What can we learn from watching pros play Dragon Ball FighterZ?

As part of the recent Tekken World Tour event Bandai Namco held an exhibition tournament for their much anticipated Dragon Ball FighterZ. The tournament brought together professional fighting gamers and even streamers to try their hand at becoming one of the world’s first DBFZ champions.

This was our first look at truly high-level DBFZ play, and analyzing it reveals some interesting details about the game’s mechanics. Here are just a few observations.

Observation #1 – Team composition is important, team order is more important

You cannot simply choose three characters that you enjoy playing in Dragon Ball Fighter Z. Each character has weaknesses that need to be compensated for with other team members. You can see an example of team building strategy by examining SonicFox’s team. He runs Android 18 in the front, Android 16 in the middle, and Trunks in the back. Android 18 has a powerful mix-up game with her ability to call in Android 17 with special moves. Fox’s goal was to open up the opponent with Android 18, switch to Android 16 mid-combo, and capitalize on his high damage output.

At that point he has the opponent in vortex. Each combo ends with a throw which forces the opponent to deal another mix-up. Trunks is there both to act as another mix-up character that leads into the vortex, and to burn any excess meter to close out the match.

All of SonicFox’s characters also have synergy when tagging as well. Android 18 has a super that pushes an aerial opponent to the ground. This lets her tag into Android 16 or Trunks easily while getting in extra damage.

Observation #2 – Meter should be saved to vanish

By far the most common usage of meter was the “vanish” technique. Vanishing causes your character to teleport behind the opponent after a hit-string and deliver a follow-up attack for one meter. The first time it is used in a combo, it causes a wall-bounce for yet more combo follow-up opportunities.

Nearly every bread and butter combo involves a vanish. Unsafe block strings can be made safe with a vanish. Vanishes can be used to dodge whiffed poked. It’s basically the best technique in the game. Burning your meter far enough that you can no longer vanish puts you at an immense disadvantage. This is why you can build so much meter in DBFZ. It’s also why a short dash and a few attacks build you a full bar. Supers and other meter burning techniques should only be used if you have meter left over after a successful vanish.

Observation #3 – Combos are not complex and hit-confirms are easy, but the game is won and lost in neutral

Dragon Ball FighterZ is not a very complex fighting game. Every combo follows a similar progression. Do something that launches the opponent off the ground, dragon dash, light, medium, light, medium, combo ender, vanish, dragon dash, repeat. This simple progression holds true for just about every character in the game. Combos aren’t very long and don’t do much damage. Even when you use assists to lengthen your combos you simply don’t get much more damage out of them.

The purpose of long combos isn’t damage, but meter. Meter build so fast in this game, but only on offense. You want to be hitting your opponent whenever you can because you need meter to vanish and then, hopefully, to go for the kill by tacking on supers at the end of your combos. But meter only gives you so much of an advantage. You aren’t going to see a huge differences in skill based on who has the longest combo.

This game lives and dies in neutral game. Resets and vortexes are going to be very important since characters are so hard to kill. You need three or four good mix-ups to get rid of a character even if they don’t switch out. Opening up characters is hard. Most characters have very linear attacks, so you need to use your assists and special attacks in order to create hard to block situations. Even landing a hail-mary super at the right time will do more damage than a long extended combo.

Observation #4 – When in doubt, Dragon Dash

SonicFox and Perfect Legend showed how powerful the dragon dash is. It’s essentially an anti-zoning maneuver. If the opponent is trying to keep you out with projectiles and assists, the Dragon Dash will blast right through.

Unfortunately, the Dragon Dash is very punishable on block. But we already covered how to handle that: vanish. It might burn a lot of meter, but it gives you a relatively safe way to approach the opponent.

Dragon Dashes are also the perfect combo follow-up. No matter where the opponent is on the screen, your Dragon Dash will connect, as long as it hits the opponent before their hit-stun wears off. It’s actually what makes combos so easy.

It seems as if high-level play will involve a lot of Dragon Dash baiting. Getting the opponent to Dragon Dash at a time when they aren’t save is a great way to deal damage. Dragon Dash’s do not go through supers and a simple raw super can take off as much as 50% of a character’s health bar.

Dragon Ball FighterZ