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Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers (DS) artwork

Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers (DS) review

"It’s officially the summer of 2006, and American gamers have their hands full right now. The gaming world steeped in hype over the next generation of systems, the current systems are dying off in a blaze of glory, and one of the most heated handheld gaming rivalries ever shows no sign cooling down. In the midst of all the change, DS tries to make up for lacking graphical power by offering gamers some of the most interesting games out there, ranging from the misadventures of Phoenix Wright..."

It’s officially the summer of 2006, and American gamers have their hands full right now. The gaming world steeped in hype over the next generation of systems, the current systems are dying off in a blaze of glory, and one of the most heated handheld gaming rivalries ever shows no sign cooling down. In the midst of all the change, DS tries to make up for lacking graphical power by offering gamers some of the most interesting games out there, ranging from the misadventures of Phoenix Wright to yet another remake of . Despite such a varied lineup of titles, the DS is sorely lacking in the fighting game genre. Aside from importing Jump Superstars or Bleach DS, fighter fans here in the States only have one other option: Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers. Unfortunately, this latest installment of the Guilty Gear series is a far cry from its predecessors on the PS2.

To be fair, this game had a lot to live up to. The Guilty Gear series is an already established franchise on the console, presenting gamers with some of the most memorable 2D fighting games in recent memory. The games have a wonderful blend of great characters, incredibly intense gameplay and a fair amount of challenge. Thus the designers of Dust Strikers were faced with a problem: How do you take such games, crush them into a DS cart, and attempt to get the same experience? Surprisingly, they pulled it off well; this game features the full roster from Guilty Gear X2, including old favorites like Sol Badguy, Ky Kiske, and comparatively new faces like Slayer, I-No and Bridget. All of the characters come with their own (albeit fairly skimpy) storyline, offering some brief dialogue between each fight in Story Mode. While plots are never the strongest part of a fighting game, but having such a large cast is a welcome surprise.

That’s where the real appeal ends, however. Dust Strikers takes a page out of the Guilty Gear Isuka playbook, pitting you against up to three opponents at once. The previous title had its own share of flaws, including incredibly cramped levels unsuited for four-player gameplay. This game tries to fix the issue by expanding the levels over the handheld’s two screens. Instead of levels designed on a flat surface, the areas of Dust Strikers are divided into a few platforms, effectively separating fighters and making such chaotic gameplay easier to follow. This would have been all well and good, but the game designers decided to go the extra step and utterly ruin the experience. Four fighters at a time is a bad enough idea as it is, but the game is also riddled with random power-ups that make the game far less enjoyable. Why do we need some item that suddenly switches foes’ positions, or a ridiculously cheap power-up that freezes enemies on contact? Whatever happened to the thrill of one-on-one combat, when success was based on your skills with a character? At least the core gameplay is still present, including old favorites like the Roman Cancel and the Tension Gauge. However, many of the character’s movesets have been drastically altered from their PS2 counterparts. Given this completely unnecessary change, veterans of previous games will have to re-master these handheld warriors.

The game tries to make up for its shortcomings by tacking on a handful of Touch Screen-based mini-games to keep you occupied. Should you feel like taking a break from the fast-paced fighting, you can give Venom’s billiard simulator a try. All of you with a Bridget fetish might have fun polishing his yo-yo, while Faust fans will enjoy a few quick rounds in his Whack-A-Mole styled game. You can also balance plates at Jam’s restaurant, rock on with some of I-No’s tunes, and train May’s dolphins as well. While all of these games are pretty simplistic and gimmicky, they serve a greater purpose. Beating these Touch Screen tech demos unlocks a wide variety of special features that can be used in the Robo-Ky Factory. As the name suggests, you’ll be able to create and customize your own robotic Ky Kiske by designing his own moveset based on other characters’ moves. If these features don’t get you to pick up the game, then the up to 4-person multiplayer just might do the trick. That’s assuming, of course, that you don’t mind dealing with the cruddy gameplay.

At least the game isn’t horrible to look at. DS owners have come to terms with the limitations of the handheld’s hardware, but Dust Strikers may surprise a few people. Many of the stages are faithful renditions of areas from past Guilty Gear games, including the Kingdom Cemetery and the rooftops of China. However, these places lack the liveliness of their predecessors; there are no blinking lights, animated bystanders, or anything else remotely interesting. The view of these backgrounds is spoiled by the layout of the utterly bland platforms, which stick out like a sore thumb. All of the character models are presented with some fairly grainy animation, but their movements are identical to their console counterparts. All of the attacks still flow well, despite the jumbled movesets and frantic gameplay. You’ll still get to ensnare your foes in Millia’s gargantuan hair, slap people around with Anji’s fan, and even summon Bridget’s deadly teddy bear. But the real treat lies with the audio quality; all of the characters retain their classic battle cries, including Jam’s annoying screams and Ky’s infamous Ride the Lightning maneuver. Even the announcer from X2 and Isuka returns along with all the tunes that Guilty Gear fans know and love so well.

Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers is a great example of a potentially solid game marred by a few poorly implemented ideas. Fans will be happy with its fairly large roster of classic Guilty Gear characters, but gamers savvy with Jump Superstars and Bleach DS may not be impressed. Having up to four people fighting at once is a step in the wrong direction, but at least game designers implemented the platform system to address the overcrowding problem. The inclusion of the power-ups severely cheapens the game, changing it from a competitive fighting game into a wannabe party title. Had the development of this game been focused on one-on-one combat and Wifi connectivity, things might have turned out for the better. Though the game comes with its own customization mode, having to slog through the horribly gimmicky mini-games won’t sit well with jaded gamers looking for some fun. Thus, the latest installment of the Guilty Gear series is a mixed bag of great characters, intense fighting, and bad ideas. Here’s hoping the next DS fighting game gives us something better.

disco's avatar
Community review by disco (June 25, 2006)

Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.

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