Dragon Ball Z stands as an indisputable legend in anime. The show first aired in Japan from 1989 to 1996. The same year it ended in Japan, Dragon Ball Z began its nearly 300 episode-long run in North America. To this day, it remains the most beloved period of Dragon Ball's long and storied history.
Through the show, we meet Goku. Goku is a Saiyan, an alien race bent on destruction and domination. However, Goku approaches the world a bit differently. Due to a head injury as an infant, Goku forgot his destructive mission to conquer Earth along with his Saiyan name, Kakarot. The event helped him become a gentle-hearted, if forgetful, child. Despite his sweet nature, Goku's Saiyan heritage and love of battle makes him a formidable opponent in a fight, a trait he honed as he got older. He’s a dope and sometimes veers into bad dad territory at times, but when it comes to fighting, Goku has a one-track mind. The fight comes before anything else, a fixation that sometimes becomes a glaring flaw. He always seeks to become stronger, not out of a desire to conquer or destroy, but to surpass his own limitations. Goku definitely qualifies as a complicated character with shortcomings and weaknesses, but there’s no denying he is a hero.
For all of its superpowered insanity, Dragonball Z feels like home. During the Z era of the Dragon Ball story, we saw Gohan, Goku’s son, grow up, epic sagas against iconic villains and plenty of solid character development. While problematic at times (Master Roshi ahem), the story of self-sacrifice, bonds, and pain just resonates. When we watched Dragon Ball Z, we wanted Goku to succeed and save everyone - and something about that big-hearted dofus made us believe in him.
We’ve known for a while that Bandai Namco had an RPG adaptation of Dragon Ball Z in production under the working title of Dragon Ball Game Project Z Action RPG. Now we know its full name, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (so much easier to say compared to the game’s production title). The game will follow in the footsteps of the manga and anime, a tall order for such an iconic franchise. After spending time with it, we can confidently say this recreation of the Z series aims to do its source material justice while adding a flair all its own.
In addition to the finalized name of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, the E3 trailer runs through some of the pulse-quickening events that occur throughout the story arc dealing with Goku’s most recognizable foe, Frieza. The first few seconds of the trailer show a quote from Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama to reassure fans about the faithfulness of the game. “This game brings the Dragon Ball universe to life, and I’m sure fans will truly be able to take a deep dive into the world,” said Toriyama, “I hope you enjoy the game!”
As of Aug. 20, we also got the Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot - Gamescom Trailer. The trailer shows a focus on the relationship between Gohan and his father Goku and fittingly shows the fight with another super villain of the series Cell.
This isn’t the first time Bandai Namco has dipped into games based on iconic anime franchises. The company previously took on Naruto with their popular Ninja Storm series. Those games also retold the story of Naruto while incorporating fighting gameplay designed to match the kinetic energy of the anime. From what we’ve seen, that same formula appears to be at the heart of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot with gameplay and visuals designed to emphasize the insane power of combatants in the Dragon Ball universe.
While the critical and fan reception of the Ninja Storm series might help defrost even the most cynical anime-fans’ hearts, the fact that Kakarot incorporates light open-world elements broadens the horizon of the in-game universe. This design decision allows fans to experience the small, personal moments from Dragon Ball Z. Things like gathering food for Goku’s ravenous appetite and flying around on the Nimbus Cloud alongside Piccolo find themselves fully realized in this game. The attention to detail on display in the world impressed me.
During the demo, I found myself genuinely captivated by the flying mechanic. I dove and soared across a land that felt like home. Bandai Namco explained that there were things to do aside from fighting. New, never-before seen quests and characters inhabit the Earth alongside familiar characters (or familiar faces that never appeared in the original run of Dragon Ball Z). While the main story will remain faithful to Dragon Ball Z’s canon, the side missions will open the door to unexpected reunions and moments that Bandai Namco hopes will delight fans and newcomers alike.
The preview build allowed me a limited amount of time to play around in a small portion of the world. The timed demo concluded with a showdown with Raditz, the first major villain of the Frieza Saga. As a Dragon Ball fan, I’ve seen Goku progress from an over-powered, reckless toddler to a god-like, but still reckless, adult. In my battle against Raditz, the fledgling power that Goku had at his disposal felt just right. Being able to strike that delicate balance makes me excited to build up the Goku I know via the intriguing RPG style presented to us in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.
As a Dragon Ball Z fan, I tear up thinking about all of the intense and genuinely heart-aching moments of the anime. We grew up with Goku and constantly see his universe teetering on the brink of destruction, everything hanging on the outcome of one more fight. We, the audience, feel the pain as his son’s heroes are ripped away and the understanding dawn on him that the true price of being a hero is sacrifice. The epic Dragon Ball Z builds around Goku/Kakarot and generations of his family fighting to become the heroes the world needs stands as a work of pure magic.
Fans have witnessed the absolutely epic fights in Dragon Ball Z, but Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot wants the player to viscerally feel that magic as well.
The name Kakarot signals a set up for a series of games. Hear me out. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot has squarely positioned itself early on in Goku’s story and clearly focuses on Goku. Now for a little speculation on my part. We’ll see Dragon Ball Z: Gohan, Dragon Ball Z: Vegeta, etc until they finish up the entirety of Dragon Ball Z’s iconic run. If this turns out to be true, I will be one happy Dragon Ball fan.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot doesn’t have a set date but it is expected to release in early 2020 to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
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