A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is an action role-playing game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. The story, which is the latest installment in the Dragon Ball Z universe, lets you explore an open world, taking on quests and side missions to power up your hero so he can take on more difficult opponents in his path. Much -- but not all -- of the gameplay focuses on martial arts combat. Players can kick, punch, and use special magic attacks to defeat enemies. In the dialogue, there are comments about "perverts" who "kidnapped girls" and references to (and images about) adult magazines, although nothing's shown. Mild profanity includes words like "bastard," "ass," and "damn!"
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
DRAGON BALL Z: KAKAROT is an action-adventure hybrid with a dose of role-playing game (RPG) elements that lets you relive the story of Goku and other Z Fighters as you vow to protect Earth from menacing enemies. These villains include Raditz (a member of the Saiyan race, like Goku), Frieza (emperor of Universe 7), and Cell (genetically engineered by Dr. Gero), to name a few. There are several boss fighters, too, and aerial combat that tests your maneuverability skills along with your well-timed attacks to inflict as much damage as possible. But the game isn't a straightforward brawler, either, as there are quests to take on (such as collecting objects), some puzzle solving, flying through the skies or swimming underwater, fishing side quests, and more. For fans of the franchise, several dozen characters and interconnected storylines should strike a nostalgic chord, plus some of the conversations and missions may even answer some burning questions from Dragon Ball lore. In fact, the game houses a Z-Encyclopedia, which includes several unlockable items, videos, cards, and other content.
Is it any good?
If you believe the hype, you'd think this RPG would be the first major blockbuster game of 2020. But it may only satisfy serious fans of the franchise -- for nostalgia's sake -- rather than deliver a compelling game experience. On one hand, Kakarot offers a lot of variety in game styles, but it doesn't excel at any one of them. Fighting is fun, especially when you learn to link together damaging moves and combo attacks while simultaneously hovering in the air and avoiding enemy fire. But despite leveling up and facing new kinds of enemies and bosses, the action grows stale after a short while. Many of the side quests, like collecting items, can also get tedious as you complete them over time. Worse, the open world isn't very open, so you'll hit invisible walls often and hear repetitive audio tied to completing your task. Some adventuring elements are fun, like racing, but others are boring (such as collecting apples). There are also several cutscenes you have to sit through, which include painfully fake dialogue with your son, spouse, and master (as you'll see at the start of the game). Also, the long load screens really start to annoy, and don't seem to have any explanation as to why they're so lengthy.
Gameplay does get more interesting when you encounter (and then play as) other fighters, and the story takes a few twists and turns. Again, there's a ton of content here, but by the time you get to the fourth section, Majin Buu Saga, you realize the game doesn't really build up to anything significant. It's just more of the same. For the most part, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot -- while pretty, long, and easy to control -- eventually comes off as a somewhat bloated collection of gameplay mechanics that doesn't really excel at any one of them. Die-hard fans of the franchise may disagree, and that's OK, but if the game developers are looking to broaden the appeal of this beloved series and amass new fans, this isn't the title to pull it off.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sex, gender, and body image. Should players be concerned that there are characters considered to be "perverts," that like reading adult magazines, and that have questionable approaches to women? Does it bother anyone that the main protagonist goes home and asks his wife to make him lunch? Is this fine? Are people concerned about this being too sensitive?
Is the impact of the violence in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot affected by the lack of blood and gore? Would adding more realistic elements (including blood and gore) make battles more intense, or would it break an already fantasy-focused presentation where flying, energy blasts, and rapid dashes are the norm?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Bandai Namco
- Release date: January 17, 2020
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: T for Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
- Last updated: March 2, 2020
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