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‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’ beginner’s guide

DRAGON BALL FighterZ - Launch Trailer | PS4, X1, PC
Dragon Ball FighterZ is remarkably easy to pick up, but mastering its various mechanics and combat strategies requires patience, practice, and a good teacher. Unfortunately, Master Roshi isn’t available, so you’ll have to train with Digital Trends. We’ve outlined the basics of Dragon Ball FighterZ and put together some tips that will help you start you down the path to success against A.I., friends, or online players.

The modes

The Lobby

Dragon Ball FighterZ doesn’t feature a main menu. Instead, once you exit the title screen, you’ll be sent into a lobby. From here, you can walk around to various stations in order to play different modes. If you wish, you can also press LT or L2 to teleport to your desired destination. You’ll find other players running around your lobby, and you can trade stickers with premade phrases and challenge each other to pick up a “ring match” at any point.


Though it isn’t mandatory, you should go to the “practice” area of the lobby, which is located in the bottom-left, before you jump into a match online for the first time. This area allows you to fight in training matches against a static target, try special combo challenges, and complete a tutorial that explains many of the game’s systems. The battle tutorial will help you learn the basic fighting mechanics you’ll need to compete in real matches, and provides some strategies for turning the tables on your opponent with special abilities.


DRAGON BALL FighterZ - Story Trailer #1 | X1, PS4, PC

Directly above the practice area, by Bulma’s Capsule Corporation plane, is the story area. As the name would suggest, this is where you play the FighterZ campaign. It’s a chance to try out a variety of characters and earn currency right out of the gate. Special tutorial fights within the mode help you to hone more advanced skills. You may have to ditch some bad habits when you eventually go into an online match, but it’s still a fun way to learn the ropes.

World match

Located at the far end of the lobby (the top), the “world match” option allows you to connect via matchmaking and play in either ranked or casual battles against another player. After the first fight, you have the option to challenge your opponent to a rematch, with a third fight available if you split the first two. Battling in either mode will earn your profile currency called “Zeni,” which can be used to purchase cosmetic items. The ranked mode also counts toward your “BP” total, which helps other players determine your experience with the game.

Local battle

To the right of the world match area is the “local battle” zone. Here, you can face off against other players in local multiplayer matches, put together custom tournaments, or just fight against an A.I. opponent in a quick three-on-three bout. It’s a great option for when you want to train against specific opponents, and you can adjust the difficulty slider in order to give yourself a better challenge.


Image used with permission by copyright holder

Underneath the local battle option is arcade mode. Like many fighting games before it, FighterZ offers a single-player gauntlet where you can test your skills by fighting a number of opponents in quick succession. Unlike other Arcade modes, though, the game determines your progress (and next opponent) by rating your performance in each fight. Earn an “A” or “S” rank in one battle, and you’ll be placed in the top bracket. If you barely eke out a win, you’ll drop into a lower bracket with easier opponents, with a cap on your final score. The modes get much more difficult as time goes on, and once you complete them, you’ll unlock a tougher difficulty level so you can do it all again.


The arena in the center of the lobby offers a spectator-friendly sub-lobby for people who just want to fight. You can queue up to join a match against another opponent in your lobby, or watch matches while you wait. It isn’t the quickest option for finding a match, but it offers a nice change from the hyper-competitive players you’ll typically find in matchmaking. Plus, if you watch the pros play for long enough, you may pick up a few moves yourself.


At nearly any time, press RT on Xbox One or R2 on PlayStation 4 to drop down for a “ring match.” These are fights open to those in your lobby – all a player has to do is walk into your ring and join the match, but you can put stipulations on joining based on factors like skill level and connection quality. If you’re looking for a particular friend to join, you can also set a password.

Fighting basics

Dragon Ball FighterZ: Vegeta | Character Trailer

Dragon Ball FighterZ is a three-on-three fighting game that allows you to swap between your characters at almost any time, allowing for longer strings of attacks and high-level defensive strategies. It’s much more aggressive game than many other fighting games out there right now. Knowing how to maximize your damage and build momentum when you find an opening is key. But it’s still important to master every element of combat in order to succeed against live opponents.


