Guilty Gear Dust Strikers makes a strong case for sticking to a proven formula, because that's exactly what it refuses to do. Instead of bringing the great cast of outrageous characters and flashy moves to the Nintendo DS in the form of a standard 2D fighter, Dust Strikers mixes up the Guilty Gear formula with four-character battles, multilevel stages, power-ups, and touch-screen minigames. The result is a shallow, confused mess of a fighting game that's far more frustrating than it is fun.
The familiar faces are here, but the familiar gameplay is painfully absent.
The best part of Guilty Gear Dust Strikers is by far its great cast of more than 20 characters. There are no new characters to speak of, other than one extremely lame boss, but all the favorites--like Ky Kiske, the holy knight; Bridget the transvestite nun; Venom, the billiards-playing assassin; I-No, the rock-star witch; May, the pirate; and many more-- are on hand to do battle. The character sprites all look great and the attack animations are fantastic. It's expectedly not quite up to the standard of the console Guilty Gear games, but Dust Strikers still looks sharp and colorful on the DS
The problem is that there's often so much going on that you don't actually get to see most of the action. Most of the battles are four-player, free-for-all matches, which makes Dust Strikers much more akin to Guilty Gear Isuka than the original games in the series. The result is a jumbled mess of overlapping attacks that always seem to pile up in one corner of the screen. Because the characters can all occupy the same space, you'll often find yourself stuck in a corner with three stacked opponents doing everything from summoning dolphins to swinging guitars, all at lightning speed. Likewise, you can pull off your own special moves with a simple press of a button, which takes all the skill out of the game. In previous Guilty Gear games it was challenging to pull off super moves and lengthy combos, which made the fighting that much more satisfying. In Dust Strikers you simply have to mash buttons and wait for an opponent get in the way of your attack. Also, some of the moves are extremely cheap, and it makes the game feel unbalanced.
The only real challenge is staying oriented as people move about the screen. The stages in Dust Strikers are vertically designed and take up both the bottom and top screen on the DS. There are a series of platforms on each stage, so instead of fighting enemies to the left or to the right, you have to fight up and down as well. This added dimension results in some confusing and awkward moments, because your fighter doesn't automatically turn to face his or her opponents. Instead, you have to tap the direction you want to face to manually turn your character around. When there are four characters onscreen and the battle is moving quickly, you'll often find yourself completely turned around, and it isn't odd to end up launching a string of attacks at an empty space while your opponents whale on you from behind.