Die, Goblins! – Dungeon Fighter Live: Fall of Hendon Myre Review
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360
If crawling through dungeons and kicking the crap out of goblins sounds like a good day for you, then I have a game for you! The next title in the Dungeon Fighter series has arrived on your home consoles, and presents all the side-scrolling monster-killing you can get your hands on. Entitled Dungeon Fighter Live: Fall of Hendon Myre, this downloadable arcade title is sure to be enjoyed by fans of the original and new players alike.
Dungeon Fighter Live: Fall of Hendon Myre (or DFL for short) tells the tale of, well, the fall of Hendon Myre. An otherwise peaceful land, Hendon Myre has been afflicted with a disease called Phantasmalia, which slowly drives children and the elderly insane before killing them (yet strangely doesn’t effect your average adult). To make matters worse, monster activity has increased sharply – a coincidence people picked up on quickly. In response, several priests are dispatched to investigate the cause of this epidemic but are quickly overwhelmed by the onslaught of monsters…
Enter our three nameless heroes, wandering warriors known as Dungeon Fighters. Stumbling upon a young girl in need, they are quickly dragged into the world’s mess, helping anywhere and everywhere they can. As their adventure continues, they start to find hints behind what’s causing this outbreak of fiends and disease – a plot which goes must deeper than our heroes thought. Overall, the game’s story is pretty well conceived, avoiding several tasteless clichés. While it may not be an award-winning blockbuster script, the tale compliments the game nicely and will be enjoyed by many players.
To progress to plot, we of course have gameplay, which takes two main forms: dungeon crawling and town exploration. At the start of the game, players are asked to select one of the three main characters to play as: Slayer, Fighter, or Gunslinger. Each has their own stats, skills, and weapon preferences, but all share the same general mechanics.
Basic attacks are assigned to a single button which unleashes a combo string when pressed repeatedly. To augment your plain assaults, skills are assigned to two other buttons, which can be used through various key commands (such as the classic down, right, Y). Each ability comes with a MP cost and a cool down time as well, making spamming powerful ones impossible, causing players to develop an attack strategy and keeping play varied. Mix in jumping and dash attacks, and combat in DFL is quite engaging and entertaining.
For players with a lot of skills under their belt, your four favorites can by hotkeyed to the four face buttons (ABXY). Simply pull RT, and press the button of choice to unleash that ability. This comes at a cost though, as the skill takes more energy to use and has a greater cool down if unleashed this way. For the action-oriented, items may also be hotkeyed onto your face buttons, except this time pressing RB instead of RT; meaning you won’t need to pause and open menus to use a potion.
Dungeons in-game are designed in a room-based manor, with a mini-map depicting the area as a grid. Players are placed in the starting zone, with the final boss room shown on the map as a horned skull. To clear the dungeon and escape, players must defeat the boss after making their way to it room by room. If you’re thinking of saving time by simply running through it, think again, as every enemy in that room must defeated before any doors will open. Each dungeon has three difficulties as well: normal, expert, and master. As you increase your challenge, enemies get stronger, smarter, and may even possess certain buffs that increase their stats. Whether you’re a hardcore player who points his gun in death’s face or a more casual player still learning how to wield a sword, there will be an appropriate challenge for you.
Of course, you never need to fight alone, as DFL features both local and online co-op, so you and up to three friends or loved ones can battle hordes of monsters and complete quests together. If your usual partners are unavailable but you still need a hand, you may also create or join parties with strangers online. After the dungeon is cleared, you may opt to continue to another with this party, play the area again, or disband and go your separate ways. No matter who you play with, multiplayer is DFL’s shining strong point, and playing with other gamers is a considerable amount of fun.
When you’re done exploring, you’ll find yourself in town, which offers various shops and services. Players can restock on items, repair damaged equipment, learn additional skills, and find new quests. Everything you need to fight off evil and save the day is at your fingertips here.
Unfortunately, this is also where some problems present themselves. First and foremost is the title’s pace, which is terribly slow. DFL opens with a nice chunk of story, and then asks the player to complete several mundane tasks in between a single short story quest. This in itself isn’t much of a problem, except that gamers are asked to repeat the same dungeons three or more times in a row, searching for certain enemies and hoping they drop the required item. What happens is that particular level starts to lose its flair, leading to boring repetition. It’s understandable that players need experience to level up, which is achieved through completing these tasks, but making the majority of these side-quests optional would have made the title feel considerably less tedious in places to the average gamer.
Secondly, the menu system is terribly cluttered and strange to navigate. Along your adventures, you’ll pick up several usable items, which either must be hotkeyed or found in your inventory to use. The problem here is three-fold: items are only organized in the order that you picked them up, to use them manually you need to find them through the hotkey menu (as there is no actual item list), and the actual menu size itself (which is only about ¼ of the screen. The latter is a necessity for four player co-op and isn’t an issue alone per se; but when you need to go into your hotkey menu, select a button to hotkey, have to search through a disorganized list for a single item, while only able to see a few at a time, then actually use it instead of shortcut it – things become frustrating very, very quickly.
In terms of graphics, DFL is a very interesting title as there are no 3D generated images. Cutscenes are presented in a manga style, with 2D pictures showcasing the scene – complete with onomatopoeia words like “whoosh” or “thwap” to visually emulate sound effects. Characters in the scene speak via speech bubbles, which are progressed one at a time by the gamer, and scenes without conversation progress automatically. In-engine gameplay is presented in a similar fashion, except using hand drawn sprites for characters and environments, giving an overall cartoon kind of feel to the title. DFL’s graphics give players the sense that they’re playing through an anime rather than a game, a fairly rare experience that is an absolute treat for the eyes.
This feeling also carries over to audio, which has its own rarity to it. Oddly, the entire game lacks a voice-over cast, save for the few grunts and cries from characters in battle. While it’s widely accepted that in this day and age all games require voice actors, any gamer who’s experienced terrible or cheap voice acting will adopt a no-harm-no-foul policy with the title. Instead, DFL keeps to its comic nature using only sound effects for battle or menus, and a soundtrack (mainly composed of J-rock guitar riffs, similar to that of the Record of Agarest War series). While it’s a little different than what most gamers are used to, your ears will definitely be content after you’ve finished playing.
At the end of the day, when you pull yourself out of the dungeon, you’ll see that Dungeon Fighter Live: Fall of Hendon Myre is an awesome adventure to embark upon. Once you look past the issues with pacing and a cluttered menu, what you’ll find is fantastic gameplay, a great co-op experience, and a very interesting art/audio style – all wrapped around a decent story that gamers will enjoy. Whether you played the original, are a fan of the genre, or are just looking for a new arcade game to try your hand at, this is definitely one to take a look at!
Final Score: 4.5 / 5.0 and a cure for Phantasmalia!
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