Gaming

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot review: Super fan service

A kamehameha that deals damage, but doesn’t finish the fight

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Growing up, I have always wanted to be a Super Saiyan. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, through a video game, has afforded me that experience.

In case it’s not clear from that first sentence, I am absolutely a Dragon Ball fan. That’s precisely why there’s plenty about this game that appealed to me. However, if you’re only vaguely familiar with the generation-defining anime then this might not be for you.

Goku to the rescue

The staple role-playing game (RPG) elements are present but something about this game makes it feel like it’s not a full-pledged RPG. Regardless, it’s still a fun game with a heavy dose of fan service.

Live like a Saiyan

Flying aimlessly as Son Gohan was an extremely satisfying experience for me. Yes, Gohan. He’s my favorite character. He’s also the son of the titular character Son Goku who’s Saiyan name is Kakarot.

The less spectacular parts of the game — which include a bit of free roaming, collecting orbs, and substories that were mainly fetch quests or quick battles — would not have been enjoyable if this hadn’t been about Dragon Ball.

The flying doesn’t feel fluid. But it made up for it with the sheer fact that I got to fly around as the heroes from my childhood. I was so giddy to find out little details like how far is the Sons’ house to Orange City where Gohan went to school, as well as where the Kame House is in relation to Capsule Corp and West City were.

The infamous car-filler episode is in this game

Going around the world of Dragon Ball and interacting with its side characters were such a fun experience for me. The game itself is already one huge nostalgia-trip, but as you free roam, you’ll also find orbs that tell quick stories from episodes of the original Dragon Ball series. This piles on the nostalgia even more.

Flashy but simple combat

Speaking of free roaming, scattered all around the world of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (DBZ:K) are the Z orbs. These orbs come in different colors and all you’ll spend them on unlocking your characters’ skill tree.

The skills are divided in attacks, know-hows, and transformations. Some skills will be unlocked as you progress in the story, while others need to be learned by collecting D Medals that you then spend on training grounds to learn new skills.

The DBZ: K skill tree

On combat itself, if you’ve played any game from the Naruto Ultimate Series, then the controls should be familiar. There’s a combination of melee and ki attacks, ki recharge, and dodging (which in Dragon Ball standards is really cool AF).

Kamehameha!

Press L1 and you’ll gain access to your Super Attacks — also a combination of melee and ki attacks. You can customize this to fit your style. Press R1 and you’ll see the Super support attacks. These are only available when you have one or two more characters in your party.

There are enough variations in the boss and story fights to keep combat interesting. The same isn’t true for the random battle encounters. Thankfully, you don’t really need to do many of those because the EXP is almost inconsequential in comparison to the ones you get on the main story and the side quests.

Vegeta getting the shock of his life after being bested by Android 18

Side quests are fun fillers 

The side quests, when broken down to its basic structure, is nothing more than fetch quests. But it was still fun because you get to meet all the other side characters both from Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. 

It’s also important that you jump into the side quests as soon as they appear. Each one provides a significant amount of EXP. It’s true that just going through the story itself will net you enough EXP to finish the game. But having a few extra is never a bad thing and helps going through enemies a lot easier.

Some side quests will ask you to go fishing — a callback to the first Dragon Ball episode

The side stories will also provide you with the characters’ Soul Emblems. These emblems fit in different community boards. Each community board provides stat boosts for everything you do in the game. The Z Warrior community will raise your support characters’ abilities, the Cooking community increases the stat boosts from eating, the Training community provides combat boosts, etc.

There are also portions of the game where you get to collect the Dragon Balls and make wishes that range from bringing back old foes to life so you can fight them again for EXP boosts, to wishing for more Zeni (money in this game), Z orbs, and rare items.

Dragon Balls collected. Time to make a wish!

Dramatic recreation of key Dragon Ball Z moments

Seeing the iconic moments of the series recreated in DBZ:K was such a treat. It reignited whatever emotional connection I had with the series. That’s especially true since a lot of these moments I saw when I was still just a stupid kid screaming my lungs out trying to turn Super Saiyan.

