Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Interview -- Director and Producer Talk Open World, Learning from the Naruto Storm Series, and More

The team behind Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot promises that the single-player RPG will not let fans of the anime and manga down.

With Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot being the first single-player RPG from the Dragon Ball Z series in years, but fans still know very little about the upcoming title. Last week, Bandai Namco finally revealed the name of the title as well as our first look at gameplay. DualShockers had the chance to sit down with Producer Hara Ryosuke and Director Kimoto Kazuki at E3 2019 to talk all things Kakarot. Here is our full discussion:

Jordan: The first thing I wanted to know, now that I’ve gotten my hands on the game, can you tell me a little bit about the new combat system in the game? I’m assuming that you’ll be primarily playing as Goku. How can fans expect to grow their skill set as Goku when most of us know his moves, techniques, quips, things like that?  

Hara Ryosuke (Producer): So in terms of Goku’s character progression and growth obviously I think a lot of the fans do know the moves, like the Kaioken form and Super Saiyan. This game follows the main storyline very faithfully. So that element of growth, I do not think there will be too many surprises, however, with this being an RPG there’s going to be experience and you’ll be able to level up.

You can gain other traits like more flying exploration, you can train your character, there’s going to be characters who work with you towards a common goal and one big gameplay mechanic involved with character progression and combat is the food. So Goku can eat and I think a lot of times in an RPG you’ll get a thirty-minute buff if you consume food or regen your HP but Goku will get permanent stat buffs or something of that effect, a permanent effect depending on how the player feeds Goku. So there’s this core game cycle of keeping fed.

J: Can you give me any hints at all on extra playable characters? You have those iconic scenes that are defined by Gohan and Vegeta, there are moments in the anime and manga where Goku isn’t the hero. If you can give me anything, how will the game make up for those story beats? 

HR: This has been a point that comes up a lot. I’ve seen the chatter about it. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal too many details today, having said that we believe this will become a very good experience that won’t let down the fans’ expectations. I’ll leave you with that.

J: Did the team ever consider starting with the Dragon Ball storyline and maybe going into Dragon Ball Z. Why did you decide to revisit the story of as opposed to something like Dragon Ball Super, as Super’s a little more in the public eye right now. What made you want to retell this tale that has been told so many times? What did you think you could bring to it that’s different this time around? 

HR: As you mentioned, I think a lot of people’s consciousness is more with Dragon Ball Super or more recently Dragon Ball Super: Broly. I think a lot of it has to do with timing. If there are new fans joining the Dragon Ball community from Super or from Broly, that is, as you mentioned, very fresh in their minds. Because of this timing we wanted to actually go for Dragon Ball Z and bring this into a new generation.

I think it’s easy to say, we all know this storyline, the sagas, but what we discovered through examining what story to tell is that a lot of people forgot, aside from major scenes, little details that happened in between. Dragon Ball Z is very well known for battles and scenes between the characters we love, but there’s a lot of elements with their daily lives and character growth, this idea of having comrades supporting each other. A lot of people have forgotten and forming a clean slate to retelling that story, shining the spotlight on Goku as the hero in the entire Z Saga. I think there’s a kind of beauty in that which we wanted to bring it back as an RPG.

J: Kazuki-san, can you tell me a little bit about what the team at CyberConnect2 has learned from developing the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series another iconic anime and manga. Going into Dragon Ball and creating an open-world whereas Naruto was more of a fighting game, did this present any new challenges? 

Kimoto Kazuki (Director): I think one of the biggest defining characteristics of a lot of Dragon Ball fights is the aerial combat, which really wasn’t as much present in the Naruto franchise. Kind of balancing this land and air expression of combat, I think that was a really big challenge for the CyberConnect team to bring to life. I think what we were able to use from our experience developing Ninja Storm is, of course, that feeling when you’re in the heat of battle, that kind of translates well into the Dragon Ball universe.

