Throughout the years, the fighting game has proven to be one of the most versatile genres. Much of that versatility comes through guest characters, from The Walking Dead’s villain-turned-antihero Negan joining Tekken 7, to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s all-star cast. With DNF Duel, Arc System Works ups the ante on this idea, taking an entire game–Nexon’s long-running MMO Dungeon Fighter Online–and building a fresh fighting game with it. The result is a solid brawler that, despite a mediocre story, boasts a varied roster, near-flawless online play, and a fighting system with plenty of options for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike.
DNF Duel is set in the world of Dungeon Fighter Online, sure, but prior knowledge of that game is not required to jump into this one. The source material is mostly referential, serving as a backdrop for the overarching story and characters. Each of these characters is built from one of the MMO’s playable classes. Some of the characters look like they were pulled from another fighting game; the Grappler, for instance, is a dark-haired, hand-to-hand fighter wearing a martial-arts uniform, which sounds familiar. Others, like the Ghostblade and the Berserker, stand out thanks to their incredible and intimidating looks. The Berserker’s red eyes, spiky blond hair, and scaly red arm make him look like an evil Super Saiyan, while the Ghostblade is doubly scary thanks to the ethereal black beast floating over his body like a Stand from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
The fighting system in DNF Duel is the epitome of “easy to learn, hard to master.” Moves are performed by combining single directions with attack buttons, akin to the control scheme in Super Smash Bros. Normal attacks can be performed with no restriction, while special moves pull from a finite amount of MP seen in a blue bar below a character’s health. MP restores over time, but using a move that requires more MP than is available will put the character into an Exhaustion state, delaying MP regeneration and weakening attacks for a short period. This sounds pretty standard and honestly, that’s a good thing; it makes for a low barrier of entry for players new to fighting games. However, that simplicity sits on top of a slew of moving parts that increase the learning curve significantly.