Anime smash Dragon Ball has captivated audiences around the globe with its charming characters, gripping story and, of course, battles. With Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot releasing this month, we thought it a great time to look back at some of the outstanding entries so far in the franchise’s games history.

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (2002)
PS2 GameCube
This was one of the first major Dragon Ball Z video game titles. Players started off as Goku/Kakarot and fought against his Saiyan brother Raditz, before working their way through to playing as Gohan and taking on Perfect Cell.

The gameplay of Budokai was much like the established Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter series, with two attack buttons, one to block and another for energy projection. Entering certain button combinations would have your character let loose their signature moves.

Another inclusion was an energy bar that, if drained, would prevent players from being able to use their energy attacks/transform and multiple health bars, making each battle as thrilling as their TV show equivalents. After defeating a character in the story mode, they would then be unlocked for the game’s multiplayer and world tournament modes.

This really was a great introductory title for Dragon Ball Z fans.

Dragon Ball Z: KakarotDragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 (2004)
PS2
You want more characters? OK! Budokai 3 increased the playable character count from the original Budokai’s 23 to 42.

The story mode was also revamped, with players able to fly around a small world looking for Dragon Balls between missions, where collecting all seven would grant a wish. Budokai 3 also introduced Dragon Ball Z movie, Dragon Ball GT and Dragon Ball characters into the game world, allowing participants to play as Goku SS4, Demon King Piccolo and Broly.

The story mode also encompassed the entire Dragon Ball Z saga from Season 1 (The Saiyan Saga) through to Season 9 (The Buu Saga). As well as allowing players to create their own move set and transformations for their favourite characters, Budokai 3 also introduced many new mechanics for the series, such as the Beam Struggle. With this, if two beam attacks collided, the beams would crash together and the player would rotate the thumbsticks in order to push against their enemy. This worked great for couch versus, and (almost) totally justified breaking a controller!

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 1/Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (2015/2016)
PS3 Xbox 360 PS4 Xbox One PC/PS4 Switch PC
There were several Dragon Ball games released between 2004 to 2016, such as the Budokai Tenkaichi series and Raging Blast, but these were much like liquorice, you either love it or hate it.

In 2015, Dragon Ball Xenoverse dropped, allowing players to create their own character in the Dragon Ball universe and head back in time to save the timeline. The Xenoverse games brought RPG qualities to Dragon Ball, with players selecting a race (Saiyan, Human, Frieza, Namek or Majin) and creating their own characters, using whichever moves they wanted.

“Rather than being a traditional fighting game, the combat of Xenoverse is completely different.”

In the first Xenoverse, the online community was full of Saiyans, because they had the ability to buff their stats by going Super Saiyan. Xenoverse 2 gave each race an ability transformation in some way to buff their stats, evening up the playing field.

Xenoverse 2 still has an active community online today, and the most recently released DLC was a Dragon Ball Super: Broly movie mission and character set. Rather than being a traditional fighting game, the combat of Xenoverse is completely different. The camera is third person, and players must lock on to targets, as each battle takes place in a small sandbox arena. Players can perform giant ultimate abilities, become pupils to their favourite characters, and even play in dungeon-like raids with other players.

Dragon Ball Z: KakarotDragon Ball FighterZ (2018)
PS4 Xbox One Switch, PC
All previous Dragon Ball Z titles were rendered in a 3D environment, and although they looked great, they still appeared a bit weird – much like how The Simpsons: Hit and Run looked compared to the TV show.

In 2018, Dragon Ball FighterZ released, and returned to traditional 2D combat, but with additional flair. The characters were rendered in 2D against 3D backgrounds, and the game looked like it had been pulled straight from Dragon Ball Super.

Meanwhile, the mechanics were more akin to those of the Marvel vs Capcom series of games. Unlike previous titles, players couldn’t power up and transform during combat. Instead, three characters would be chosen to arrive at the fight and transform to their selected form. The gameplay/combat was as quick as the Marvel vs Capcom series, and as colourful as Nintendo’s Splatoon.

Of all the Dragon Ball Z titles available, FighterZ is easily the most accessible for players of any skill, and is even button-mash friendly.

PLAYING THE NEW BALL

Arriving this month on PS4 and Xbox One, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot sees the series take another step towards the RPG mechanics of Xenoverse.

Players again assail the entire Dragon Ball Z story arc, and proceedings commence with the player as Goku, preparing to fight Raditz. There’s a need to complete side missions, eat food (there’s nothing better than hearing Goku complain that he’s hungry!) and actively level up and buff our hero in order to face bosses.

In previous titles, if your target was attacked with enough force, the environment would be damaged. It looked great, but the damage soon disappeared. In Kakarot, if you hit Vegeta so hard that it destroys a mountain (for example), the rubble will remain.

A great addition is that if you’re especially heroic during battle, the Cha-La Head-Cha-La theme will ring out! Also, at the start of the TV series, Goku can’t fly, so he uses the magical Flying Nimbus cloud to get around, and this is the same in Kakarot.

Every small moment in the series – even getting Goku’s driver’s license – is played, and there are also extra missions that reward hardcore fans of the show.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot releases on PS4 and Xbox One on January 17.

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