There have been dozens and dozens of games based on the popular anime “Dragon Ball Z.” While most focus on recreating the series’s electric fight scenes, very few have explored the more mundane and humorous aspects of the characters’ lives.
Fortunately, “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” (releasing on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2020) falls in the latter category. “Kakarot” is an action role-playing game that retells the story of the “Dragon Ball Z” saga through the eyes of Goku. The spiky-haired fighter comes from a long lineage of hostile alien warriors known as Saiyans (Kakarot is his Saiyan name), but over the course of the series, he becomes Earth’s de facto protector from otherworldly threats.
“Kakarot’s” story will include many familiar faces for fans of the TV show, including villains like Raditz, Napa, and Frieza. But for me, that wasn’t the main draw when I played the game at E3 2019 in Los Angeles — after all, games have been repeating these same “Dragon Ball Z” narratives over and over for the last 20 years. What intrigued me most about “Kakarot” were the activities that could happen outside of battle.
“Kakarot” is made up of a series of large levels that act kind of like mini open-worlds. You can fly around on your own or by riding Goku’s sentient Nimbus cloud. You can explore small towns and talk to different characters, maybe finding a side quest or two during your conversations. You can also catch fish or hunt for food by attacking the local wildlife. I laughed when I killed one of the series’s goofy-looking dinosaurs just to get some meat.
I love the dumber side of “Dragon Ball Z,” and “Kakarot” seems to be embracing that in a big way. For Japanese developers Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2, that was their goal: to offer both fans and newcomers a complete DBZ experience, a game that’d reflect both the odd humor of the show and the badass fights it’s known for.
“We always tend to look at the famous and memorable moments or the epic battles, but I think there’s a lot more [things to explore] in the ‘Dragon Ball Z’ storyline, like day-to-day activities and what Goku does in-between battles — some of the jokes that [series creator Akira Toriyama] had in the story,” said Bandai Namco producer Ryosuke Hara to Variety (via translator).
Past games, like last year’s “Dragon Ball FighterZ,” tried to blend both aspects of the show, but the fighting side usually ends up being the focus. As an RPG however, “Kakarot” has more room for storylines and additional characters. Some of its smaller stories are brand new, with character interactions that were never seen on “Dragon Ball Z.” Hara didn’t dive too deep into what these stories would consist of, but he did say that some side quests use characters from the original “Dragon Ball” series (when Goku was just a kid).
The two studios want to portray a more holistic view of Goku’s life and his role in the franchise, especially for younger groups of players who may have never watched the old anime series.
“With the recent release of ‘Dragon Ball Super’ and the movie ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly,’ there’s this new generation of fans who are joining the Dragon Ball community and family,” Hara said. “With this massive surge of fans, I think it was the right time to shine the light on the ‘Dragon Ball Z’ saga again.”