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DNF Duel Favours Style Over Substance So Far

Fighting game fans and casual Korean MMO players had a chance to try out the DNF Duel open beta for PS4 and PS5 this weekend. Brought to you by the combination that is Neople, Nexon, Arc System Works, and Eighting, this 2D fighting game combines anime fighting with one of Korea’s popular MMOs that’s basically a 2D brawler made online. And I must say: it’s a good first impression despite some launch kerfuffles.

Players get their choice of 10 playable characters, each with their own fighting style. From the Striker’s close-ranged rushdown game to the Ranger’s zoning and fancy footwork/combos like a Korean Dante, there’s a playstyle for every archetype out there and then some.

You’ll also notice from these screenshots and gameplay videos on this feature that DNF Duel is a beauty to look at. These fantasy characters which are clearly taken from other MMOs do look detailed and colourful, and are animated with a ton of love and care. This isn’t surprising, considering Arc System Works has shown their 2D-in-3D chops with their Guilty Gear titles, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Granblue Fantasy Versus.

Feel-wise, DNF Duel playslike a hybrid between BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and Granblue Fantasy Versus. Much like the aforementioned Cygames title, DNF Duel opts for an accessible control scheme. Sure, you can do motion inputs for each character’s moves, but generally, everyone has two regular attack buttons, a special attack button, and an MP-powered move. Each character’s special moves and kit can be pulled off with a corresponding input and their respective buttons. The MP moves are powerful and can be cancelled from most special attacks, but they need MP to activate.

See, every character has a Health Bar (HP) and a resource bar (MP); you can’t pull off your fancy moves without MP, so you’ll need to manage that resource well. For instance, the Crusader’s powerful Hell Wheel takes up a lot of MP but it guarantees a lockdown if it connects. Conversely, the Striker’s many cancellable moves require some MP to chain effectively to deal the most damage possible up-close and personal. In fact, every character has moves that can cancel to one another, making for a flashy yet damaging experience if you are on the offensive.

Making Magic

Perhaps one of the more standout mechanics of DNF Duel is its conversion system. As you get hit when blocking, you can gain back “white life” that’s on your lifebar. You can opt to convert that white life into MP so that you have a lot more resources to do damaging moves with. Of course, you cannot gain back that lost life, so you have to make some careful decisions whether you’re at the offensive or not.

Throughout the weekend, my many matches live or die as to how players convert their life to MP at the right time, and then cancel their moves like no tomorrow while the proverbial iron is hot. Playing DNF Duel like a conventional footsie-heavy fighting game can only take you so far, given the game’s focus on fancy combos and anime fighting theatrics. I’ve learned this the hard way: I struggled more as a Vanguard just keeping a lot of players away, when all it takes for them to win is a ton of MP and combos.

The online beta seems to run just great, with no lags in fights and everything being smooth sailing. My only gripe here is that the beta needed a Training Mode to test out each character’s toolkit and moves. I had to enter the field blind just trying out what combos work with my Striker and what moves are safe to throw out with the Vanguard. Thanks to people exploiting the Crusader’s current broken kit, I learned all my character’s weaknesses through trial by fire. Literal holy fire.

Hopefully, the developers take ample feedback from the fighting game community about DNF Duel’s many, MANY broken shenanigans. Apart from the lack of training mode, and a pretty skewed roster favouring a big guy in a habit who has it all (fast mid-ranged moves, slow fireball, wall, armour), DNF Duel has the potential to be a standout fighting game hit of 2022. It clearly has a huge laundry list of much-needed options, balancing, and quality-of-life additions, but as a first-time open beta trying to get feedback, it ain’t half-bad.

DNF Duel will be out in Summer 2022.

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