Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is more than a fighting game

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot isn’t the Dragon Ball game you’re expecting. Over the past decade, publisher Bandai Namco has released a variety of 3D fighting games where you battle through the Dragon Ball Z saga, or a saga of your own making. Kakarot seems similar, but with a heavy dose of RPG thrown in.

There’s a crafting system, a leveling system, and a cooking system. The goal is to power up Goku and prepare him for the tasks ahead. Sometimes this means avoiding the central conflict and doing a side quest — like helping out the Frankenstein’s monster-like android Eighter before battling Raditz.

Or instead of doing any of that, you could just go fishing. It wouldn’t be a real RPG without fishing — as both Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Final Fantasy 15 have recently taught us. But in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, fishing gets to be extra stupid in the best way possible.

We’ve seen Goku fishing in a few different gameplay trailers. If you choose to fish, Goku walks up to a dock on a lake, re-attaches his Saiyan monkey tail (which he inexplicably carries in his gi at all times), and dips it in the water. After a brief moment, a fish will bite (again, this is his tail), and the minigame will begin. After hitting a few buttons in quick succession, Goku flips the fish into the air, jumps up, and kicks it so hard it dies and falls onto the dock.

Here’s a great example of Vegeta fish kicking from IGN’s footage last year.

In Kakarot, you can spend your time doing the dumb nonsense Goku loves to do on and off screen: fishing, eating food, and endangering his small children. You can go on a quest to get Goku’s driver’s license so his wife, Chi-Chi, stops yelling at you. You can spend time in the Dragon Ball world realizing why it’s worth saving, rather than just blowing it up. And all of it goes toward increasing your power in a meaningful way.

Deep RPG elements (as well as side stuff like fishing, or, rather, kicking fish) are big breaks from the traditional Dragon Ball Z game formula, and have the potential to bring in more players who aren’t into fighting games. Either way, most Dragon Ball games aren’t really hardcore fighting games anyway. They’re 3D beat-’em-ups where you battle an arena of Saibamen or take down Frieza for the 100th time. Adding in RPG elements just makes sense.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is the exception rather than the rule, but it isn’t exactly accessible to non-fighting game players — it’s a hardcore fighting game. Most of the other games we’ve gotten over the past 20 years have been some variation of the Dragon Ball Z saga broken up into dozens of fights. And this is what seems so surprising about Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot: It looks like it adds modern, varied game elements into a story people love.

From what I’ve seen so far in promotional materials and gameplay, Kakarot looks like the Dragon Ball Z game fans like me have always wanted. Dragon Ball Z is an anime predominantly about fighting, yes, but it’s the quiet moments — or moments where we watch Goku beat a saber-toothed tiger to death for messing with harmless birds, which we don’t really count as fighting either — with the characters that really sell the show. Without seasons of getting to see Krillin interact with his friends, his numerous deaths and near-death experiences wouldn’t mean as much.

When Dragon Ball Z is good, it can be a real joy, in my life and the lives of thousands of others. I have no idea if the game is going to be good or not. But I do know you can kick a fish to death after luring it into a false sense of security with your old, long-severed monkey tail that’s magically attached to your butt.

And you know what? That’s enough to get me interested.

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