Dragon Ball Z is one of those franchises that we have all most likely crossed at some time in our lives. It has a huge fanbase worldwide and, if you hadn’t heard, the latest instalment in the series of games by Bandai Namco is due to be released on 17th January 2020. TheXboxHub were kindly invited to go hands on with the next game – Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot – ahead of launch, and my teenage self leapt at the chance.
Straight away, before you even hit the game’s main menu, the original intro from the Japanese version of the anime plays and hits fans of the series with pure nostalgia. It’s an early sign of just how faithful Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is to the source material.
I’m very happy to report that what may have, at first glance, seemed like only a sprinkle of RPG elements in the game have actually turned out to be true features woven in throughout. This is made clear early on, when Gohan is taught how to fish by Goku, and the pair then take their catch back to Chi-chi for her to cook up a tasty meal. Once eaten, it provides a permanent stat boost for you and your party.
Yes, you level up in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot and, in true RPG style, your enemies will also show their levels. Be it in a big story-driven fight or random encounter, you’ll be able to see how strong your opponent is. In between fights you’ll be able to explore the open world, where you may find yourself hunting down many collectibles including the elusive Dragon Balls themselves. You can also view the world map and fast travel to other regions. The game feels huge, bigger than any that have come before it. Not only this, but the open areas have a decent amount in them to keep you exploring, managing to not feel too empty.
You can also unlock communities which can be organised and combined to boost character attributes and unlock new items. There were some interesting ideas here, but it will be good to see just how far they play out in terms of connecting players and their own adventures online.
Early on, Goku will travel on his famous Nimbus Cloud before flying like the rest of the characters. You can land and run on foot at any time, as well as zip around at pace to your next objective. Talking to characters in the game world is usually worthwhile, as they may have useful items that can prove essential in a tough battle.
The battles themselves will be familiar to fans of previous games. It’s a mix of hand to hand combat, ranged “ki” attacks and crazy, over the top special moves. You will also learn new specials as you progress, and will be able to power up during battles, using techniques such as Goku’s Kaioken. In the bottom left of the screen you’ll see which move is mapped to which button – this is also the same for items which can aid you in battle.
The combat takes a short while to get to grips with, but then feels as good as it ever has; easy to learn but hard to master. Some battles will be one on one, and some will see you team up with other Z fighters who you can direct in how they assist you.
I got to play the majority of the Saiyan Saga, including facing off against Raditz and Vegeta. The story is extremely faithful to the anime, which makes me very excited to see the Freiza and Cell sagas. In the saga that I played, all the main battles and story points are present, and you can go from one fight to another quickly if you wish, or take your time to explore the world in between. Admittedly the game gets off to a slow start before you get into some meaty battles, but it gradually builds and opens up as you play, so it’s very much worth sticking with.
The characters in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot are all voiced by the same American artists from the anime, which again shows just how faithful the game is. At times it’s really difficult to distinguish it from the original anime, especially during some epic cutscenes, which is great.
We don’t have too long to wait now for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot to release on Xbox, and for me it cannot come soon enough. Instead of offering much of the same as what has come before – and let’s face it, there have been a lot of games which retell the Dragon Ball Z sagas – the blend of RPG elements fleshes out the story in some ways never seen before. This provides a real in-depth dive into quite possibly the most well-known anime in the world. Regardless if you’re already a fan or not, this is certainly one to have on your dragon radar.
Massive thanks must go out to the team at Bandai Namco for allowing us the opportunity to go hands-on with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot ahead of time. If you wish to see how things play out, check out our exclusive gameplay footage videos below.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot will launch on Xbox One, PS4 and PC come January 17th 2020. You can preorder the game right now from the Xbox Store in either Standard (£49.99), Deluxe (£64.99), or Ultimate (£74.99) forms.