DNF Duel is a 2.5D high-fantasy fighting game co-developed by Arc System Works, Eighting, and Neople and published digitally by Nexon for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC on June 28, 2022. It later received a release for the Nintendo Switch on April 20, 2023.
A spin-off of the long-running beat-'em-up MMORPG Dungeon Fighter Online (which is known in South Korea as Dungeon & Fighter, or DNF), DNF Duel brings the original game's setting and concepts into a traditional fighting game similar to more recent fighting games by Arc System Works (such as Granblue Fantasy: Versus), complete with specialized cel-shading and limited-animation techniques to give the illusion of 2D hand-drawn character art.
Rather than named characters, each of the 16 playable fighters are unique interpretations of the original game's advanced classes. Along with the "MP Gauge" system for special moves, the game is known for its simplified control inputs (which limits joystick inputs and command/proximity normals to help newer players ease into the game).
DNF Duel plays like a traditional 2D fighting game, with players having access to a joystick and six buttons:
- Two standard attack buttons ("A" for weaker attacks and "B" for stronger attacks). Most of the time, players can cancel weaker attacks into stronger ones, and can cancel them into special attacks. Unlike most other fighting games, there are no command or proximity normal attacks. Pressing both buttons at the same time can be used to attempt a standard throw or throw escape.
- Two buttons for special attacks ("S" for normal Skill attacks and "MS" for more powerful MP Skill attacks that consume the MP Gauge). Unlike most other fighting games, all special moves are performed with simple command inputs (based on the joystick position and whether or not the character is jumping). Each character also has a unique diving attack, done by holding downward on the joystick and pressing S while jumping.
- An "AS" (Awakening Skill) button for performing a super special attack. It can only be attempted once per round, when the character is in their "Awakening" state. Unlike super moves in most other fighting games, this attack is performed with a single button press and no joystick combination.
- A "G" (Guard) button that can be used for blocking attacks (as an alternative to holding the joystick backward) and for riskier forward-moving dodges (with backward-moving dodges added in v1.40). When the button is held, standing blocks can be performed when the joystick is neutral, crouching blocks can be performed when the joystick is downward, and dodges can be performed when the joystick is forward.
In addition to the standard HP Gauge for vitality, which makes use of recoverable "white damage", the game includes a Guard Gauge (for guard crushes) and a MP Gauge (for use with certain abilities). For movement, players can dash back and forth by tapping the joystick twice in each direction.
Added in the v1.40 patch is a new blocking technique, known as "Indomitable Spirit", that allows the player to negate guard damage and reduce both pushback and stun time, at the cost of receiving recoverable chip damage. This is performed by holding B+S and holding the joystick backward while guarding.
Players start with a full MP Gauge and recovers lost MP over time (depending on the character), with the gauge itself increasing for damage taken (up to 200%). Players can also recover MP by hitting with non-MS attacks and by performing a universal "Conversion" technique (in which, by tapping B+S in a neutral state or during most attacks, players animation-cancel to convert recoverable damage into MP). Depleting the MP Gauge puts the fighter in an "exhausted" state, temporarily restricting MP access. This gauge can be used for two abilities:
- It is primarily used for MP Skill attacks, which consume a varying amount of MP (depending on the attack) and temporarily halts MP regeneration. When certain attacks are done with a "technical" motion instead (qcf+MS instead of f+MS, qcb+MS instead of b+MS, or fdp+MS instead of d+MS), the MP begins regenerating sooner.
- While blocking with at least 100% MP, players can perform a Guard Cancel Attack (by pressing B+S with the joystick held forward) to consume 100% MP and cancel the block into a low-damage knockback counter-attack.
All characters have a unique "Awakened" state once their HP drops below a certain amount, giving them character-specific "Awakening Effect" buffs throughout the rest of the round. This can be spent on a one-use "Awakening Skill" attack attempt, which allows the player to perform a cinematic super move at the cost of disabling the state for the remainder of the round.
The v1.40 patch added the "Select Cube" system, allowing players to choose from two "Cubes" when choosing a character:
- The Gold Cube, which activates when the fighter reaches 30% HP. Gold Cubes give more powerful Awakening Effect buffs, including the character's unique buff, and the full Awakening Skill damage, at the cost of activating when the fighter is near defeat.
- The Clear Cube, which activates when the fighter reaches 50% HP. Clear Cubes have a stronger chance of being activated earlier in the round, but has milder Awakening Effect buffs and less Awakening Skill damage.
Prior to v1.40, the game used what is essentially the "Gold Cube" system for all characters.
The story mode of DNF Duel must be beaten at least once to unlock Lost Warrior as a playable character. Until he is unlocked, Lost Warrior will simply be referred to as "???" on the game screen.