Every character in Dragon Ball FighterZ has four basic attacks, each tied to a face button: light, medium, heavy, and special. These can be tied together into combo attacks simply by hitting one button a few times in a row, but you can tie combos together into longer strings of attacks by making use of particular moves. The “down plus heavy” anti-air move, for instance, launches your opponent into the air, but you can give chase using a “super dash,” get a few more hits in, and swap out characters to keep the combo going without skipping a beat.

The super dash, triggered with RT or R2, sends your character zipping through the air at your opponent. It’s a great opportunity to launch a heavy attack or avoid projectiles. New players often use it to open a match, leaving themselves vulnerable to a combo out of the gate. This is a mistake: The dash is susceptible to anti-air moves, and is quite easy to counter when it’s coming from across the screen. We recommend saving it for when your opponent finishes their own combo, or as a defensive maneuver when they launch a special (projectile) attack.

Hitting RB or R1 will activate a “dragon rush,” the game’s version of a throw. If an opponent is blocking or otherwise leaves themselves open, using this will initiate a combo that ends with you beating your opponent into the ground, and it’s a great way to shift the momentum of a fight. While it is fast, the dragon rush also leaves you completely exposed: Your opponent can easily counter with a light attack, creating an opening for a combo. The rush works best as a “punish” after your opponent misses an attack, or in place of an attack after using a super dash. If your opponent uses one at the same time, you’ll both knock each other back without doing damage — a super dash will do no damage when an opponent is at the end of their life bar, so you’ll have to follow it up with an attack to finish them off.

Perhaps most important to master are your character’s super attacks, such as Goku’s Instant Transmission Kamehameha or Vegeta’s Final Flash. These are activated by making a quarter-circle forward or backward motion with the control stick or direction pad, followed by RB or R1. They cost full bars of Ki, the special meter displayed in the bottom corner of the screen. Super moves vary fighter to fighter, but pressing quarter-circle forward and RB or R1 performs a standard super, which costs one bar of Ki. Using quarter-circle back with RB or R1 triggers a “meteor attack,” your character’s most powerful single attack, which consumes three bars of Ki.

One important note to mention: Holding the special and light attack buttons will charge your Ki rapidly in glorious yelling fashion. It’s fun to try, but you should never use it in a match against a real player, as they’ll immediately use a dragon rush and beat you into the ground.

Assists and swaps

FighterZ gives you access to three characters for each fight, who you can summon for assist attacks and swap in and out to extend your team’s life. You don’t want to wait for one fighter to fall before tagging another in. When out of combat, a fighter who has taken damage can restore some of their health over time. At the same time, swapping characters in and out too often can open the door to an attack, so you want to be careful about when and how you call your backup into play.

Tap LB/L1 or LT/L2 to have one of your other characters come in for a quick assist attack – these can be called in as long as the box around your characters’ portraits in the top corner of the screen is full. If you hold the button instead of tapping it, you will swap out characters. Usually, it’s best to swap out your characters when they’re at around half health rather than nearly depleted, as it will give you some room to work with once they come back into the fight.

It’s important to remember that swapping is not a “get out of jail free card.” You cannot swap characters while you are taking damage. Even if you find a chance to summon another character while you’re already getting pummeled, a skilled opponent will simply chain attacks from one character directly into another. Use swaps to extend your own combos, or to quickly bridge the gap between your character and your opponent. The quick swap is much harder to pick up than a dragon rush or a super dash, and can help to open up an opponent who is committing too much to blocks.


FighterZ isn’t just about offense (even if it does feel that way sometimes). Though an aggressive playing style will serve you well, you also need to learn how to defend against enemies’ attacks. Timing a backward press on the direction pad – either straight back or down and back, depending on the attack – can block damage and leave the enemy open for a combo of your own. Timing this properly takes practice, as the window is pretty small, but it’s important to learn, especially to defend against enemy super abilities. Whenever your opponent gets three or more bars of Ki, be prepared to defend quickly and you’ll make them waste their meter.

The best defense can make for a good offense. Every character has access to a “down plus heavy” attack that functions both as a launcher to knock enemies into the air, as well as an anti-air attack. If an enemy uses their super dash and you’re prepared for it, you can use this ability to stop them in their tracks and turn the tables. You can also “counter” nearly any attack by performing your own attack beforehand. If an enemy is focusing on heavy attacks, hit them with a few light attacks to string together a combo. This can also be done if an enemy is using dragon rush too frequently.

