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DS  header logo

Guilty Gear Dust Strikers

For: DS

Unhappy slapping

Product: Guilty Gear Dust Strikers | Developer: Arc System Works | Publisher: THQ | Format: DS | Genre: Fighting | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: US
Guilty Gear Dust Strikers DS, thumbnail 1
Even strapping, sci-fi streetpunks get moments of angst. There are times when they pause amid the rubble of their post-industrial dystopias and ask themselves, "Was it really worth it? Have I wasted my life on a pointless pursuit? Should I have followed my heart and opened that organic greengrocer rather than practicing my futuristic, fireball-throwing combat skills?"

I'm guessing right now is one of those times.

Mohawked, leather-clad bruisers and beautiful-but-deadly lady assassins the world over will soon be rueing the years they've spent honing their chi-projection and skull-crushing combinations, only for Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers to come along and pull the rug from underneath their biker-booted feet. Because if this brash young upstart is to be believed, acquiring these hard-won skills is now an easy matter. As easy as, say, repetitively mashing the 'A' button on your DS.

You see, for Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers, the first DS outing of this well-established 2D fighting franchise, the gamemakers have made some dramatic changes to the hitherto successful formula.

Of course, there are precedents for this kind of thing: Scooby Doo got lumbered with the Scrappy Doo Show; Coke tried New Coke; one day Vinnie Jones decided he could act up off the pitch.

But sharp-brained readers will spot that all of the above reinventions have one important thing in common: they suck. And sadly, Dust Strikers can be added to that list of dismal rejigs, rebrands and reboots. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

So rather than the one-on-one combat you may have encountered in the series before on Xbox or PS2, Dust Strikers is geared towards fast-paced multiplayer melee battles that roam at bewildering speed across a 2D fighting arena, which is extended vertically over the DS' dual screens, enabling combatants to jump up and down between platforms to get up close and personal with their rivals.

And while there is an impressive range of characters (all of the combatants from the earlier Guilty Gear titles make an appearance) and each has his or her combos and special moves, these actions are now achieved through simple combinations of the 'A' button and a direction on the D-pad.

As already mentioned, the system rewards this uninspired button bashing with showy acrobatics and pyrotechnics; the on-screen antics of your character are utterly disproportionate to the amount of skill involved in controlling them.

The 'B', 'Y' and 'X' buttons control your other moves – respectively, a weak attack, a strong attack, and the eponymous 'dust strike', a sweeping blow that shoves opponents up or down a platform level. This last technique does create some possibilities for tactical play, but when you can open up huge, spectacular cans of whup-ass just by tapping 'A', there's little need for such fripperies as tactics.

This is important: much of the challenge of fighting games comes from achieving difficult combos and special moves. Being able to pull them off from the get-go means the learning curve here is akin to gaining one of those Internet degrees from made-up US universities.

Furthermore, the arenas are liberally scattered with power-ups that bestow huge and arbitrary advantages to their wielders. These will sound familiar if you've played Super Smash Bros, Nintendo's much beloved party game series. Indeed, too many of the 'innovations' present in Dust Strikers strongly suggest this is the template being followed, but sadly less than perfectly.

There are some slight positives. In terms of the sprites and backdrops, the visuals are, at least, attractive, although the small screens can quickly become a confusing mess of attack animations. Both the single and adhoc multiplayer options are available either in one-on-one arcade style or four character melee modes. And there is a workshop where you can develop a customisable character using special attacks unlocked by achieving high scores on seven mini-games. These are generally uninspired, but they are the only aspect of Dust Strikers that resembles anything like a challenge: getting a high score in 'Yo-Yo Polish' (yes, you read that correctly) can be a tricky matter.

But overall, Guilty Gear Dust Strikers is a misguided attempt to graft party game features onto an established fighting franchise. It will be a disappointment to existing fans of Guilty Gear and newcomers alike. Not to mention the counselling all those depressed streetpunks are going to need.
Guilty Gear Dust Strikers
Reviewer photo
Gavin MacDonald | 1 September 2006
Lack of challenge, cluttered screens, dumbed-down controls and repetitive gameplay make Guilty Gear Dust Strikers a brawler to avoid
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