An RPG With a Fighting Game Combat System
The big difference between Dragon Ball Z Kakarot and previous fighting games in the series is that it’s developed with the single-player experience in mind, which allows them to break the rules a bit in terms of what would typically be allowed in a traditional fighting game. For example, one of Radditz’s attacks, Double Sunday, has Radditz shoot two beams out of his hands that start sweeping across the arena. It essentially turns the fight into a little minigame where you have to carefully dodge to vanish through the beam in order to avoid taking massive damage.
Dealing damage quickly to Radditz also fills up his “Break” gauge, which acts like a Street Fighter-style stun meter. Deal damage fast enough and you’ll cause opponents to Break, stunning them and giving you an opportunity to deal massive follow up damage.
Finally, in addition to having a traditional ki meter that can be charged up to use your special moves and ki blasts, there’s also a tension meter that fills up as you deal and receive damage. Once your tension and ki meters are full, you can activate a “Surge,” which will power up your moves and allow you to cancel your special and super moves to deal big damage.
All of this just scratches the surface of the combat in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. I didn’t get a chance to test it out myself but you can also use support abilities to give commands to your partner. For example, I saw a developer give Piccolo the command to perform his own unique special move, which then opened up the option to do a Z-Combo with him, which was a unique super move that utilized both Goku and Piccolo as they ping-ponged Radditz back and forth, ultimately ending with a kamehameha from Goku.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Dragon Ball Z if you couldn’t punch a guy through a mountain, so environmental destructibility is also a big part of the combat.
Dragon Ball Meets Asura’s Wrath Meets… Yakuza?
Beyond the combat, the best way to think of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is as a cross between Asura’s Wrath and the Yakuza series. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out.
Like Asura’s Wrath, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is designed to feel like you’re playing an episode of the anime. The beginning of the chapter I played opened on a cutscene with Piccolo and Goku rushing to save Gohan from Radditz. But then the cutscene stops, and the voice of the narrator reads the name of the episode to send home the nostalgia – it was perfectly Dragon Ball Z.
Once you gain control of Goku, you’re dropped into a small open world where you’re able to do small side activities like fishing, searching for treasure, or hunting Z orbs that can be used to purchase new techniques; you can take on side quests by talking to various Dragon Ball characters like Nam, Baba, and Eighter; or you could tap into your ability to sense power levels and head straight for Radditz.
This is where the game starts to feel a bit like Yakuza. Some of the activities and side quests that you take on are hilariously over the top. In order to fish, Goku takes a tail out from his pocket, sticks into his tailbone, and then proceeds to squat by the lake, shaking his tail around to attract fish. It’s absolutely ridiculous in the best kind of way.
While I could only explore the one area I was dropped into, when I flew as high as I could into the sky something interesting happened – I got to see a world map that highlighted a number of locations, like the rocky field where Goku and Vegeta have their epic battle, the Capsule Corp headquarters, the martial arts tournament stage, and what appeared to be North City.
I had a ton of questions left over after my time with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, but more than anything was a desire to play more. Both Bandai Namco and Cyberconnect2 were tight-lipped with regards to whether or not you’d be able to play as other characters at the moment but also assured that they’re looking to stay as true to the series as they could.
Mitchell Saltzman is an Editorial Producer at IGN. Follow him on Twitter @JurassicRabbit.