DNF Duel Review – A Return to Form With New Ideas

    Within the fighting game community there has been talks recently on what makes up a fighting game & what everyone wants within the genre. Fighting games have gained the interest of many since the 90s with different iterations, gameplay systems, and new mechanics. Arc System Works has been on the rise since 2018’s Dragon Ball FighterZ & continues to dominate the fighting game community with 2021’s Guilty Gear Strive. The latest fighting game, DNF Duel, is based on characters of the blockbuster Dungeon Fighter Online franchise.

    Video | DNF Duel Review by Avataryaya

    The game is co-developed by NEOPLE INC., a consolidated subsidiary of Nexon, Eighting, and Arc System Works. What’s really exciting about DNF Duel & this fighting collaboration is the return of Eighting. Eighting are the developers behind some of the most popular fighting games in various communities such as Naruto Clash Of Ninja, Tatsunoko Vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, and Marvel Vs Capcom 3. Will DNF Duel fumble with everything going on for it’s licensed IP, or will it be the return to form Arc System Works & the FGC is looking for with fighting games in 2021?

    DNF Duel

    WHAT IS DNF Duel?!

    DNF Duel is based on one of the most popular and widely played RPGs in the world, Dungeon Fighter Online is super popular in the east and has been around for over 17 years. DNF Duel aims to go back to the roots of fighting games, and can be enjoyed immediately. With a total of 16 characters at launch from the Dungeon Fighter Online IP, this is also the first fighting game in years that hasn’t announced a season pass before launch. Currently, the game price goes for $50.

    DNF Duel Features and Modes

    DNF Duel has all the traditional fighting game modes such as story, survival, arcade, and everything else in between. Story mode is the most interesting with the essence of every character’s origin and beginnings in the world of Dungeon Fighter. DNF Duel’s Story mode is not on the level of Guilty Gear Strive, Mortal Kombat 11, or Injustice 2. However, it is a huge step up from fighting game story modes of years past and includes a couple of gorgeous cutscenes.

    What’s really cool about DNF Duel’s in-game content is the inclusion of unlockable characters. I absolutely loved unlocking characters in games like Street Fighter IV & the Super Smash Bros series. On the other hand, I understand the distaste for it nowadays if you’re a competitor and want your character unlocked from the start. If you beat the story mode, you unlock an additional character “Lost Warrior”.

    DNF Duel Gameplay

    DNF Duel is a 2.5D fighting game similar to games in the style of Dragon Ball FighterZ and Granblue Fantasy Versus. The game is the modern definition of easy to play but hard to master. The game has simple inputs to do moves where you only need to press a button and single direction for special move activation. However, the game also has traditional motion inputs like Shoryuken motion, and quarter circles (Hadouken Input). From Super Smash Bros. players to Street Fighter competitors, DNF Duel is accessible to many.

    The MP system is 100% inspired by Dungeon Fighter Online, which is heavily implemented into the DNF Duel gameplay system. Every fighter starts with 100 MP & and MP Skill consumes a certain amount of MP for each move. MP is recovered in 3 different ways: idle MP regeneration, landing normal attacks that do not require MP consumption, and conversion. Funnily enough, a similar system is found in Kingdom Hearts where magic may still be cast with very little MP. If the fighter completely run out of MP in DNF Duel, they enter a MP exhaustion state and the MP bar goes red. The game feels really good, responsive and fluid. This is a traditional fighting game at heart with fresh breath of air for both veterans and newcomers alike.

    The roster of DNF Duel feels unique and fresh. Each character has unique MP skills and mechanics that work in a very similar fashion to Dungeon Fighter Online. All the characters have basic combos, but have enough room for player expression (the FGC buzz word right now). More importantly, each character can be played differently based on the player’s skill. What I really love about this game are the defensive and offensive options that can all be executed differently depending on how you develop counter-play versus opponents.

    Is DNF Duel’s Training Mode & Tutorial Well-thought-out?

    DNF Duel has one of the best tutorials in a fighting game. However, I do have some small gripes with the game information. When you’re doing a combo trial, you cannot use display settings, which is a feature set used in training mode. Normally, the feature would record and instantly display what’s pressed on screen in a button log. This is important as an indication about performing the combo optimally and/or right. Another minor annoyance with the tutorial is the lack of in-depth explanation for game mechanics. Every fighter starts with 100 MP, but begins to surpass that 100 MP threshold when hit with MP attacks. I’m okay with games not telling you every single mechanic, but such a vital mechanic or gameplay element should be stated clearly somewhere in the tutorial.

    DNF Duel’s training mode has all the typical features of a modern fighting game similar to Guilty Gear Strive. The only thing you cannot control is the MP settings, the amount of MP for the player and CPU. MP is a very important part of DNF Duel’s gameplay systems. Hopefully, MP settings are added in future updates to make learning & practicing MP skill scenarios easier for players who want to take this game seriously, or even prepare for situations with MP usage.

    A really amazing element of DNF Duel is the command list. When hovering over MP Skills, the game provides a description of the move, the move’s properties, and tips for utilizing common actions and MP skills. This is really good for players because you don’t have to sit around to figure out when you should be using a move and could instead focus on adding it to your game plan.

    DNF Duel’s Netcode & Online Lobbies

    If you’ve played any of the DNF Duel’s betas, you know that the netcode for the game is elite. The game’s rollback netcode is among the greatest of all time with no hiccups, no delays, no lag. It’s a very similar experience to Guilty Gear Strive’s netcode implementation, which is also rollback netcode.

    DNF Duel Review

    I do not mind playing chibi lobbies. However, I do wish there was an option for a more typical lobby menu without the extra steps. The most important thing about fighting games is getting into matches as soon as possible and encouraging players to continue playing. DNF Duel does a great job at these lobby systems considering the few nuances since Dragon Ball FighterZ. It’s very appealing, but I wish there was a balance on making the navigation experience more intuitive for players that want to head directly into a match. DNF Duel has custom room IDs where others may join a room. This feature was very buggy when I first tried it with other content creators, but eventually worked as time progressed.

    FINAL VERDICT: Should you buy DNF Duel?!

    DNF Duel is a 2.5D fighting game that successfully returns to the roots of traditional fighting games while also being very accessible to DFO fans and new players. This game is really fun and launches with great unlockable content that warrants the $50 price tag. This game doesn’t strive to do anything groundbreaking. Instead, DNF Duel establishes itself in the fighting scene as game that’s easy to pick up and hard to master. This game gives me a lot of crazy Marvel vs Capcom vibes and feels like a real nostalgia trip. There’s a lot of promise for its future and I can’t wait to see how the game evolves over time.

    DNF Duel Ghostblade

    Disclaimer: Arc System Works provided Final Weapon and Avataryaya with review copies of DNF Duel.


    DNF Duel is a fighting game that successfully returns to the roots of the genre while being accessible to new players. Although some features are not present, the future of the game could evolve with DLC and updates. At launch, a well-rounded fighting game is available with unlockable characters and a plethora of content.

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    DNF Duel is a fighting game that successfully returns to the roots of the genre while being accessible to new players. Although some features are not present, the future of the game could evolve with DLC and updates. At launch, a well-rounded fighting game is available with unlockable characters and a plethora of content.DNF Duel Review - A Return to Form With New Ideas