An angelic being named Nemyr sends out a call to various adventurers on different Planes of existence through a magical Gate, telling them to seek out other adventurers and take their respective "Will of the World". Though each character has their own storyline, they run into other Adventurers and absorb their Will, collecting enough Will to meet with Nemyr in person. Nemyr then steals their collected Will to summon a man they call the "Greater Will," but instead only awaken the Lost Warrior, who duels the player character to determine if they are worthy. Upon defeating the Lost Warrior, Nemyr disappears, and the Lost Warrior honors the player's wish by releasing the collected Will back to those who owned it.
- Berserker - An aggressive swordsman with blood-based attacks. He can put himself into a "Frenzy" state that slowly drains his vitality to enhance several of his attacks, improve his damage, and hasten his movement. His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Thirst, allows him to recover vitality by inflicting damage.
- Inquisitor - An axe-wielding knight who can cast holy fire to restrict her foe's movement. She can inflict a "Flege's Essence" debuff on her opponent, then ignite it using MP Skill attacks to deal additional damage over time. Her Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Coldhearted Inquisitor, allows her to negate her MP regeneration delay completely, regardless of the motion used.
- Grappler - A martial artist who specializes in throws and grapples, with most of his special abilities being command grabs. His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Iron Physique, allows him to negate most White Damage received while blocking.
- Striker - A martial artist who specializes in hand-to-hand strikes, able to freely combo her normal and Skill attacks together in any order (as long as the attack hasn't already been used in the chain) and can chain MP Skill attacks into each-other. Her Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Power Fist, allows her to buff the base damage of her attacks.
- Ranger - A gunslinger who specializes in long-ranged combat with his pistols, with all of his standard attacks being ranged shots. His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Sudden Death, allows him to inflict a temporary "Revenge" debuff on his opponent when receiving damage, which reduces their damage resistance, damage dealt, MP regeneration.
- Hitman - An assassin focused on pressure tactics with both his sword and submachine gun. His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Battle Command, allows him to cancel his MS attacks into a versatile, low-cost "Shattering Strike" MP Skill attack.
- Dragon Knight - A sword-and-shield warrior with a small flying dragon companion (named Astra) that she can command for complex setups. She can also deploy her dragon wings mid-air as an air dash and/or glide. Her Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Dragon Force, doubles her MP recovery rate.
- Vanguard - A warrior with a long polearm that can keep his opponents at bay. His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Demonic Lance Mastery, allows him to inflict additional Guard Damage on his blocked attacks.
- Kunoichi - An agile ninja with a variety of flame-based ninjutsu abilities (including dual blades, kunai throws, flame magic, and teleportation). Her MS attacks can inflict a debuff with a delayed knockdown explosion and can be charged up for enhanced attacks. She is also the only character who can perform a double jump. Her Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Nin Boost, speeds up the charging rate of her MP Skill attacks and decreases the MP consumption of charged MP Skill attacks.
- Crusader - A hammer-wielding holy warrior with light-based magical abilities, including a large deflection wall, multiple counter-attacks, and a "Grace of Lemidios" buff that grants him super armor and buffed hammer slams. He can cancel this buff into either a strike that debuffs the opponent (disabling their ability to jump) or a laser attack that cures him of any debuffs. His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Merciful Strength, improves his White Damage recovery rate.
- Troubleshooter - An adaptable outlaw who fights with an explosive-laced sword, shotgun, and grenades. He can also drink from his flask, taking White Damage to give himself a temporary damage buff. His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Handle Explosives, enhances several of his MP Skill attacks.
- Ghostblade - A ronin who fights alongside the ghost of a dead samurai. All of his MP Skill attacks summon the ghost and command it to attack in different ways, allowing him to zone-control efficiently. His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Phantasmal Binity, increases his overall damage.
- Enchantress - A young witch who keeps enemies at bay with her dark magic and use of creepy enchanted dolls. She can consume MP over time to directly control her puppet companion, Madd the Doll. Her Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Favoritism, reduces the amount of MP consumed over time while controlling Madd.
- Swift Master - An agile swordsman who uses a variety of wind magic to dodge attacks and keep his enemies off the ground. All of his MP Skill attacks can be performed in mid-air. His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Wind Master, greatly improves his movement speed.
- Lost Warrior - A powerful swordsman with a variety of time manipulation magic. His MP Skill attacks inflict a stacking "Engraved Time" debuff when hit, which are consumed when the opponent receives five at a time (freezing the opponent in place for a lengthy amount of time). His Gold Cube Awakening Effect, Logic of the Dimensions, enhances his MP Skill attacks and the Engraved Time debuff. He is the game's final boss and is unlockable for play.
- Spectre - A swordswoman with long-ranged attacks, counter-attack MP Skills, and a unique "Daredevil" state that allows her to cancel MP Skills into other MP Skills. Her Gold Cube Awakening Effect, License, keeps the Daredevil state always active. Released on July 12, 2023.