Dragon Ball Z was my gateway to anime. Before Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z would air on my local WB station. Every morning, I would pour a bowl of cereal, sit at the couch, and watch Goku and his friends.
I had never seen anything like that show up to that point in my life. Animation for me mainly consisted of Disney films, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Animaniacs. Seeing Dragon Ball Z blew my mind in elementary school, because nothing else I had seen was like that show at all. My family couldn’t handle me obsessing over the anime, wanting all the action figures, and hoping to play the video games.
My mom generously took me to a mall 90 minutes away to buy imported action figures from a Japanese retailer. I didn’t know a lot of the characters at the time, but I didn’t mind. The same location had Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22 and Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout. I wanted these games so badly, and the rose-colored glasses I wore wouldn’t let me believe that they actually sucked.
Eventually, fans of the anime were treated to a fantastic franchise called Dragon Ball Z: Budokai. They were fighting games that genuinely, accurately, and wonderfully felt like authentic DBZ experiences. I gathered around my middle school and high school friends when these games launched, always looking for people to battle against. We loved the Budokai franchise, but wanted a console game that existed outside of the fighting genre. There were a few, but until now none were very good.
A wonderful trip through history
16 years after being that high school teenager, the video game I wanted finally released. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the video game that should satisfy every hardcore fan of the anime. It does everything that a fan would love from an adaptation. Not only does it follow every saga – Saiyan, Frieza, Cell, Buu – but there are even some great deep cuts. Remember that episode when Goku and Piccolo go to the DMV for licenses? Well, that’s an actual mission in the video game.
What really helps newcomers and fans alike is an extensive codex that streamlines the entire series, discusses the relation between every character, and even has various journal entries that dive into key episodes that helped shape characters. Even after watching all of Dragon Ball Z, the codex helped me understand events from the previous show, Dragon Ball. The development team did so much to treat the franchise with the respect it deserves.
It’s over 9000!
Notable and niche characters all make appearances. But what really makes Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot stand apart from the rest is that it truly makes you feel like you’re part of the anime. Stepping into the shoes of Goku and friends feels unbelievably satisfying.
I always wondered how characters saw the power levels of their friends and enemies. Kakarot actually shows each of their auras, giving players a visual representation of power levels. Flying feels like second nature, and the combat looks like it’s ripped straight from the anime. Seeing iconic moments play out in stunning graphics blew my 30-year-old mind. It didn’t even matter that I knew how all of the sagas would play out. There’s something special about revisiting a franchise that helped shape the person you became.
Fast, fierce, and incredibly fun
It goes without saying that the main focal point of the gameplay is the fighting. After all, Dragon Ball Z features some of the best (if not overly drawn out) battles in animated history. Watching Goku turn Super Saiyan for the first time, or seeing Gohan battle Cell were two iconic moments for me. Getting to experience those moments first-hand in Kakarot had me jumping for joy. The sense of power in actually getting to play through those scenes left me with a huge grin across my face.
Even if I didn’t have a sentimental attachment, the gameplay is flashy, responsive, and incredibly satisfying. You fly around the battlefield at will, charging your Ki, and unleash powerful moves. A lot of fights seem like cut-and-paste scenarios, but later on, the game throws some curveballs your way that require new strategies to survive. I loved how Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot worked hard to keep me on my toes.
Heading towards something Super?
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a complete experience. After 40 hours, I unlocked every achievement, completed each side-quest, and finished every saga. Tears literally rolled down my face: I finally got the game I wanted since I became a fan as an elementary school kid.
Downloadable episodes are coming to Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot at a later date. I’m unsure what those will cover. Will it be some of the movies involving Broly? Maybe the episodes will cover some Dragon Ball GT sagas.
One thing is for sure; Bandai Namco knocked it out of the park with Kakarot.I wonder if the company will consider adapting some more of Goku’s adventures in the future. Dragon Ball Super was an excellent sequel series, and there are a lot of story arcs to draw inspiration from.
Either way, I am certain this is not the end of wonderful Dragon Ball video game adaptations. I feel like fans of the franchise finally gathered all the Dragon Balls, and Shenron granted the wish that we’ve all wanted for years.