It feels as though the number of new-gen updates for PS4/Xbox One games has been on the rise lately, and mileage tends to vary a lot on just how far each title goes in taking advantage of new hardware, and what the cost of entry ends up being. Some games, like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, represent a massive overhaul with substantial facelifts as well as functional improvements on top while others, Persona 5 Royal being a prime example, are little more than slight bumps up in fidelity or performance – I’ll let you guess which one of those was given to existing players for free and which required a completely new purchase.
That’s where Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot comes in. Released today on PS5 and currently delayed for Xbox Series X|S but coming soon, the new-gen update for CyberConnect2’s relatively well-received RPG based on the cherished Dragon Ball Z story gives the game a boost in visual quality on top of improved performance and comes at no added cost for those that already own it.
I only ever dabbled in Kakarot when it first launched in 2020, but it’s a game I’d been meaning to come back to since. As someone who grew up watching DBZ specifically on Cheez TV before school (and after suffering through Aerobics Oz Style because I’d eagerly switch the TV on too early) it’s probably the first Dragon Ball video game I’ve had a genuine interest in engaging with in a very long time. It’s also very decent, making good use of the source material and capturing the vibe of the series while offering a genuinely fun pseudo-open world JRPG with an exciting action battle system reminiscent of the Budokai Tenkaichi games I used to play on the PS2.
Luckily, thanks to an early code from our friends at Bandai Namco I’ve finally had an excuse to go back to the game on PS5 and not only is it still every bit as fun as when I first gave it a crack, it now looks and plays significantly better. For starters, there’s a new Performance visual mode that boosts the framerate up to 60fps from its original 30fps on the last generation of consoles, which on its own is a massive plus. It probably goes without saying but Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s fast-paced arena fighter-style combat benefits hugely from the added fluidity and response, and looks incredible in action to boot. Oddly enough there is still a 30fps “Quality” option but in attempting to compare the two (you can’t switch it on the fly, sadly) I honestly couldn’t see what I was losing in the Performance setting aside from a touch of sharpness.
It’s not just fidelity or performance benefits in this version of the game either though, CyberConnect2 has gone back and reworked a lot of the visual assets and effects to take advantage of the more powerful hardware too. Lighting is an immediately obvious one, helping the game’s landscapes look much more dynamic with richer and warmer light coming from the sun, better-looking and more accurate shadows, greater effect draw distances and more. Foliage is more lush, trees are more plentiful, textures and geometry in the environment are more detailed and even character models have had a bump up in quality. Aside from some of the base ground textures in the world still looking a bit flat in areas without a lot of grass coverage, the whole look is radically transformed in a lot of ways. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to recover my PS4 save in order to make a direct comparison but this screen from the developers speaks volumes:
The only thing I really feel has been missing from my experience with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot on the PS5 thus far is any kind of DualSense integration. It would’ve been cool to be able to feel Goku, Piccolo, Vegeta and the rest charging up their attacks with haptic feedback or feeling the pulse of a well-placed Kamehameha or Big Bang Attack in the adaptive triggers. It’s not the end of the world, but at a time where most games updated for PS5 introduce some degree of DualSense support it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. At the very least, we do get save transfers and a second trophy list that will auto-populate with anything you’ve already unlocked, making the upgrade worth downloading for trophy hunters as well.
I also haven’t quite had the time to burn through the game’s newest expansion, -Bardock- Alone Against Fate, which also dropped alongside the new-gen upgrade as an additional purchase, but I’m keen to get stuck into it as soon as I can. Overall though, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going back to Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot and the game’s new-gen upgrade is exactly what it should be – relatively substantial and without requiring a second purchase.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s new-gen update is available now on PS5, free for owners of the PS4 version or available in the below physical/digital editions: