DNF Duel: Ghostblades and Hellfire (Review)
An interesting take on the 2.5d fighter genre
(HARDWIRED)- At the dawn of time the first fighting game was pioneered by primitive man, Pong. Then came the enlightenment, all the way back in 1991, when Street Fighter 2 first graced us with intricate and stylish combat, fighting games have made notable strides towards one goal. The coveted roster position amongst gaming fans and in e-sports. A genre spanning so many styles and subjects, but the deceptively simple core of a fighting game is present in all of them. The number of systems operating in tandem here make most games look like rock, paper, scissors or a very slow game of war.
Most games have maybe 10 total commands or less, fighting games say, nah we’ve got cancels, blocks, parries, throws, crossovers, projectiles, and combos. Games like Tekken 7 mash in 100′s of moves per character, adding to a sense of proficiency while still offering the bread and butter moves on an easy to access menu. Dragon Ball FighterZ gives you the illusion of being good at the game through easy to learn and execute combos that look and feel powerful. Meanwhile it’s harboring the hidden uh-oh stance moves for those skilled enough to pull them out. Guilty Gear Strive handed you the roman cancel and said “here, you make the combos” allowing you to hit even more people with a dolphin. These games carved out an audience by being stylish, easy to learn-difficult to master fisticuffs wrapped in gorgeous visuals. Each finding its audience and community full of passionate players, providing feedback and helping it grow further. Every innovation, every idea, every single uppercut has led to the modern fighting genre landscape. And a hell of a landscape it is, full of games that rarely fall flat, and ones that soar above the competition. So, what does DNF Duel bring to the table? Accessibility and skill meeting for the first time ever.
If Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of Arc’s most accessible games, then DNF is it’s most executable. DNF Duel, stands as a one-on-one fighter pulled straight from the universe of MMO Dungeon Fighter Online by Neople. This 2005 anime styled world is a brilliant choice for a one-on-one fighter, even if I totally thought this was a new IP fusing the spunky combat of Arc Systems Works, with the lore and classes of DnD. Now I know better and despite not being overly familiar with this universe, the characters are a blast. DNF Duel has the guts and guile to deliver an outstanding performance in the fighting genre and become one of those shining members of the “Best Fighting Games” roster.
Speaking of roster, let’s talk about this one, it’s tiny when compared to the giants of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in bombastic character. There are no gimmicks here, no special characters, no cameo spots, or guest fighters. Just straight up new fighters. Ranging from a dragon wielding knight to, the entire Japanese army of the future packed into the body of a 20-something, every fighter brings a unique set of attributes. This makes choosing one to get into an exceedingly difficult choice. The range and damage output is almost secondary to the style and flow of the combat abilities. You have really got to decide what kind of mood you’re in before selecting a character.
Do I want the ghost samurai, or maybe I’m feeling more crusadery and want to summon a giant flaming wheel, or maybe today is a “oops all guns” kind of day. Whatever your feeling, there’s somebody here for you. That being said, the names could use some work. Despite all their personality it all kind of goes out the window when the man with both a sword and a ghost is named, Ghostblade. Or the girl who is a brawler, being called Brawler. It just feels like they have no identity despite overflowing with nameable traits. But hey I guess at least they didn’t name them based on looks, or we would have “Timburton’s Puppet Master” as one of our stars.
Now where this game truly strikes a chord is its gameplay, as you would hope in a fighting game. A four-button input fighter, its core attacks are divided into Weak, medium, skill, and magic. These inputs create a general flow for the combat that is a little odd at first but feels all too easy to pick up. I think that’s what makes DNF stand out, it offers both standard and simple inputs, both of which are named by a lying man. Because both exist in the same space, the game tries to deliver on the all-round fun smash-a-thon for everyone, and the check this ish out mastery modes for veterans. The most surprising thing about it is they nail it. While these systems play out in an easy to learn flow of weak-medium-skill- Mp which is the typical flow. Hidden in there is a mechanic that allows for some truly crazy mix-ups and big bombus combos.
You see, in DNF there are two types of damage, the normal red damage which is effectively your health, and your white dragon damage which can be used to slowly recover health. White health serves a secondary purpose though, you can convert it to regain mp, giving you a chance to extend combos or even chain moves together that may otherwise not chain well. This opens up a careful game of stratego, where you don’t want to deal too much of the wrong kind of damage because it offers your opponent an opportunity to come back. On the other hand, you now have to watch and carefully use that white damage to give yourself an advantage. In the world of fighting games this is what we call an incredibly fun game to play.
DNF features a wide array of ways to get good. Naturally, you have the robust and always consistent online mode to test your might in. Offline there are a few options to sink some time into mastering the tools at your disposal. Par for the course is the arcade mode which consists of a few fights that begin in baby mode and end in “Sentient A.I overlords cannot be defeated” mode. Survival mode pits you in a more unique score-based situation, 15, 30, or 100 matches. You use the score you earn per match to acquire power-ups to extend your chances of ya know, surviving. Recover Hp, make the hits extra omfy, slap some armor on for defense, or even make the guard breaks go from pretty good punch to nuclear powered robo-slam. I like this mode, and it taught me how to better manage my in-game resources. OfCourse you can go in on a free battle and make your friend Alex hate the man with a big sword that explodes. Lastly there is a story mode. A forgettable 4 hour long cut scene with “mommy where’s my bottle” level fights cut in that I did not finish and will not be going back for. There is also a fairly robust training mode that takes some time to fully make helpful. Tutorial modes are good here if not a tiny light on the full explanations for certain mechanics
While I love this game’s experience as far as gameplay goes, I do feel it isn’t quite the sleek slam dunk it originally seemed. The visuals are great but some of the animations seem a lot less polished compared to other Arc system fighters, namely guilty Gear Strive. Oh, and the soundtrack...oh my god does this soundtrack feel like the most generic music ever, maybe it’s pulled from the original MMO or inspired by it. But it leaves no lasting impact and again following Guilty Gear Strives... (Insert audio from soundtrack here) …they really needed to go above and beyond.
Seeing a 2.5D fighter adapted from a 2005 MMO I’ve never heard of get this much love and craft put into it is kind of awesome. Gameplay is tricky but a fantastically accessible treat, allowing for more audiences to get into the genre. However, it’s style may be banging and electric, DNF hits all the familiar and homogenous tropes of anime fighter’s past. Despite all the character it bring in the snappy and entertaining intros, frenetic supers, and absolutely flowing combos, the game misses the mark on bring any long-lasting characters to life here. I just cannot bring myself to care about the man who does the grapples named, Grappler. All that said, this game is a blast. Not to mention a great jumping in point for anyone looking to hop into fighting games. I give DNF Duel a solid 8. Hopefully, this one finds a group of passionate players so I can keep playing for a long, long time.
Now they should adapt Lord of The Rings into a 2.5d anime fighter. That’s like practically printing money right there.
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