That title's gonna draw in some nice search engine results.

The year is 2006, and the once-obscure Guilty Gear franchise has ballooned into a position that possibly eclipses the King of Fighters series. Yet, many still get off on calling it an obscure series, so hey. What are you gonna do? As GG follows in the footsteps of Street Fighter by forgetting how to count and releasing spinoffs and new editions of GGXX instead of making the next sequel, one of this unconventional title's offspring has landed on the least conventional current game platform, the Nintendo DS. Do two weird, gimmicky things make a right?

Warning bells went off the second I heard they were making another 4-player GG game after the train wreck that was Isuka. Of course this is all just my opinion here, and hell, I didn't really play the 'official,' final release, but what I did play was awkward and painful. For example, whoevers' idea it was to replace the arcade mode with a modified Survival ending in one of the most bizarre and horrible bosses ever should be swinging by an upside-down windsor right now. And the addition of a button to make your guy turn around and face his opponent instead of doing it automatically was just a pain, especially accounting for the rest of the controller's already busy layout. Luckily, instead of reproducing the vaguely Fatal Fury format of Isuka, Dust Strikers instead goes for a multi-leveled fighting arena taking up both screens, in a sort of bastardized Smash Bros. format.

One of the things critics seem to loathe about GG:DS is that the control scheme was highly simplified, and makes a lot of the classic fighting strategies either too hard or too easy to pull off. The four main buttons consist of a hard and weak attack, your new, shiny, nearly delay-free Dust move, and a "special" button that functions kind of like the one in Capcom's Pocket Fighter. The shoulder buttons are mapped to the Psych Burst (break free) and Roman Cancel commands. So, right off the bat, at least three of the ground rules of the series are made easier than normal to pull off. This is of course a grave travesty! Why didn't they keep a fighting engine designed for one on one combat completely intact in a vastly different environment with multiple simulataneous enemies! Gawd. Dust Strikers uses the simplified controls and commands to make for a frantic, but slightly more user friendly free-for-all.

The actual characters and moves, of course are almost ported directly, which kind of throws the balance in favor of characters like Ky or Axl whose moves cover a wide area or swing in a wide arc. Hell, frickin' Ky can hit people behind him with a forward slash. The Dust acts as a third attack and is capable of knocking your enemy into the air as usual, or down a level. You can also have fun cheaply standing on the top of a level drop kicking people with a downward strike. So, expect a rougher ride for technical fighters like Venom. The easier juggles resulting from the Dust delay reduction can be frustrating if you're on the receiving end of a Dizzy tail thrashing, but for the most part nobody seems to horribly broken. Well, maybe Dizzy since you can now pull off an Imperial Ray with a normal fireball motion that's lightning fast and can hit multiple opponents many times.

The game offers an Arcade mode as usual, features a variety of matches, ending in a boss fight, a Story Mode, which really doesn't tell much of a story and ends the same way, wireless multiplayer (no download play, so everyone participating needs a cart), and of course, its much touted slew of minigames that were probably added at the last moment. The soundtrack to the game features some decent (as in better than GGX Advance) music from the various games, but the DS-specific themes for the minigames, well... Dust Suck. They probably wouldn't seem so bad if there wasn't such a stark contrast between Daisuke Ishiwatari's hair metal and Pocket Fighter Syntho-Noodling. The minigames serve as the only real bonus/unlockable content, and reward your high scores with new moves to program into Robo-Ky. Aside from that, the game doesn't even seem to save your arcade scores, so I assume the 'player records' section has to do with actual human vs. matches. These stylus-based time-wasters include:

Yo-Yo Polishing (sounds like a masturbation euphemism, but what do I know)
Venom's Billiards (Wow, he sucks at actual pool)
May's Dolphin Show (Burn smartass sea mammals with a burning hoop)
Sword Master (Slash little hay bundles to bits. Fun.)
Balancing Act (Jam catches a bunch of plates and stuff)
Whack-A-Faust (like the mole-themed game, except with Fausts)

The Whack-A-Faust and Sword Master games are the most fun of the bunch, and Jam's game is cute. They're not quite the selling point the box might make them out to be, but unless you plan on customizing Robo-Ky, you can pretty much skip them altogether.

My real opinion of this game, having spewed out enough negatives and toxic soot to kill off any lingering dinosaurs, is a good one. It's no GGXX for sure, but I already have that game, and could have saved $25 by just playing that instead of trying to get the exact same title on my portable. Dust Strikers is a fun game if taken by itself, and throwing away your prior expectations of the series. It's more like a Smash Bros. game with a slightly more firm 'fighting' atmosphere. It doesn't have the most replay value to it, but considering you can already find it for under thirty bucks used, I got my money's worth out of playing a 4-player Guilty Gear that doesn't completely blow.

(Man, I wish I had a human opponent.)

There is one lingering thing that bothers me enough to mention: The final boss, Gig, is a huge pile of lame. Not Rugal "HE'S CHEATING!" lame, or I-No's "You tried to block my super attack, now you're fucked" lame, but "injured animal" lame. Picture a giant sand flea with an angel hanging upside down off its ass. Gig floats up and down raining projectiles from one side of the screen, occasionally teleporting to the other to mix things up. By hitting its butt-angel, it contracts into a helpless, useless orb that you can finish off with a well placed super. With Ky, I kid you not I killed it in two hits. To add to the issue, I can't seem to figure out what the hell it's doing there to start with. Is it a Gear? Did That Man tip off everyone and send them running into battle? None of the "Story Modes" I've gone through explain a thing. I suppose it doesn't matter in the end, anyway. They'll likely sweep Gig under the rug with the boss of Isuka when/if GGXXX comes out. The whole Gig thing just seems to embody a little bit of a rush job being involved. It seems like they at least did the right thing and made sure the game worked, and skimped on the story material. But then again, who besides me cares about context in 2-D fighters?

-said MANNA


2006 Arc System Works/Majesco

In a nutshell: A gimmicky adaptation of a quirky fighting franchise. If you happen to like both niches, more power to you, but don't expect a normal Guilty Gear experience.

The next generation in fighting games. Or Jerry Springer guests.

Note that the upper/lower screens don't exactly align right here. It's compensating for the space between screens on the real system.

One of the better, but still stupid minigames.