Goku turns Super Saiyan for the first time

I was primetime viewing for us back then and nearly everyone I knew watched the series. I still remember how our Taekwondo instructor told us to not worry about missing a particular episode because Gohan isn’t turning Super Saiyan yet. I also remember how a friend was disgusted with how Frieza skewered Krillin. And then there’s how my basketball buddies and I crashed a friends’ place just to catch the latest episode after we’re done playing.

A memorable and meme-staple scene featuring Yamcha

So many memories recreated wonderfully with some additional details. There are even a few easter eggs that plenty of hard core fans will spot. For instance, there’s a quick part that has something to do with Launch and you get this scene.

The game is aware of Akira Toriyama’s memory gap

Launch is a character that was introduced in the original series but was noticeably missing in DBZ. When asked later on why she was barely present, Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama said he simply forgot about her. It’s little details like these that I’m sure hardcore fans will appreciate.

Wish granted for DBZ fans 

There’s no denying it, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the ultimate fan service video game. As an RPG, it’s… alright. There is nothing here that’s ground-breaking and some aspects of the game need improvement.

Standoff. Goku faces Vegeta for the first time

Regardless, it still makes for a very enjoyable experience for DBZ fans — which I suspect is a massive number of people given how Bandai Namco is able to come out with a new game almost every year.

Epic rivalry

If you’re curious about Dragon Ball and are only vaguely familiar with it, then this might not be for you. But for hardcore fans who can’t get enough of this cultural phenomenon, this game is like getting hit with a Kamehameha of fan service.

Gaming

Ghost of Tsushima review: Making of a legend

A samurai’s journey

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Vengeful Samurai
Rids his land of invaders
Haunting. Like a ghost

Ghost of Tsushima is the last major PlayStation 4 exclusive before the PlayStation 5 hits the shelves. It has the unenviable task of closing a chapter in gaming, and it does so with a lot of heart and subtle flair.

You play as Jin Sakai — a samurai who survived the first confrontation against the Mongols. Among the samurais in the battlefield, it was only you and your uncle Lord Shimura who survived the attack, with many believing you had also fallen in battle.

KOMODO BEACH. Samurais clash against Mongols early in the game.

Your mission is to take the island back by any means necessary. Sometimes, that means going against the way of the samurai which you had dedicated your life to.

The story has several beats but the dilemma between tradition and progression is a constant theme. Many tales along the way reveal that people haven’t always stayed true to tradition, and how that’s not always necessarily a bad thing.

Fight like a samurai

Combat takes a lot of patience, discipline and precision. Especially during the early stages of the game where you’ll really have to rely on your skills to get through enemies.

I thought I had already learned to take my time in combat with a few previous games I played. However, my general lack of patience worked against me. Timing your parries can be hard even with visual cues from your opponents. Either that or my timing is just plain terrible.

Once you get the hang of combat, you’ll develop a thirst for battle. This is because the game does a good job of rewarding you with every successful execution.

You gain resolve with each kill. Resolve is what you use to replenish your health. So if you’re low on health and resolve, you’re actually encouraged to go into battle so you can live to fight another day.

You’ll also encounter different types of enemies. Each one can be dealt with more easily by using a certain sword stance.

You’ll acquire all four stances as you progress to the game, but you will definitely encounter foes you don’t have the exact stance for. This is where your parrying and dodging skills will really be put to test.

Stone, Water, Wind, and Moon – these are your fighting stances

There’s also a stand-off mode where you call out an opponent and you face each other head on. It’s pretty easy at first but, again, timing gets complicated when your opponent starts adding feints to throw you off.

Lastly, there are duels. It’s mostly reserved for key story moments or when acquiring certain mythic items. In terms of combat execution, it’s pretty much the same except your opponent won’t go down after a few thrusts and slashes.

Haunt like a ghost

You don’t always have to face your enemies head-on. You are, after all, trying to take down an entire invasion. Certain tales or missions require that you strike from the shadows. This is where your ghost skills and tools come in.

Much like the sword stances, it will take progressing through the game to unlock all the ghost skills and tools. Skills like focused hearing alter your surroundings so you can tell where each target is at. You move slowly at first but you earn skill points as you build your legend to unlock more skills.

