Dragon Ball FighterZ Beginners and Lore Guide

Fan of the show, but new to fighting games? Fighter veteran, but new to Dragon Ball? We'll get your power level over 9000 in no time.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is the Reese's peanut butter cup of games: two great tastes that go great together.

Whether you're a fan of the anime and manga and a fighter newcomer or an old hand at 2D fighters who just can't tell all these blond guys apart, our one-stop reference guide is here for an assist!

Character Unlocks

There are three characters to unlock in Dragon Ball FighterZ, assuming you didn’t preorder and get instant access to two of them. Here’s how to unlock the lot.

Android 21

Unlocking Android 21 is straightforward – you just need to finish all three arcs of Story Mode.

This isn’t a particularly difficult feat, but Story Mode is kind of long – you could rush through it in about 10 hours if you skipped every cutscene and optional fight, but I would imagine most players will take closer to 15 hours to get through the whole thing. Honestly, it’s a bit of a slog too, throwing you into (basically) the same fights repeatedly, and it often feels quite low-stakes. But finish the whole thing and you’ll unlock this brand-new character, who has never appeared in Dragon Ball before.

SSGSS Goku and Vegeta (Super Saiyan Blue)

The SSGSS versions of Goku and Vegeta have unique moves compared to their Super Saiyan forms, so they’re not just palette swaps. To get your hands on them, you’ll have to either get very good at the game or reeeally grind.

SSGSS Vegeta unlocks if you beat the Gravity Spaceship Course (five fights) in Arcade Mode on Hard with an A-rank or better. For SSGSS Goku, you need to do the same with the Hyperbolic Time Chamber route (seven fights), also on Hard.

Alternatively, you can unlock either character by earning Zeni. If you earn a total of 300,000 Zeni you’ll unlock Vegeta, while 500,000 will net you Goku. Don’t worry if you’ve been spending them all, either – the game is tracking your total number earned and basing the unlocks on that. If you’re not a fighting expert, go this way – getting an A rank on these Arcade courses is very difficult.

Earning that much Zeni will take a long time, however. Do as many of the combo challenges as you can in training, finish the story mode (use the modifiers that increase your Zeni count once you unlock them) and grind through the easiest Arcade mode to build up Zeni a bit faster. It’s still going to take a long time though, so be prepared for that.  Alternatively you can pay a few dollars to unlock them, but where’s the fun in that?

Ten Helpful Tips For Newcomers

1. Don’t rely on the Story Mode’s ‘tutorials’ to train you.

They’re useful in a fighting situation, but you want to spend time in Training Mode as well once you’re a few chapters in and have settled into the basics. The combo tutorials will teach you a lot about how important timing is, and what each character is capable of. Even if you have a hard time pulling these combos off, watching the demos of how they string together will teach you a lot about how the game works.

2. Guarding is important, but make sure you come to grips with ‘reflect’ as well.

If you press back and special (which is your ‘ki blast’ button) as an attack hits, you can either send your enemy flying backwards or swat ki attacks clean away – even bigger beams like a Kamehameha.

Being on guard is important. Be mindful that if you block a high attack, your opponent is liable to come back in with a low attack or Dragon Rush to catch you off guard, so managing to push them back and go on the offensive is very useful.

3. Yamcha is great, actually.

He might not have the biggest presence, but Yamcha's auto-combos are powerful, his move set is easy to understand, and his defensive possibilities are numerous. He’s also really fun to play as. Don’t worry about what a loser Yamcha is in the anime – give him a shot.

4. If your opponent has just switched out a character to recover some health, drag them right back in and finish them off.

Use a Dragon Rush and, if it lands, tap either L1 or L2 (depending on their placement in your opponent’s roster) during the scuffle to force your weakened opponent back in. This is very useful, as a good player will rotate characters out to give them time to heal whenever possible, and if you’re playing against another human losing one of their characters sooner than intended can be demoralizing.

5. Keep an eye on the combo counter when your opponent is beating on you.

If it’s red, you’re in a ‘true’ combo – there’s no way out of getting pummelled. If the combo counter turns blue, however, that means you had the chance to escape, whether by blocking, countering, air-dashing out, vanishing, or some other method.

During a combo, feel free to mash buttons and waggle the stick in the hope that you’ll find a moment where you can get out of it. You don’t need to be super strategic or particular about this, but if you’re not reacting during an opening, you’ll keep getting beaten.

6. One of the most useful techniques is linking together Supers.

Press a character’s support button/trigger during a Super and they’ll switch in and fire off their own Super. You can do this with all three of your characters in a row, but what you might not know is that, if your ki bar has enough energy, you can tag in a character and have them perform a level 3 Super straight away.

All you need to do is hold backwards when you tag the new character in and they’ll use three levels of your ki bar for their strongest attack. This is extremely useful because your opponent’s likely in no position to dodge if you’ve just hit them with one or two level 1 Supers. Just keep in mind that you can’t tag in off this attack, so don’t use your second character for this and expect to be able to pull off a third Super.

7. Some characters' Supers allow for extra inputs to do more damage.

Teen Gohan, SSGSS Goku and SSGSS Vegeta can all perform level 5 Supers if your ki bar is charged up that high – perform a level 3 Super and keep the button held down (Gohan’s is particularly cool if you’re a fan of DBZ.) Yamcha’s level 1 Super can hit multiple times if you keep tapping the Super button, as can Tien’s level 3 ‘Neo Tribeam.’ Krillin can also fire off multiple Kienzan/Destructo Disc attacks if you keep spamming the button after firing.

8. A well-timed down + heavy can always counter a Super Dash if timed properly.

Follow this up with your own Super Dash to combo the opponent in the air and really lay into them.