I think another kind of piece of knowledge that the team was able to use were the cell shading techniques and technology we have at CyberConnect2. We, of course, really developed it during the Naruto Storm franchise, and after receiving a lot of praise in the past, when we went to translate the Dragon Ball visual style from the anime into the 3D game space there are ways that shadows hit Goku’s face, how you kind of see a highlight in the Dragon Ball franchise. It’s a slightly different form of lighting expression than you have with Naruto. The Naruto team, what they have developed, used that knowledge and were able to pay very close attention to detail. We think, how do we interpret this character and recreate them in a cell-shaded environment? A lot of that cell-shading knowledge translated well into bringing Dragon Ball into 3D.

J: Can we expect the Instant Transmission technique to make an appearance with the open world sections of the game, are they going to be very expansive or broken apart. Will we be able to transport ourselves once Goku learns that in the canonical timeline? Will we be able to go to different areas that are also very open, like Namek for instance, when it’s reborn from the Dragon Balls? Will we be able to use things like the Hyperbolic Time Chamber to gain experience and level up? Do you plan on incorporating things like this that fans will probably come to appreciate in the RPG? 

HR: First, I kind of want to mention I don’t think this is a true open world in the way we’ve kind of come to understand the definition of an open world today. There are several very large and wide expansive areas or zones if you will where you can experience different sagas of the Goku story. They’ll be unlocked as you progress through the narrative.

To kind of give you a visual sense of how this is going to work; when you played the demo you saw that one area that Goku was interacting and progressing the story in. If you continue to ascend you’ll zoom out into this world map interface. From which point you choose an area and dive into that. So that’s how the areas and zones are connected.

J: In that regard, did you look at other games that kind of allowed that like Budokai 3 or the Legacy of Goku series. I have wondered if you’re taking things from those games and giving them a modern touch. 

HR: So I wouldn’t necessarily say we heavily leaned on or were inspired by past interpretations of the universe or video games. I think this game has a very unique balance of characteristics of its own and it offers a very unique experience to the player.

J: Can you tell us how far the story will go? Do we stop at Frieza, Cell, or Majin Buu? Did you have any scene, in particular, that was a lot of fun to bring to life?

HR: So to answer your first question, I’m afraid I can’t give you any details at this moment but what I can say is that this game will not let the fans down. So take that however you will. In terms of scenes that I personally really liked in this game, I think we got a glimpse of it in the trailer, we see Goku’s comrades falling over and Goku shows up in an absolutely heroic way, fighting Nappa and absolutely destroying him.

J: In terms of designing sidequests and things throughout the world, how did the team approach that, did you think about Goku waking up and what he’d be doing in the day? How did you fill in those gaps between missions? I saw a little bit of that in my demo, is there more surprises to be found, are there references to filler episodes like when Goku and Picollo learn how to drive, things that are more than fighting something, collect something, etc.? 

HR: In terms of filling that world out with respect to the sidequests, we start by thinking, okay well in the world of Dragon Ball we see this happening on-camera what’s happening outside of that scope, what are the other characters doing. That’s where we draw our inspiration from. In addition, we introduce some characters that maybe shouldn’t be in the universe interacting with adult Goku. We try and integrate a lot of these character combinations that perhaps shouldn’t be allowed to exist or are happening off camera which really add depth to that side content.

J: Is this a title that you plan on supporting with additional storylines, episodes, whatever you’d like to call out? Do you want to keep building this game even after its release? Can you give us any hints on DLC, costumes, episodes that you might want to take on?

HR: Our DLC plans as of right now are very fuzzy and I can’t really comment too much on what that’ll entail. In terms of, since you mentioned costumes, what I can highlight is that our intent with the experience was first a faithful recreation of the Dragon Ball Z experience, the extent of the costume changer is going to follow the storyline very closely. We really tried to lift the anime and drop that experience into the game. There isn’t a plan to have a fully customizable or wide range of costumes.

With that said, there’s still a lot of stuff about this game that we haven’t been able to talk about thus far so I can only tell you to stay tuned for more exciting announcements.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot will be launching for PS4, Xbox One, and PC in early 2020. For more on the game you can check out my preview on the demo I played at E3 2019.

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Jordan Boyd

Jordan Boyd is a Staff Writer at DualShockers, specializing in indie games, RPGs and shooting titles. He's majoring in journalism at Stony Brook University on Long Island. During the 7th console generation, Jordan faced a crippling blow with the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines that scarred him for life.

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