The ghost tools are unlocked after certain points in the story. Some of them aid you in assassinations but some can be also used in direct combats. One especially useful tool is the smoke bomb.

You will inevitably face a horde of Mongols at certain points with a bunch of them attacking you almost simultaneously. Dropping a smoke bomb confuses your opponents and leaves them open to one slash or one thrust kills.

If you’ve played older Assassin’s Creed titles, raiding strongholds and assassinations will feel familiar in Ghost of Tsushima. Approaching from high ground, creating distractions to misdirect attention, all in the service of that slit-throat kill — all these come into play when attacking stealthily.

Every tale adds to your legend 

Ghost of Tsushima probably has the best side-quests in games released from the last two years. Everything you do in the island is interconnected and is aided by environmental cues.

To get to certain shrines you follow either a fox or a yellow bird. The fox only really guides you to the Inari shrines which help open up charm slots to aid you in battle.

Meanwhile, the bird guides you to mostly every other objective — be it an item you can retrieve, a spot to reflect and write a haiku, or the next tale to tackle to continue Jin’s journey.

The game offers a style of play where you rely solely on these things to progress. For an open-world game done as well as Ghost of Tsushima, that’s a perfect way to get lost in its world.

The island of Tsushima is divided into three main areas. The main story will have you progressing towards the north of the island to ultimately rid the place of Mongol forces. But progressing through the story is only half the fun.

The island is teeming with stories that range from gut-wrenching to light-hearted moments to help balance the general grief everyone in the island feels.

Ghost of Tsushima_20200708233214

The side quests do not seem like side quests at all. Each one feels like a small chapter in the bigger story that is being told. Tales from villagers will have you facing off against bandits or taking down Mongol strongholds.

There are also tales corresponding to key characters — allies in your battle to liberate Tsushima. All of which reveal an unexpected truth with each character. The way of the samurai is held in such high regard, but some of the tales will show how even those devoted to that path can stray from it.

Slay in subtle style

Everything about Ghost of Tsushima’s style and visuals is just absolutely stunning to me. Persona 5 was lauded for being a very loud and stylish depiction of modern Japan, this game should be lauded about style but for a different reason.

First, the environment. I’ve seen people talk about grass mechanics. Honestly, it’s not one of the things I usually look at when playing, but rest assured this game does it right just as well as the best ones.

It is, after all, built upon the idea that you can explore the island with a minimal game hub. This is so you can take in Tsushima in all its glory and explore every nook and cranny of the island to your heart’s desire.

The color palette of the game’s menu screen is also extremely satisfying. It’s mostly neutral colors highlighted with red or yellow/gold. It certainly took a minimalistic approach — a characteristic that most associate with Japan.

The Mythic Tales are also done exquisitely. These tales net you key items or techniques — all born from the legendary stories told amongst Tsushima’s inhabitants. In this case, you search the island for musicians who will tell the tale.

Each tale is told with the visual aid of Sumi-e or Japanese Ink Painting. Every tale feels epic as it is being told, and each item or technique learned in the pursuit of each tale proves incredibly useful in battle.

Everything flows seamlessly

Every single element in Ghost of Tsushima flows seamlessly. From combat to exploration, absolutely nothing feels out of place. It all makes sense within the confines of the story.

There are no mindless fetch quests or fighting for no reason. You roam different parts of the island with the ultimate goal of freeing it from the Mongols’ control. This, while also dealing with bandits and traitors — which also goes to show how not even a single, formidable enemy can unite a people.

You will deal with many emotions as you progress through the game. The constant tug of war between the traditional ways of the samurai and the necessity to fight in the shadows is reflected in many different tales of the story. It’s the theme that, at its facade, feels old and tired, but is given new life and deeper meaning in the story.

Being the sole surviving samurai following the initial Mongol siege, you turn into the de facto hero. Jin, naturally, was reluctant at first. But as his legend grows, so does the hope of the people that they can indeed fight back and reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

This hope is forged through your countless exploits around Tsushima. Freeing one area after another, taking down strongholds, and using both all you learned as a samurai and the ghost methods you’re forced into by necessity — all of it adds to one grand legend. The legend that is the Ghost of Tsushima.


Ghost of Tsushima will launch on the PS4 on July 17, 2020

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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla scheduled for November release

Bashing your way through old England in November

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Ubisoft had another huge announcement to make during their Ubisoft Forward digital conference. The next installment of their Assassin’s Creed franchise now is slated for a November release.

Furthermore, it will be available for the current and next generation consoles alike, expanding its player base even further.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is set for release on November 17, 2020 initially for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC through both the Epic Games Store and Ubisoft Store. It explores a brand new saga of heroism and lore, complete with new features apt for the times.

You play as Evior, the Viking leader traversing through broken kingdoms with an entire clan on his back. In your adventure, you will bash, dismember, and decapitate your way through a variety of enemies to rule all of England.

The game will also make its debut on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X upon their release. If you plan to purchase the PS4 or Xbox One version of the game, Ubisoft has an offer for you.

You can actually trade-in that copy of the game for the PS5 or Xbox Series X version, if you wish to do so. That is of course, if you plan to buy the next-gen consoles upon launch.

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Far Cry 6 takes on fascist government featuring Breaking Bad star

More games announced as well

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Earlier today, Ubisoft announced a flurry of games through a digital conference called Ubisoft Forward. Though already leaked prior to the event, one of the biggest titles to make an appearance was the next major entry in the Far Cry series, Far Cry 6.

As always, player characters are thrown into a hellish landscape and unwittingly tasked with taking down an oppressive government. Further, the new entry continues the trend from Far Cry 5 wherein the settings are caricatures of real-world dystopias. In Far Cry 5, players took on a doomsday cult in rural America. In Far Cry 6, players will take on Yara, a corrupt Latin American government.

However, unlike Far Cry 5, Far Cry 6 will once again feature a named and voiced character, Dani Rojas, who can be customized as either male or female. Further, the most striking addition to the series is who the main baddie is.

Anton Castillo, the dictator of Yara (and main antagonist) is played by Giancarlo Esposito. You will likely recognize him as Gus Fring from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. In those critically acclaimed series, Esposito brilliantly plays a drug kingpin masquerading as the big boss of a successful chicken restaurant chain.

Marking the first entry in the next generation of consoles, Far Cry 6 will launch on February 18, 2021 for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia.

Ubisoft also announced that Gold, Ultimate and Collector’s Editions for Far Cry 6 will be available for pre-order

  • The Gold Edition will include the base game and the Season Pass.
  • The Ultimate Edition will include the base game, the Season Pass, and the Ultimate pack, which includes Jungle Expedition pack, the Croc Hunter pack, and the Vice pack.
  • The Collector’s Edition will include the base game, Season Pass, the Ultimate pack, a high-end replica of “Tostador”, the flamethrower weapon from the game**** (7 parts to be assembled, length: 72cm), a “How to Assemble” one-pager artwork illustrated by famous artist Tobatron, a unique Collector’s Case based on Tobatron’s iconic art style, an exclusive Steelbook®, a 64-page Artbook, a set of 10 stickers, a Chorizo keyring, a map and a selected Soundtrack of the Game.

Fans who pre-order Far Cry 6 will get access to the Libertad Pack which includes the “Libertad Outfit” for Chorizo and the state-of-the-art “Discos Locos”, a weaponized disc launcher that will make enemies dance on their own graves.

Fans who purchase Far Cry 6 on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 will be able to upgrade their version to next gen at no additional cost at the launch of the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5.

For players looking for an introduction to the Far Cry series, the Franchise Sale starts July 13, with prices starting as low as US$3 across multiple retailers.

Besides Far Cry 6, Ubisoft also announced more details for Watch Dogs: Legion. According a new trailer, the hacking roleplaying game will allow players to recruit anyone in the game world as a hacktivist. The number of possible recruits supposedly number in the millions, marking a new way to play the game.

In other news, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla got a new gameplay trailer. Ubisoft also announced its take on the battle royale genre, Hyper Space.

SEE ALSO: Sony finally reveals what the PlayStation 5 looks like

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