It's more the Yamcha of the Dragon Ball games
When I was a kid, about three or four days a week I would get picked up from school by my great grandmother, head straight into her back office, and flip the TV on to Cartoon Network just in time for their Toonami block to start up. Through Toonami, myself and many other kids found their first experiences with anime like Rurouni Kenshin, Sailor Moon, Gundam, and towering above all of them: Dragon Ball Z. Based on the iconic manga by Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball follows the life of a man named Goku as he aims to become the strongest fighter in the world, and later the universe. It’s a show known for its brilliant fight choreography, well written villains, and fantastic character designs, and is often considered among the most renowned anime ever made. You’d think, with all that said, that Dragon Ball would translate very well into the world of video games. It’s a show about fighting and getting stronger, perfect for this particular medium. Unfortunately, most Dragon Ball games range from just alright to plain trash. While much better than it could have been, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot can only be placed in the “just alright” category.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot follows the entire story of the series, all the way from Raditz to Majin Buu. This was a pleasant surprise upon being announced, as Dragon Ball games have a bad habit of getting to Frieza and rolling the credits. Despite the title, large portions of this game are actually spent controlling anybody but Goku, most often putting the player in the shoes of his son Gohan though sometimes also having them play as characters like Piccolo or Vegeta. Every character controls largely the same both on the open world and while in battle, with the only real difference being the use of their signature moves, though those are honestly rather samey in the long run.
And in the end that’s Kakarot’s biggest failing: much of the game feels like doing the same thing over and over and over again. Combat always seems to be the same string of quick combos followed by a Kamehameha Wave or Galick Gun, followed by dashing towards the opponent and doing the whole thing ad nauseum. Random encounters are few and far between, as you generally tend to fly faster than any enemy on the overworld and therefore will probably not encounter anything unless you actually want to. When not doing main story content, you will also have a chance to do sidequests, usually given by less important members of the cast like Yamcha or Yajirobe or even pre-Z characters like Eighter or Launch, but even these tend to be the same exact sidequest with a different coat of paint every time: get the item, fight the small fry enemies, have a short conversation, done.
For the most part I’m rather pleased with Kakarot’s performance on the Switch. When on Earth I didn’t really notice any significant frame drops or rendering issues, though in handheld mode shadows did admittedly pop into existence in front of me in some instances. Otherwise a few slightly muddier textures are the worst you’ll probably encounter while on Earth. Namek, however, was a much different story. I’m not sure if it’s because all of Namek is one large map unlike Earth, which is split into explorable chunks, or because the landscape of Namek is a lot less mountainous than Earth’s environments, but the entire time I was on Namek the framerate noticeably dropped, sometimes even in cutscenes. This did not seem to affect battle at all, and as a majority of the game after Frieza takes place on Earth it didn’t really strike me as a huge issue. Just be aware that there are performance problems in that area of the game that were not present in the PlayStation 4 version. A much smaller graphical issue can be seen on the pause menu when viewing characters, where the models are for some reason very blurry and much lower quality than anything else in the game.
Kakarot is at its strongest specifically when telling you the story of Z, with beautifully animated cutscenes that sometimes feel like they popped straight out of the anime. Certain boss fights are incredibly hype, such as the final battle between Goku and Frieza that had me cheering as every blow shook the screen and it truly felt like I was having a battle on a planet that was about to explode. That’s really what this whole thing comes down to in the end: for people that are already big fans of Dragon Ball Z, as a whole, Kakarot has some value as a walk down memory lane and a way to re-experience the show in an entirely different manner. However, if you’re not already a big fan of Goku and Co’s adventures, Kakarot sadly has absolutely nothing for you. Without the nostalgia factor this game ends up being a slow slog of samey gameplay that likely won’t keep your attention for very long.