If you haven’t heard of Dungeon Fighter Online, it’s likely because its popularity mainly resides in Eastern countries. The beat-’em-up series has earned acclaim as one of the highest-grossing games of all time, but its Western fanbase remains relatively small. Now, Nexon has joined up with Arc System Works to bring the series to the fighting game genre with DNF Duel. Luckily for fans, this fighter manages to be accessible but follows up with some entertaining fighting systems.
The Story Mode for DNF Duel isn’t anything too exciting, but the developers didn’t completely phone it in. Each character must compete in the same battle of Will as portals open up and mighty warriors rise to collect the Will of the world, which is supposed to summon someone. Listen, it’s not going to win any awards, but it’s more than other fighting games have done.
Further, each character has a unique story that revolves around this concept. However, they don’t have unique endings; instead, the same conclusion plays no matter which character you play as. Some of the cooler aspects of the story are the CG images that show off the characters, but still, expect events to play out similarly for each campaign.
DNF Duel features a lineup of 16 characters, giving fans various fighting types to learn, no matter what their playstyle. The character pool is diverse, with aggressive melee and ranged classes. There are also a few mid-characters, which I seemed to gravitate towards. In particular, I found myself using the flames and fast attacks of Kunoichi to take down my foes.
As an aggressive player, DNF Duel seems to cater to those who play a bit more tactically. There are systems that allow for some HP recovery after blocking damage, along with an easy retreat and dash motion. Counters are a significant part of fights, with an added opportunity to execute a critical hit.
Depending on the character, buffs and debuffs are also available, with elemental damage being a factor to take into each match. On the surface level, the general matchups are fun, given the various aspects of any given character that must be considered. Still, there’s no real downside to booting up the game and learning on the go.
Things become a bit more complex when you factor in the MP usage for special attacks. These are tied to a button and direction press. MP refills after usage, but you’re encouraged to use your MP to raise the cap of MP you have access to. Each character has their own Special that causes serious damage but can be dodged or blocked.
The developers clearly made this game with accessibility in mind. Each character shares general combo actions with attacks tied to face buttons and a directional press, but it doesn’t get overly fancy. However, high-level players can take advantage of things like block counter and combo cancels, but you won’t need that if you’re just playing through the Story Mode.
Balance is heavily needed in this game, but the developers did enough to make it competitively fun. Ranged characters are exceptionally annoying as they can take down foes from a distance in an attempt to cheese the fight. However, they leave significant openings for a counter if players dodge the ranged attacks. In addition, it creates some unique matchups when you have characters like Launcher and Striker fighting it out, which ends up turning into a fight to control the distance between characters.
I really enjoyed the combo structure. Launching characters in the air, juggling, and all follow-up attacks feel seamless and tied to your understanding of MP usage as you chain together attacks with the specials. It’s beautiful in execution, but I loved how many fights came down to the wire. It’s possible to turn the tide of a fight even if you have a sliver of HP left, thanks to the systems that allow players to easily switch between defensive and offensive play.
I was able to play online matches during the game’s various beta opportunities. The use of rollback net code is beneficial and gives players a fair playing field during ranked fights. The meta will change heavily after launch, and I hope that balancing is on the way. If this game hopes to make its way through the tournament circuit, it needs to fine-tune some elements.
I feel like guard canceling costs way too much MP to execute. Further, MP is gained at a slow pace but gets faster when pressuring your opponent. This should be managed depending on combo length and not simply spamming attacks. The character roster is decent, but there’s only one unlockable character. Aside from the gallery, there’s nothing really here for casual players. I would have liked a steady stream of unlockable content to keep players invested. Lastly, some of those invisible teleport moves are insanely cool but very broken, that’s all.
DNF Duel has so much to offer fighting game fans. The stylish roster of characters pairs well with the exciting and accessible combat system. There isn’t much here for casual fans looking for offline content, but mastering any of the characters opens the door for competitive online play. Like most fighting games, this is a title that will live and die by its community, and luckily it’s one hell of a fun game.
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