Dragon Ball FighterZ is an amazing game, but one of its few weak points is its lukewarm tutorial content.
While the core game does an impressive job of giving anybody who can mash the square button a fighting chance, learning how to win consistently is a very different matter.
The goal of a good tutorial
Dragon Ball FighterZ’s basic tutorial shows players which buttons to press, and a combo challenge mode barely scratches the surface of the game’s combo system. There is some “what,” but little “how” or “why.” (See our guide for a little bit of the latter.)
The player, having finished the two anemic tutorial modes, is now placed between the punching bags that line the hallways of the game’s dungeon-crawling story mode and the tournament-ready sharks waiting to combo, set up and cross-up foes without mercy in the online match pool. The interested beginner has nowhere to go but practice mode to attempt to sort things out by themselves.
They could always hit up YouTube and learn some combos. They might stumble upon the comprehensive community wiki, where veterans share raw info as they discover it. But that’s the best-case scenario. It’s very possible they’ll just get frustrated and leave.
What needs to be done
Dragon Ball FighterZ needs to help funnel new players forward rather than throwing them to the wolves, especially because of its mainstream success. There’s a responsibility to help these new players get to the next level, and that’s where the game stumbles the most.
It’s odd, because developer Arc System Works is usually really good with this stuff. If you want to see tutorials done right, look at the game that became FighterZ’s base, Guilty Gear Xrd.
Xrd now includes a suite of tutorial modes that teach the game from the bottom up, assuming zero previous genre knowledge. In its most clever moment, the game tricks players into learning the absolute basics with minigames that drill them on movement and which buttons to hit in sequence, while also teaching them why things are done a certain way.
Moving up, Xrd shows beginners common real-match tactics with playable examples, like spacing attacks properly and dealing with throws. It’s these simple fundamentals — ”are they doing this? Try that!”— that new players can pick up with practice and use to help them win their first matches. That’s much more useful than a simple list of moves.
Not only does Xrd patiently guide players along the road as they start out, it shows them what they need to practice once they’re on their own. All the tools needed to move up the ranks of competitive play are there, and that’s a wonderful thing to offer your players.
There are even quite a few advanced lessons for players who want to learn how to beat particular tactics from certain characters. Xrd’s tutorial modes have something in them that will make your game a bit better, no matter your level as a player.
The lack of similar content in Dragon Ball FighterZ is a bit surprising, especially since the game is building a community who could benefit greatly from any sort of ongoing education.
Other games have mastered this as well
If you want to see tutorial and practice modes done very well, I recommend a recently released, lesser-known fighting game by the impressive title Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]. (From the people who gave you Melty Blood!) Developer French Bread had a long time to work on the home version of this game; like Tekken 7, the core game had been sitting in Japanese arcades for a few years already.
As such, the words “tutorial” and “practice mode” do not do justice to what French Bread has added to the home version of its game. Under Night effectively incorporates a definitive, playable encyclopedia that covers every aspect of a pretty complex game.
This tutorial assumes zero understanding of fighting games and builds up from absolute basics like “how do I move my guy around?” and “what’s all this stuff on the screen mean?” before getting into the ultra-hardcore mechanics of the game. It’s a journey.
The tutorial visits every possible teaching point along the way, including how to throw out a special move, the neutral “poking” game, offense and defense tactics, the game’s robust combo system, and much more.
Players are learning and practicing the esoteric secrets of the game by the time they get to the final chapters of the tutorial. No player could possibly walk away from this game saying “I just couldn’t figure out what to do.” Learning how to get competitive is simply a matter of practice and time, as the game gives you all the tools you need to get there if you’re motivated.
Players committed to learning a particular character inside and out can also dig into the separate “mission” mode for a comprehensive practice guide. Each worthwhile combo for every character in every imaginable situation is listed. As you practice, you can even get in-game assistance with the timing and rhythm of the individual button presses. “Above and beyond” understates the loving detail present. I have never seen a fighting game offer this much depth and breadth of learning material.
There is a downside to that approach
Of course, Under Night is a game aimed largely at hardcore genre fans. Its textbook might come across as intimidating, and I suspect that the developers of Dragon Ball FighterZ didn’t want to scare off newbies.
But scaring off a newbie is one problem, and leaving them nothing to build upon is another. Both are frequently resolved when the player walks away.
Most players of Dragon Ball FighterZ are going to mash on square, and that’s a good thing. They’re going to stand a much better chance of surviving with those combos than in most other fighting games, and as a result they’re going to have a lot more fun. Not everybody wants to compete in a serious manner.
But a lot of players are going to want to take the training wheels off at some point, and Dragon Ball FighterZ needs to give them a bit more help to do so. It’s already known that FighterZ will be adding characters and modes in the coming months, and a more in-depth tutorial would be a great addition to the package.
The community may be eager to help, but those folks shouldn’t have to do it all alone.