The game is an action-adventure title with RPG elements. The player controls Goku and experiences various portions of the Saiyan and Namekian sagas. Combat is the main focus of the game. The player can hit the A button to use physical strikes, while the B button allows the player to unleash a variety of energy based attacks. Energy attacks drain an energy meter that recharges when it is not in use. Energy attacks can be cycled through with the L button, and more energy attacks are learned as the player progresses through the game. By defeating enemies, the player receives experience points, which allow the player character to level up and grow stronger.
The game starts out at the beginning of the Dragon Ball Z series, when Goku visits his childhood friends Bulma, Krillin, Master Roshi and Turtle at the Kame House with his son, Gohan. Roshi has lost three of his Dirty Magazines on his island, so Goku must retrieve all magazines for him. Immediately after, Raditz arrives on the island and kidnaps Gohan. Goku starts his quest to rescue his son at his house in the woods. There, he meets an old man who somehow got trapped on a little island and is unable to get back; Goku has to collect several stones to make a way for the man to cross the river. He meets Chiaotzu and Tien Shinhan, who give him experience points. He also meets a mother pterodactyl whose egg has been stolen by an enemy pterodactyl. Goku says he understands how she feels and retrieves her egg.
Then, Goku arrives at a village located south of Spinach Wastes. The village elder wants Goku to solve problems in the village before letting him go to the north. In the village, Goku has to find Sue, a little girl has been gone missing, and bring her back to her parents. He has to get flowers for the boy who is in love with Sue, and he has to get a boat back for a boy that his older brother Cory thrown on an island. Goku also meets Yamcha and Puar who give him experience points. Finally, the elder wants Goku to retrieve his cat Neko that has gone missing. Once his cat retrieved, the elder teaches Goku the Solar Flare. Now, Goku fights with Raditz. When Raditz is defeated, Goku grabs him and Piccolo use his Special Beam Cannon, killing the two brothers at the same time.
In the Other World with Kami, Goku meets King Yemma and then travels on the Snake Way in order to train with King Kai. He meets Princess Snake in the middle of the Snake Way, who wants to eat him. Unlike the anime, Princess Snake never transforms into her snake form. Shortly after, Goku falls down into Hell where he has to collect lost spirits and bring them back to an Ogre outside of the Health and Fitness Center. Also, he meets Goz and Mez, and has to catch Mez in order to get out of Hell, as in the anime. Goku, being as hungry as he is, returns to the Yemma tree and picks up the apple to eat, when Mez shows up, telling Goku that only Yemma is allowed to eat that fruit. Goku tricks him, and catches him. Now, Mez opens up a crack so that Goku can get back to Snake Way. On King Kai's Planet, Goku has to catch Bubbles and hit Gregory with a mallet. After this, King Kai teaches Goku the Kamehameha.
Back on Earth, Goku has to go through The Lookout, a snowy area, and a city in order to join the area where Gohan and Krillin fight Nappa. At the snowy area, he has to save a boy up on a rock, because some wolves scared him over there, and bring him back to his mother in the city. In one of the houses in the city, a man that looks like Sherman Priest asks for capsules. There is also a bank robbery going on, the police are not doing anything and they count on Goku to kill the Bank Robbers. Goku travels through a Military Base to finally reaches Gohan and Krillin. Everyone else seems to have been killed by the Saiyans. Goku beats Nappa, and then Vegeta. After Vegeta is defeated, he transforms into a Great Ape and crushes Goku. Yajirobe appears and cuts off Vegeta's tail. Just after that, Gohan transforms as well and attacks Vegeta. Another cutscene ensues, with Goku telling Krillin to spare Vegeta's life. Vegeta takes advantage of this and heads off to Planet Namek.
After recovering from the injuries suffered in his battle with Vegeta, Goku arrives at Namek to help his friends gather the Namekian Dragon Balls in order to revive their dead friends. There, Goku meets a Namekian who pleads that he plants any saplings he finds on the planet, as it is the Namekian's only hope for the future. At another Namekian's request, he has to find three precious artifacts and place them in their protective pedestals in the heart of a Namekian temple. After this, Goku gets to Gohan, Krillin, and Vegeta and fights the Ginyu Force (without Guldo). Then, he goes through an outpost for Frieza's forces to find Frieza's spaceship in order to heal himself in a Rejuvenation chamber and prepare for the battle against Frieza. After recovering, Goku proceeds to fight Frieza in all four forms (in the manga and anime, he only fights Frieza in his fourth form). Upon reaching his fourth form, Frieza kills Krillin, triggering Goku's Super Saiyan transformation. After Frieza is defeated, Goku barely manages to escape Planet Namek using one of the Ginyu Force space pods (although this is never shown). The game ends after the battle against Frieza, as the remaining Dragon Ball Z sagas are played out in the second and third games in the series.