DNF Duel Review – Finding the will to fight

Fighting games have been around for decades, first rising to fame in the form of arcade cabinets with games like Mortal Kombat. In the time since, developers have only evolved on the fighting game concept, creating new systems and mechanics that allow the player to truly get the advantage over their enemies.

DNF Duel is the latest in an ever-evolving genre and it looks to improve on the fighting games that came before it. In this beautifully animated fighting adventure, the player will need to master the combos and get around the enemy’s defenses if they hope to be victorious. However, the options to do so are limited.

This fighting game is an adaption of the popular MMORPG Dungeon Fighters Online and was developed in part by Eighting, the developer that brought players Marvel vs. Capcom 3. With that kind of experience under their belt, creating the 2D anime fighting game was likely a piece of cake. The love and attention to detail in the animations are very clear to the player, and they’re great fun to look at.

By releasing in the middle of the year before games like Street Fighter 6, DNF Duel will be a welcome breath of fresh air among the hungry fighting game audience. While the controls might not be as advanced as other games in this genre, it should still scratch that itch to fight that many players have been missing this year.

A fighter stands at the ready in fighting stanceA fighter stands at the ready in fighting stance
Image: Arc System Works

One of the shining features of DNF Duel is that there are beautiful animations from the second the player boots up the game. Before even getting to the start menu, players are greeted with a montage of all the characters in the game in an anime-style compilation. Each of the fighters clearly possesses a unique style and power that separates them from the other characters in the game.

In the story mode, there are a number of animated scenes as the player progresses through each character’s story. Whether it be the Berserker better understanding his bloodlust or the Enchantress finding out about her powers, the game gives each character room to establish themselves in the game’s story mode.

The story mode for each character doesn’t take longer than an hour to complete and it mainly serves as an overview of the world and its lore. While it’s somewhat interesting to see how the characters interact, there’s not much depth to it. It goes by so quickly and the information is given in abundance during that time, so it’s easy to become lost in the dialogue or forget plot points after a fight.

Each fighter seems to have their own unique theme or tool that makes them distinct from the other fighters on the roster. Whether it be a doll puppet or a giant sword and a curse for bloodlust, each character feels like they are working towards their own goals for their own reasons. When fighting, their abilities show clear and distinct differences, even if the type of attack remains the same throughout.

Enchantress and Berserker from DNF duel stand opposite each other, ready to fightEnchantress and Berserker from DNF duel stand opposite each other, ready to fight
Image: Arc System Works

Imagine if each of anime’s classic archetypes was pushed to be the most stereotypical version they could be and you’d have a good idea of DNF Duel. While this works in their favor most of the time, it can make the game feel silly when each character shows that they don’t have much range outside of being an archetype.

The fighting itself isn’t the best thing to come to fighting games, but it definitely isn’t the worst either. While games like Mortal Kombat have seemingly endless lists of combos each character can pull off, that’s not the case with DNF Duel. One look at the command list and players will see that their options for taking down enemies are seemingly limited.

Players have light, heavy, special, and MP skills, each does its own damage and comes with a new animation. That being said, that doesn’t make them feel that different between characters. While the visuals might be great to look at, each attack begins to feel the same with each character. There are no particularly powerful moves, as the player is constantly getting blocked by the enemy.

The combat isn’t exactly as simple as it appears, while also being simple enough for new players to pick up. The early combos and rechargeable MP invites the new players into the game to fight and have fun without too much pressure. Then, slowly but surely, the game increases the difficulty and has the player attempt new methods of taking down their enemies.

Striker and Berserker from DNF Duel are shown on a versus screen before a fightStriker and Berserker from DNF Duel are shown on a versus screen before a fight
Image: Arc System Works

There aren’t a lot of ways to play the game, mode-wise, and the ones that are there begin to blur together. While the characters have plenty of personality, less can be said for the game’s lack of diversity in how players can enjoy the game. There are only a couple of modes and each one feels similar to the last, with the player facing an ever-increasing difficulty of fighters.

It’s hard to see how this game will keep players coming back further down the line. To that end, the multiplayer will likely be a big draw for fans of the game. With the other modes becoming stale rather quickly, the multiplayer will be a great way for the player to still have a challenge inside the game further down the line.

Even while players are waiting for a multiplayer match, the other game modes are offered as filler while the player waits for the game to find a match. At the end of the day, that makes those game modes feel like filler. While the developer likely had good intentions, there’s not enough content to keep players interested for long.

The Final Word

Overall, DNF Duel is a beautiful anime fighting game that brings together a roster of 16 unique fighters to the arena. While the game is inviting to new players, it doesn’t feel like there is a lot of content for returning players to engage with. While the game is beautiful to look at, there are reasonable questions about how long players will engage with this game.


Our DNF Duel review was written based on the PC version of the full game that was given to us for review. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!

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