Auto Combos vs Manual Combos in ‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’

Jeremy Ray
Games PlayStation
Games PlayStation PC Gaming Dragon Ball Xbox

At first glance, it might seem like Dragon Ball FighterZ is a casual fighting game that makes players feel amazing for minimal button inputs.

In reality, this game is one of the best examples of the phrase “easy to learn, hard to master.” One of its greatest achievements is letting newer fighting game players feel awesome, while including more technical depths for the winning-inclined.

It’s true that you can get an over 30 hit combo with one press of one button. Within the first few seconds of playing, you’ll also notice that mashing either Light or Medium attack will perform a full air combo.

But we won’t knock Dragon Ball FighterZ for being flashy. Throughout this post, we’ll go through all the ways you’re rewarded for doing real, manual-input combos as opposed to the button-mashing combos programmed into the game.

If you’re looking for ways to get into manual combos, we’ll tackle that at the bottom of this post.

That Damage Tho

You’ll notice a lot of the auto combos do roughly the same amount of damage. Manual combos, on the other hand, do as much damage as you’re capable of doing.

In most fighting games, you get diminishing returns as the combo goes on. This is much less the case in Dragon Ball FighterZ. The amount of damage slightly goes down, and the other fighter is pushed away the longer the combo continues — but you’re still getting great damage at the end of a ridiculous string.

At the easier tier of manual combos, you’ll be doing just slightly more damage than an auto. But if you practice one harder combo enough, the difference looks like this:

Dragon Ball FighterZ auto combo manual combo damage

But even at the easier tier of manual combo, you’re still building meter as opposed to spending meter. Which brings me to my next point…

Lovely Vegeta, Meter Made

An important differentiating factor between the two is meter efficiency. The basic light auto combo won’t build much, and the basic medium auto combo consumes one level.

Contrast that to manual combos, which will only use meter if you tell them to. In the above example, the auto combo built 55% of a meter, whereas the manual combo built 120%. Medium auto combos consume a meter without adding nearly as much damage as a manual.

The cliched analogy of driving a manual car definitely holds up here. It’s empowering to willfully decide whether or not to continue your combo, depending on the situation.

Have a look at this cute combo from fighting game veteran ChrisG:

He builds 1.5 meters and does crazy damage before deciding to spend two meters (with the Android 18 assist) to confirm the kill.

Here’s another one that would require a little more practice to master. It demolishes 60% of a health bar and builds more meter than it uses:

You don’t have to get insane with manual combos to start thinking about meter efficiency. Just try to be building more than you’re using.

Depending on what level of play you’re at, your opponent may or may not just let you build up a few levels of meter by pressing the charge-up buttons. It’s not something you should rely on.

Hard vs Soft Knockdowns

Mechanically, the word “combo” can mean a few different things in Dragon Ball FighterZ. The usual definition means a string of attacks the enemy can’t block or get away from. But in Dragon Ball FighterZ, some weaker combos can only be continued if the opponent fails to recover.

If they press the right button at the right time, they can escape. If they don’t, they just bought themselves a bunch more damage.

For the purpose of this article, we’re mainly talking about the kinds you can’t recover from. But these “unrecoverable” combos also branch into two kinds: Those with hard knockdowns, and those with soft knockdowns.

A soft knockdown is one that allows the other player to instantly recover when hitting the ground. They touch down, they reset, and boom. Combo over.

A hard knockdown keeps them on the ground for a second or two more. You can tell when this happens because they’ll do a very uncomfortable-looking face slide along the rocks. They can’t recover until this animation is done.

The benefit to these extra seconds of vulnerability is the potential for an off the ground (OTG) combo. It’s possible to launch them right back up and keep juggling.

In other games, OTG combos are quite hard to pull off. It takes a fair bit of practice. In Dragon Ball FighterZ, as usual, you have an easy and hard option. At the easiest end of the scale, most super attacks will actually hit someone on the ground. Just launch into a Kamehameha and let the hits rack up.

Alternatively you can try to continue the combo off the ground with another launcher.

You can probably tell where I’m going with this. Auto combos usually end in a soft knockdown, whereas manual combos end in a hard knockdown. Even with some basic manual combos, you can ensure the hard knockdown by finishing with a heavy attack.

How To Do Manual Combos

Funnily enough, I wouldn’t make the in-game combo training my first port of call for manual combo education. It’s useful and fun, to be sure. But since this whole article has been about difficulty vs damage and meter efficiency, they’re probably too hard for what they’re worth.

There’s a more effective way. Light -> Medium -> Heavy is a combo that almost universally works. In Dragon Ball FighterZ, you can just press Heavy again and it’ll automatically super dash towards your opponent.

You can then air combo quite easily. Light -> Medium should work again, which you can combo into a special move. Often you can combo into a super move after that as well.

Maximillian Dood breaks this down quite well, and gets into more complexity:

In short: It’s going to take some effort. There’s no way around that. But one of the great things about all this is it’s applicable to much more than just Dragon Ball FighterZ.

The Light -> Medium -> Heavy combo works in many fighters. It’ll work with many characters in a Street Fighter game, too. You can port just about everything in this article to the Marvel vs Capcom games and it’ll work fine.

It’s clear that Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t a dumbed down fighter at all. Those who put in the effort will be rewarded, and there are different levels to manual combos. Jump into the training mode and start practicing your go-to combo for maximum punish.

Jeremy Ray
Managing Editor at FANDOM. Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.
Become a
Pop culture fans! Write what you love and have your work seen by millions.