DNF Duel review on Switch — Just the basics

We’re in something of a fighting game renaissance right now. Games like Dragon Ball FighterZ, Them’s Fightin Herds, Skullgirls, GuiltyGear -Strive-, Tekken, Granblue Fantasy Versus, and the looming release of Street Fighter 6 leave no shortage of choice in the genre. What used to be games of complicated inputs you needed to memorize before having fun has become incredibly accessible, with tons of accessibility options and an overall simplification of things to get at the core of what really matters. A duel between two combatants to determine who has greater mastery over their chosen character. It’s not about the flashy specials, quarter circles, or even who wins or loses. It’s about learning your fundamentals, playing mind games, jockeying for spacing. It’s about the joy of competing. And DNF Duel comes very close to understanding that.

Almost a year ago, Editor Abdul Saad reviewed DNF Duel on PC calling it fun and gorgeous yet shallow. I somewhat agree with that assessment, though with a few more issues we’ll get into later. For a refresher on how DNF Duel plays, this is a four button fighter with Y, X, and A being light, medium, and heavy respectively and B serving as your special. Light attacks cancel into heavy, medium, or special, medium attacks can cancel into heavy or special, and so on. Every character follows this combo structure making it easy to pick up and play anyone. You’ll want to choose your go to fighter based on their heavies and specials. Those attacks will change depending on what direction you hold the D-Pad or left stick in. For example, in the neutral position the Dragon Knight will send out her dragon to attack, while holding forward will have her perform a wide reaching slash. It’s a great system that just about every fighting game offers as an alternative to complex inputs, and I welcome it.

DNF Duel Gameplay - Switch [Gaming Trend]

The problems arise when you realize that basically every combo is going to start the exact same way. Heavy attacks and specials will leave you open for a bit, so it’s best to start a combo with light or medium attacks. However, these don’t change depending on your held direction (with the exception of crouching or aerial attacks), which makes it really easy to predict how your opponent is going to approach you every single time; unless they’re in the air just crouch guard and you’re fine. This in turn gives the game a single, optimal approach: jump towards your opponent and flail wildly trying to catch them off guard for a single hit so you can start a combo. This can be fun, as it boils down the approach to essentially a rock, paper, scissors game, but the lack of options gets old fast.

A game like this could work if each character was carefully balanced, but DNF essentially takes the opposite approach with everyone being overpowered in their own way. Again, this is cool at first, but after playing for a while you’ll realize certain characters just don’t stand a chance against others. For example, playing as a Striker I’d stand no chance against the burly Crusader. Even though my attacks would be faster, he’ll stun me in every single clash and take huge chunks of my health while I’m trying to chip away at him. The most egregious imbalance is when it comes to projectiles, however. They’re very rare, but if your character has them you’re almost guaranteed to be able to back your opponent into a corner easily. Usually, it’s clear who’s going to win before a match even starts.

That’s not to say the game isn’t fun, performing moves still feels and looks good. The game lacks rollback netcode but the online is surprisingly stable if you can find a match. On Switch there aren’t many people playing, so hopefully they can add rollback and cross play in the future. Despite a noticeable drop in resolution and overall quality, the game still looks great with an anime art style and smooth frame rate. DNF Duel looks especially great on an OLED screen and having a more casual fighting game experience portably is nice, even if every time I try to play arcade or survival I just get stonewalled by certain characters. While the music isn’t particularly standout, the game sounds good with some punchy sound effects and expressive voices, though there is no English dub. Overall, I think this is an OK game with some fatal flaws, but if you’re not taking it too seriously and just trying to have some casual fun it can be a good time.



DNF Duel

Review Guidelines

DNF Duel had the potential to be a great fighting game for beginners, but is far too shallow and unbalanced to be competitive in. Even so, it’s good for a more casual and laid back experience with some great visuals.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book. David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.

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