NINTENDO DS REVIEW: GUILTY GEAR: DUST STRIKERS

Guilty! Of being a little too shallow, a little to ambitious and a little too erratic. by Cole Smith

May 15, 2006 - Guilty Gear Dust Strikers has attempted to go in a different direction, but it's not so much a new direction as it is just a bunch of different elements tacked on to the core gameplay. Unfortunately these elements choke the core of the once-fun gameplay altering it into what can be at times an unplayable mess. You would have to have the metabolism of a hummingbird to be able to keep up the pace with this game. Things happen so fast and for no more apparent reason than to generate some excitement with all the frenzy. All you can do to defend yourself is mash those buttons and hope you get lucky.

Guilty Gear Dust Strikers is a colorful, 2D, sprite-based fighter. The series has always been generally well received by fans - but this version is a totally different story. Instead of two fighters there are now four. Instead of a one-level play surface, now there are four. There are also a handful of mini-games included which have no relation to the fighting gameplay but were seemingly added to make some use out of the touchscreen control system.

There are over 20 characters, all of them classic characters from the series. With the exception of one boss there are no new characters at all. This isn't a bad thing, it's comforting to see some old favorites. It's just too bad they have to be forced to perform in a game like this. The main problem is that the game lacks any kind of finesse, both in the style of the gameplay and the in the control system. The three enemy characters pounce on you immediately and begin wailing away using special attacks to deplete your health as quickly as possible. These situations are hard to escape from. The four levels were designed to add more dimension to the game by increasing the range of movement from left and right to up and down. But instead of more flexibly and freedom, it actually hinders the gameplay. I do appreciate the fact that the developers are using both screens for the gameplay and not just relegating one for the controls. But the multi-tiered system results in the sprites being reduced in size which makes them harder to see. On top of that, the three enemies are always on the same level as you are. The developers should have just made each screen as one level and increased the size of the sprites.

The usual fighting moves are available but this time the special attacks take precedent. All you have to do is button mash your special attack button and hope that you hit an enemy. There are health power-ups available which may seem like a good idea but they can also be used by the enemy when they are low on health. You might be struggling like hell to reduce your opponents' health only to have them grab a power-up right before they expire and then turn the tables on you. It's a frustrating feature that you could accept in the multi-player mode but it seems so unfair in the single-player mode.

When trying to avoid an enemy by jumping you will wind up on the overhead level instead of landing back on the same level. This also limits juggling since the enemy will also end up on the overhead level when you send him flying and won't return for another beating. Another problem with the game is that your character does not turn to automatically face the enemy. When you jump or descend to another level, you may find yourself looking in the other direction. You have to use the D-pad to right yourself and during this interim you could wind up severely beaten.

Modes include Arcade and Story for the single-player mode, Verses and Challenge for the multi-player mode, and a variety of mini-games which leads to a customizing character mode called R-K Factory. Up to four players can take part in the Verses and Challenge modes but each requires a separate copy of the game. The Verses mode can be played with as little as two players if you want some one-on-one combat but the Challenge mode will always include four characters even if the CPU has to add a couple of bots to the mix.

There are seven mini-games that include a balance game, billiards, dolphin training, yo-yo polishing, whac-a-mole, note capture and sword master. The games aren't very challenging and they aren't even much fun. There's no reason for the billiards game to be so lame. The game of nine-ball is hindered by the sloppy aiming system and the unrealistic ball physics. But these games unlock moves that you can use to customize your Robo-KY fighter as long as you get the high score. The mini-games utilize the touchscreen but there's no particular control that couldn't be handled by the face buttons.

The animations of the special moves are good but it would be so much better if the characters were larger. You will hear strains of guitar rock throughout the game that will remind you of better days. Overall, Guilty Gear Dust Strikers is just a hodgepodge of a game that is marred by its overly ambitious efforts to be something unique.

Features:

  • All 21 of your favorite Guilty Gear X2 #Reload characters like Sol-Badguy, Potemkin, May, Dizzy and others have returned for Guilty Gear Dust Strikers
  • 6 modes of play including Arcade, Survival, VS Battle and Mini-games
  • Customize the Robo-Ky character with various move sets in the Robo-Ky factory mode
  • Battle your friends in 4-player wireless versus matches where the last person standing moves on
  • Master 10 mini-games like Billiards, Arm-Wrestling and Sword Practice that unlock more Robo-Ky moves
  • Beware of poison, fire, thunder and bomb traps set to damage unaware opponents
  • Special moves like Psych Burst, Dust Attack and Roman Cancel all return in Guilty Gear Dust Strikers

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Guilty Gear Dust Strikers (DS)
2.9
Graphics
While colorful with good animation, the sprites are too small and the multi-tiered environments are too claustrophobic.
2.6
Control
Having fewer moves is not a bad thing but when everything is reduced to button mashing, that's not a good thing.
3.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There are some familiar guitar riffs and voice samples but they are more like a memorial to days gone by.
3.5
Play Value
If you can find four players with separate copies of the game you might enjoy the multi-player mode but it's just as shallow as the single-player mode and you'll tire of it quickly.
3.0
Overall Rating - Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: DS
Dev: Arc System Works
Pub: Majesco
Released: Apr 2006
Players: 1 - 4
Preview by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best