The idea of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, a game where you can “live” as Goku, sounded like music to my ears. The game launched on other platforms early last year, so as you could imagine, I bought it on PlayStation 4 day one. Despite some issues, the game is designed to invoke nostalgia and, lo and behold, does an excellent job at it. The Nintendo Switch version of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, while not quite as good in review as on other platforms, is a fine way to experience a game created with the intention of pleasing DBZ fans both new and old.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot starts right at the beginning of the series, during the iconic invasion of the Saiyans. The narrative arcs have undergone little to no changes, aside from new content included between major story beats. The main story is obviously great, as you know what to expect — fast-paced action starring your favorite characters. Unfortunately, the new stuff is where things get frustrating, especially when it comes to the game’s weird sidequests.
Throughout Goku and the gang’s adventure, smaller activities will take place between arcs, which mostly consist of dull fetch quests. For instance, one quest involves foraging for ingredients for Chi-Chi, while another requires you to find Master Roshi’s missing magazine. After a while, these sorts of missions become tiresome and extremely repetitive. The same goes for the meaningless extra sidequests available while exploring, so it can be difficult to motivate yourself to complete them. Thankfully, most of this is overshadowed by Kakarot‘s gameplay, which may feel somewhat familiar to those of you who played the Xenoverse games.
As the name implies, most of your time with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot will be spent playing as Goku. The gameplay is divvied up into two main styles, exploration and combat. While exploring, you will be able to go fishing, complete the aforementioned sidequests, and more. However, the most important part of Dragon Ball Z is of course fighting against strong opponents, and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot lets you live through iconic moments from the series in an action RPG context. You can move freely around in a 3D space, dealing punches, dodging attacks, and activating super attacks. On the surface, these mechanics may seem somewhat basic, but later fights amp up the difficulty, especially towards the end of the adventure.
Kakarot feels similar to Dragon Ball: Xenoverse, but with less clunky controls. Most combat encounters will see you pounding on enemies until their HP is depleted, using Goku’s Kamehameha and other attacks to deal increased damage. Additionally, some moments will force you to play as another character, which feels strange for a game selling you on the idea of “living as Goku.”
However, being able to take control of a different character is a nice change of pace, as Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot can feel repetitive at times. Some moments start to outstay their welcome, feeling needlessly complicated and arduous to complete. It makes me question why Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is 30-40 hours long, as some parts could have been toned down, such as the pointless segments between arcs.
As far as its RPG elements, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot boasts an in-depth skill tree, soul emblems to increase specific stats, and the titular Dragon Balls. During exploratory moments, Z-orbs will be scattered throughout the map, which are used to unlock new super moves and abilities in the skill tree. Some skills will require you to complete specific milestones, such as finishing a quest or leveling Goku up, but most of them are unlocked using varying amounts of Z-orbs. There is also the Community Board, where you can increase various stats, such as attack, item drop rate, experience gain, and more.
These stats can be manipulated by using the soul emblems, token-like items based on certain characters from the series. To unlock them, you simply need to progress throughout the game’s main story, as completing certain milestones will net you these as a reward. The Community Boards are split into seven sections: Z Warrior, Cooking, Training, Development, Community of the Gods, Adult, and Adventure, each with their own bonuses. Soul emblems are then placed onto these boards to boost said stats, with extra bonuses being generated depending on where characters are placed. For example, if you place Goku next to Gohan, the Ultimate Father-Son Team bonus will be unlocked, further increasing the community board’s bonuses.
A New Power Awakens on Nintendo Switch
As is the case with many Nintendo Switch ports, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot does see some technical downgrades, but I was surprised to see how playable it actually is. Frame rate drops are rare unless you’re exploring a particularly detailed part of the world or unleashing a multitude of super attacks. However, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on Nintendo Switch is a worthwhile investment for hardcore Dragon Ball fans who want to experience the game on the go.
Furthermore, the Nintendo Switch version also includes A New Power Awakens DLC for free, which allows you to fight stronger opponents like Beerus for various rewards. The DLC features new transformations for Goku and Vegeta, an increased level cap, new soul emblems, and much more. Although some of this content can’t be accessed until the postgame, it’s there for fans who want to continue to get stronger.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a game made for hardcore Dragon Ball fans, retelling the franchise’s iconic story, with action-packed combat and deep RPG mechanics. Although some parts of the game are needlessly dull, there is plenty of fun to be had throughout the adventure. The Nintendo Switch version is a solid port, suffering only rare frame rate drops, allowing you to experience Goku’s adventures on the go. If you’re after something to scratch that Dragon Ball itch, then Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot might be for you.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is available now for Nintendo Switch, alongside a variety of DLC packs new and old.
A Nintendo Switch review code for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Ultimate Edition was provided by the publisher.