If you find yourself stuck in an enemy’s combo, you’ll be at their mercy for a few attacks, but you can stop yourself from getting chained into another combo. In midair, hit the light attack button to regain your balance before the enemy can use a dragon rush, and holding down on the directional pad just before you hit the ground after a combo will keep your character lying down for an extra second — this is just enough time to avoid getting hit with a super attack.

Fighting tips

DRAGON BALL FighterZ - Piccolo Breakdown ft. Rhymestyle | XB1, PS4, Steam

Once you’ve learned the basics in Dragon Ball FighterZ, it’s time to talk strategy. Here are some tips to elevate your game and help you win, both online and off.

Find characters that fit your playing style

Though Dragon Ball FighterZ offers plenty of fan service, if you want to succeed, you may need to put aside the characters you love from the show and start playing with the characters that match your play style. Piccolo might be your favorite, but his super abilities are difficult to use effectively and he lacks the speed of some of the others on the roster. Mess around with your lineup, and don’t be afraid of using different types of fighters in one group – swapping from a brawler like Cell to a lightning-quick character like Vegeta can throw off an opponent’s rhythm and give you the edge.

Team composition requires you to become skilled with multiple characters, but you should choose three that work well together rather than three you happen to be the most skilled with. Two characters who both use horizontal super abilities are often a good match, and Android 18’s assist move is a defensive barrier that makes her a perfect match with slower fighters. Below are a few team compositions that we’ve seen success with.

  • Gohan, Super Saiyan Vegeta, Trunks
  • Android 18, Super Saiyan Vegeta, Cell
  • Frieza, Cell, Piccolo
  • Super Saiyan Goku, Super Saiyan Vegeta, Cell
  • Android 18, Android 16, Super Saiyan Goku

Use ‘vanish’ to deceive your opponent

“Vanish,” a universal ability that allows you to teleport behind your opponent and knock them across the screen for one bar of Ki, goes woefully unused in competitive play. The attack, which you use by pressing the medium and heavy attack buttons simultaneously, allows you to teleport out of a jam or open up an opponent for a super. If you build up enough meter, using a few in a row is almost impossible to defend against. Like almost any attack, it can be countered, so overusing it is unwise, but it is a valuable tool that, at the very least, breaks up your opponent’s momentum.

Time your super attacks carefully

Don’t use your super and meteor attacks just because you can. Super attacks can be blocked, and even the biggest energy waves can just miss if they aren’t timed well. Most of the Saiyan characters have at least one super attack that fires directly in front of them, but a few, such as Trunks’ most powerful ability, require the target to be right next to you in order for it to connect. Frieza’s two main super attacks are both launched in a diagonal line, and not taking this into account will lead to a lot of misses. Take your favorite characters into training mode and get the feel for their moves before taking them online.

A Z-Change can be just as deadly as a meteor attack

It’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment, but the double super move known as the “Z-Change,” is incredibly powerful, and nearly unstoppable with the right pair of characters. If you have at least two bars in your Ki meter, activate your quarter-circle forward RB/R1 super attack and then quickly tap LB/L1. This will cause the second character on your roster to unleash their own super ability at the same time. The Z-Change counts as a character swap, so the second fighter will jump into battle right afterward.

Just make sure both attacks will connect – using Goku’s Kamehameha and Cell’s Energy Field together will rarely yield good results. Good combinations include Android 18 and Android 16, as the latter charater’s level 1 super attack is extremely powerful but very hard to land on its own.

Don’t forget about your sparkling blast!

Once per match, you can use a move called “sparkling blast” by pressing RB and RT or R1 and R2 together – whether or not you’ve used it is denoted by the lightning bolt symbol next to your health. Sparkling blast hits any nearby enemies and knocks them away, allowing you to end or set up combo attacks. It also increases the rate at which your backup characters (not the one you’re currently using) will regain health. It’s easy to forget to use it and a lot of players online seem to do so, but it can give you the little edge you need to win a fight in its final moments. It can also be used to nullify most attacks, giving you the opportunity to regain your composure or swap to another character.

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Gabe Gurwin
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Gabe Gurwin has been playing games since 1997, beginning with the N64 and the Super Nintendo. He began his journalism career…
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