we could expect from the demo and the full game once it’s released. First and foremost, the devs wanted to make it very clear that they are trying to create the most authentic playable Dragon Ball Z experience they can. I really wasn’t sure what that meant initially -- I just prayed it didn’t mean that charging a single Kamehameha would take 5 hours of in-game time.
They went on to explain that, in the show, Goku faces countless battles where his power level is too low and his enemies can't be beaten until he grows stronger. The way they translate this into gameplay is through invincible sequences where players will have to dodge and guard against attacks until bosses can be properly dealt with. It sounded like a cool idea in theory, but I wasn’t convinced that it would be all that fun to deal with when executed in the game.
The video revealed that there are side missions and other optional content that harken back to characters and storylines from the original Dragon Ball series and other events that never made their way into the animated show. As a casual fan of the series, this was kind of a turn-off. Just hearing that a lot of the side content was bound to either make little sense to me or completely go over my head wasn’t something that I was partially looking forward to.
An Open-ish World
The explanation continued to say that, while players are free to proceed through the story at their own speed, the game is not completely open world. The full title will be comprised of different levels that will need to be unlocked and explored individually as the story unfolds. I can understand why this choice was made, but hearing it put so bluntly was a little disappointing.
With the video wrapped up, I was marched out of the room feeling a bit deflated. Then, I was finally given the chance to get some hands-on time with Dragon Ball Z: Karakrot.
The section we played acted out the events in the first few episodes of Dragon Ball Z. Raditz kidnaps Gohan and forces Piccolo to work with Goku to put an end to the threat. The demo starts with both characters flying above an open world and quickly teaches you how to navigate the sky. The controls could be a little rough at times, but I just chalked it up to the fact that they still have months before the game is actually ready to be shipped. After exploring the world for a bit, completing a side quest, and running into a couple of small fights while exploring, it became pretty clear that the game is basically just a reskinned Xenoverse game when it comes to battling. Not there’s anything inherently wrong with that, it’s just that I was expecting a little bit more. The open world aspect does make a difference, however, and I was pleasantly surprised by how dynamic the boss fights felt compared to previous titles.
Overall, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is exactly what the developers set out to make: a game for fans of the franchise who don’t necessarily mind if the combat isn’t super polished or the open world exploration is a little segmented and lackluster. It’s still too early to make a definitive call, but like most of the other games in the franchise, Kakarot is a difficult title to recommend to anyone that isn’t already an avid fan of the original series. That being said, fans of the franchise should look forward to small improvements and additions across the board when compared to previous games such as Xenoverse.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is slated to come out in early 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.