- : Use the direction pad to direct Son Goku in eight different directions as he walks along the overworld map. During the single screen side-on views (battles and searches), you can only use left and right to direct Son Goku. Pressing down in these screens will cause him to crouch.
- : Press the A button to make Son Goku jump.
- : Press the B button to make Son Goku attack. Normally, Goku attacks with a punch. If Goku has collected his pole, he will attack with that instead. On overworld maps, Goku cannot attack while jumping. On side-view scenes, he can perform a kick while jumping.
- Hold , press : To perform the Kame Hame Ha ("Wind Wave" in Dragon Power) attack, Son Goku must have collected some turtle shells first. Then press and hold the B button. After Goku attacks, he will enter into the Kama Hame Ha stance. Then press the A button to perform the attack. Your turtle shell count will be reduced by one.
- : Press the start button to begin the game, and to pause and unpause the game during play.
- : Press the select button to skip past dialog scenes, and to select which wish you would like the dragon Shen Long to grant.
You are in control of Son Goku throughout the entire game. Son Goku runs around the world trying to help Bulma collect the seven Dragon Balls so that they will be granted a wish by the supreme dragon, Shen Long. Although Son Goku is just a child, he possesses great strength, as well as a monkey's tail. (He won't learn about his Saiyan heritage for a long time to come.)
Son Goku normally attacks with his fist, but if he finds his power pole, he can attack with that instead. It doesn't make him any stronger, but it gives him better reach. If he finds a red power pole, he will be able to perform three twirling attacks where he spins the pole around him rapidly. Son Goku can also perform a jump-kick attack, but only when the game is in a side-view mode. Lastly, Son Goku can perform the Kame Hame Ha attack, which is eventually taught to him by Master Roshi. In order to do so, Goku must be in possession of some turtle shells. This powerful blast is useful against many tough overworld enemies, but not especially strong against bosses.
Normally, Son Goku has a life meter (referred to as POW) of 150. It decreases very slowely throughout the entire game, but it will decrease much more rapidly if Son Goku is hit by an enemy. The game will end if Son Goku's POW ever reaches 0. Son Goku can replenish his life by finding meat or cupcakes. After assembling the Dragon Balls the first time, Son Goku can actually extend his maximum POW to 250 if he selects a particular wish.
Most items must first be revealed by touching a Hoipoi Capsule. When Goku touches the capsule, it explodes, and an item will pop out.