9. Don't forget Sparking Blast.

Sparking Blast (hitting both right triggers at the same time) is useful in all kinds of little subtle ways beyond making you more powerful, giving you faster healing, and offering a pushback on activation. It also gives you more combo potential, letting you jump or dash cancel more consistently out of attacks and combos. This means that you can end attack animations earlier and build up longer, better combos.

Sparking Blast also lets you use a ‘vanish’ that won’t immediately trigger an attack, letting you build a stronger attack once you appear behind your opponent. Your meter gain increases, and you keep forward momentum on a Super Dash after it is blocked, letting you keep pressure up. Assist cooldowns start earlier too, meaning that you’ll have faster access to another assist. Knowing all the advantages available to you while Sparking will let you make better use of it. Make sure you put up a heavy offensive while Sparking, because the ability is giving you a lot of advantages.

10. The 'strongest character' is whoever you play best with.

One of the really great things about Dragon Ball FighterZ is that you can develop your own effective fighting style without needing to master every single potential combo, and you can get decent at the game without needing to become an absolute expert.

To be ready for the competitive scene, of course, you’ll need to really learn the game inside out. But hey, most of us will never get that far. Find the characters that work for you, and don’t worry too much about which ones are strongest in the anime, or who your favorite characters are, or whatever. (Case in point – my favorite character is Piccolo, but I cannot play him for shit.) If something is working for you, feel free to stick with it. Yes, this one is essentially ‘do whatever is fun for you,’ but hey, that’s still good advice.

Lore Q & A

Dragon Ball FighterZ is drawing in a lot of players who love fighting games, but don’t know a whole lot about Dragon Ball. Conveniently, I’m still pretty into it, so let me help you out a bit.

Q. Why do some of the characters have gold or blue spiky hair of varying lengths?

A. There are five different forms of ‘Super Saiyan’ in the game:

Regular Super Saiyan (Goku, Vegeta, Trunks)
Super Saiyan 2 (Teen Gohan)
Super Saiyan 3 (Gotenks)
Super Saiyan Rose (Goku Black)
Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan, also known as Super Saiyan Blue (SSGSS Goku and Vegeta)

The mythology here is convoluted, but basically Saiyans (an alien race that just happen to look a lot like humans) are capable of various forms when they power up. This is meant to be extraordinarily rare, but as the series went on they decided to just let every Saiyan do it, because hey, why not? Super Saiyan 2 and 3 are more powerful forms, and SSGSS is… when a Super Saiyan God (a form not touched by the game) turns Super Saiyan. Don’t worry about it too much. Super Saiyan Rose has never really been properly explained, but the implication is that it’s the Super Saiyan form when the Saiyan body is being controlled by someone who isn’t a Saiyan.

Q. Ah, cool. I’m no less confused, but okay. Why doesn’t Adult Gohan use it, then, when Teen Gohan does?

A. During the final saga of Dragon Ball Z, Gohan has his ‘true power’ unlocked by an Elder Kai (a god, basically) and is able to tap into his full power reserve without needing to exert energy by turning Super Saiyan. This form is sometimes known as ‘Mystic Gohan,’ which is essentially what you’re activating when you use his level one Super.

Q. What’s the deal with Goku Black?

A. This one’s complex, but the short answer is that he’s a lesser god (Zamasu) from another universe that has swapped bodies with Goku to access his strength. There’s a lot of time travel and dimension-jumping involved in this one – check out the Future Trunks saga in Dragon Ball Super for all the convoluted details. But basically, no, it’s not really Goku, just a guy using his body (which is why his attacks are entirely different).

Q. What’s going on with this Gotenks kid?

A. In Dragon Ball, two characters of roughly the same height and power can fuse together into one being for half an hour by performing a funny little dance. It’s one of the many silly little bits of lore thrown into Dragon Ball Z’s Buu Saga. The characters that perform the dance must be perfectly synchronised, right down to their breathing. Gotenks is the fusion of Goten and Trunks, the sons of Goku and Vegeta, who are also best friends. Gotenks can go Super Saiyan 3, even though each kid can only turn Super Saiyan 1 when separated.

Q. Did… did Tien’s friend just commit suicide mid-fight as an attack?

A. Yep! It’s easy to forget now, but when a lot of us watched the original Dragon Ball Z run as kids, the tremendously high body count of the early major fight between Earth’s warriors and Nappa was relatively harrowing. Yamcha’s death has since become a meme and fans tend to feel more frivolous about it all now – which is why Tien’s buddy Chiaotzu is able to leap out and explode himself mid-game and it feels more like a fun Easter egg than a tragedy. 

Q. So is Frieza, like, the Big Bad of the series?

A. Kind of? He’s responsible for the destruction of the Saiyan’s home planet, and he’s murdered… several of the characters at one point or another. The eponymous Dragon Balls have been used to wish many of his victims back from the dead, and were, once Dragon Ball Super came along, used to bring Frieza himself back. His ‘golden’ form is fairly new – once they brought him back they had to make him a worthwhile character again after new enemies (like Cell and Buu) popped up with much more power.

Q. Are some of these characters meant to be vastly stronger than others?

A. Theoretically, yes – the gulf in power between some of these characters is enormous. A punch from Nappa should not even register for Beerus, for instance. But, hey, it’s a fighting game – and recently Dragon Ball Super has leaned hard into the idea that technique and strategy are more important than raw power.

Q. Should I watch Dragon Ball?

A. At this point it’s honestly hard to say. But if you want a taste, check out the early episodes of Z and see if you get bored watching everyone train. (Yes. -ed)