As soon as 2020 kicked off, we already had a winner for one of the most handsome games of the year. Dragon Ball Z Kakarot was a visual slobber-knocker, amping up the action of the cult classic action franchise and giving any a familiar scene a loving restoration that was as loud as it was bright. It shouldn’t be surprising to revel in the anime anarchy of this game, as Bandai Namco roped in CyberConnect 2 to helm the game.
Having already perfected their craft with multiple Naruto games (Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 still looks ungodly in the graphical department), CyberConnect2 knows a thing or two about making a two-dimensional art style sparkle when giving their in-house 3D makeover. The end result, was a Dragon Ball game that looked better than the anime could ever dream of, as several key scenes from Goku’s journey were reconstructed and boosted to well over 9000 in the looks department.
And yet, I don’t think those anime-inspired visuals can hold a candle to CyberConnect2’s early approach for the game, which was far more faithful to Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama’s iconic manga that gave birth to Son Goku and his wild world. According to Japanese website CG World via Ken Xyro on Twitter (and published on March 31 so I don’t think this is an April Fool’s joke), CyberConnect2’s Dragon Ball pitch to Bandai Namco dated all the way back to 2014 and included an early prototype wherein the art style was more subdued and featured thicker cel-shading that sought to emulate Toriyama’s original manga.
Here’s what the game might have looked like:
So what gives? How did we go from watercolour aesthetics to brighter and more vibrant explosions of colour and ki? According to CyberConnect2, the combination of colour bleeding and grainy paper textures may have been nice to look at it when Goku and his world weren’t in motion, but the second that he blasted off and started throwing out Spirit Bomb attacks then things changed. The unique aesthetics simply didn’twork as fluidly as what CyberConnect2 hoped for, leading to a change in production that placed more emphasis on the anime style than the manga inspiration.
“We struggled with the fusion of visual concept and gameplay,” game director Akihiro Anai said in a dodgy usage of Google Translate so bear with me here.
The goal was to create a positive world view that would expand the memories of the people who played the game.
Overall, Dragon Ball Z Kakarot still looks resplendent in all of its anime glory. I’ll always wonder just what a more manga-influenced version of the game would look like, but if CyberConnect2 couldn’t nail the design and performance of that idea then you can just imagine how challenging it really was. Dragon Ball Z Kakarot is out right now, in case you’re in the mood for pure anime junk food that’s well worth shovelling into your gaping maw.
Last Updated: April 1, 2020