Thoughts On Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot's Frieza Saga Adaptation

Last month, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot was released for Nintendo Switch. This semi-open world game puts you in the shoes of Goku, Gohan, and the rest of the Z Warriors for a retelling of the four main Dragon Ball Z sagas: the Saiyan Saga, the Frieza Saga, the Cell Saga, and the Buu Saga. You can look forward to a complete review as well as gameplay guides to Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot but first, let's break down how this game by Bandai Namco adapts Akira Toriyama's iconic story. In this second installment, we break down the game's adaptation of the Frieza Saga. You can read up on the Saiyan Saga adaptation here.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot graphic. Credit: Bandai NAMCO
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot graphic. Credit: Bandai Namco

The Frieza Saga is one of the most celebrated storylines in all of anime but also has been the subject of parody due to the long and drawn-out climax between Goku and Frieza. The countdown to the destruction of Namek, which was meant to last just minutes, seemed to last an eternity. I was curious how Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot would handle this specifically because it does have to be an iconic and intense battle, but drawing it out too long would make for tedious gameplay. Let's dial back a bit, though.

Gohan & Puar in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Credit: Bandai NAMCO
Gohan & Puar in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Credit: Bandai Namco

A brief intermission

One of the major differences between the story of the anime and manga and the way everything plays out in the game is what happens in-between sagas. We get a lot of time, if we take advantage of it, to go through slice-of-life adventures back on Earth while Goku heals up. This sort of "peacetime" gameplay between sagas will be an ongoing and incredibly enjoyable aspect of the game. This leads to interactions with characters who get next to no screen time during Dragon Ball Z at this point, including Puar, Launch, and more. My favorite of these side quests was when Oolong thought he saw the ghost of Yamcha. We investigate as Gohan and discover that Puar is shape-shifting into Yamcha while he's gone to maintain his reputation with the ladies until he can he wished back. It's a hilarious bit that actually turns into an emotional moment when Puar receives a message from Yamcha that puts her heart at ease.

Goku saves Gohan. Credit: Bandai NAMCO
Goku saves Gohan. Credit: Bandai Namco

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot takes us to Namek

Bandai Namco does an incredible job of creating the same intrigue that the anime did as Gohan, Krillin, and Bulma head to Namek. From here, the main beats of the storyline play out as they did in the iconic story, with filler that didn't appear in the manga, such as the excursion on Fake Namek, entirely cut out. Kakarot chooses to let the filler be the slice-of-life stuff I mentioned before rather than what the anime went for, which I think is a strong choice. The trip to Namek maintains the open-world feel, but the intensity of the storyline will make players want to keep advancing in the main arc.

Vegeta on Namek. Credit: Bandai NAMCO
Vegeta on Namek. Credit: Bandai Namco

Playing as Vegeta

The most exciting aspect of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot's take on the Frieza Saga was expanding Vegeta to a playable character. We get to fight as the Saiyan Prince as he takes on Dodoria, Zarbon, and the Zarbon once again. It's a bit of a POV-frenzy as we play as Krillin who obtains a Dragon Ball from Guru and then almost immediately after we play as Vegeta who then steals that Dragon Ball. I enjoyed it, though, and found that playing as Vegeta, who is a brutal brawler, was incredibly fun. Being able to fire off a Galick Gun rather than just fending one off as Vegeta's enemy was a blast.

This marks the beginning of Vegeta's redemption as he begins to join Goku, Gohan, and Krillin's circle. He obsesses over the idea of being/not being Super Saiyan in the dialogue, which does a lot to build toward what we know is coming.

Super Saiyan Goku in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Credit: Bandai NAMCO
Super Saiyan Goku in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Credit: Bandai Namco

Goku vs. Frieza

Like the anime, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot creates a huge amount of tension with how it uses Goku. Goku arrives at major moments and the game makes it feel like a major spectacle. His role here is outwardly heroic and he doesn't see Frieza as he saw Vegeta. He spared Vegeta last saga not because he was merciful, but more because he wanted a rematch. With Frieza, Goku isn't here for fun: he's taking this one very seriously. This lends a lot of weight to the gameplay as Goku and playing through the intense moments like Vegeta's death, Krillin's death, and Goku's transformation into Super Saiyan makes you feel like you're part of this beloved world.

Super Saiyans look incredible in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. During battle, they glow not only in their hair but also in the darker lineart of their bodies, which makes them look like glowing, golden gods. The fights with Frieza are intense but are concise, with the exact right moments picked to capture the core of the story with player satisfaction at the forefront.

Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Credit: Bandai NAMCO
Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Credit: Bandai Namco

It brings a tear to the eye! With incredible graphics, intense gameplay, and a perfect sense of which moments make this arc the epic that it is, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot adapts The Frieza Saga to perfection.

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About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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