I’ll admit, I’m a Sony fangirl. The only reason I ever bought an XBOX was because it was a limited edition Star Wars package that was made to resemble R2D2, right down to the beeps. And was subsequently my most expensive impulse buy to date, considering I’ve only turned it on twice.
With countless lackluster titles piling up around the house while I continuously revert to old favorites time and time again, I was worried that not only was I never going to get any use out of this XBOX, I might lose hope to come across new immersive, story based games period.
Enter Dust: An Elysian Tail, the 2D action/RPG Xbox Live Arcade game that got me excited to play video games again.
Because every once in a blue moon there comes a game so masterfully crafted that you just need to take a moment to stop and drool a little bit. (Hint: Here’s your chance. Watch the Launch Trailer. And don’t forget to wipe your chin.)
Armed with a C-3PO controller in my hand and a promo code to download this unreleased title, my expectations were demolished the moment I set proverbial foot into this intriguing world. An embarrassing amount of time was spent listening to the hauntingly beautiful music of the title screen (very Final Fantasy-esque) as I tried to deduce what kind of animal my new protagonist Dust was. Rabbit? Racoon? Super mega awesome ninja fox? Whatever Dust is, his form is flawless.
A colorful cast of characters decorates the backdrop of Falana as you follow Dust on his journey to reclaim lost memories and learn the origins behind his deeply voiced yet inanimate sword, Ahrah. Rounding out this strange trio is the spunky Fidget, guardian of the awesome mentor sword and also a tiny flying cat thing that breaks the 4th wall and my tolerance for cuteness. Literally, it shattered into a trillion tiny pieces that may or may not have been rainbow colored.
The Asian themes combined with an old fantasy feel make this game a wonderful conglomerate of the best attributes of every game I’ve ever played without becoming overbearing.
But forget all that flimsy visual stuff. As pretty as it is, stellar graphics do not necessarily mean quality gameplay. Made with the seasoned and the starters in mind, the system in Dust is easy to pick up on – without that feeling of being handheld that a lot of RPGs beat you over the head with anywhere from 1-40 hours in. The intro doesn’t drag as you are immediately thrust into battle, learning attacks and evades in a manner that keeps you on your toes and never crosses the line into babysitting. Though Fidget’s hilarious cry of “BUTTON MASH!” midway through the tutorial seems to fit in with the thought process of some adventure games, hacking and slashing wont get you very far. The combos you learn are used not only in combat but also in puzzle solving, which ends up making prowess a necessity and subsequently rewards skill level. Pressing X and Y will show off Dust’s skills with the blade while B controls Fidget’s feeble firepower, but careful timing can combine the two into the move “Dust Storm” where you’ll bare witness to some of the sickest looking combos I’ve seen in a long while.
It’s hard to put a finger on my favorite aspect of Dust: An Elysian Tail. From the enthralling storyline to the beautiful backtrack, every piece was lovingly crafted and reflects a sense of harmony and balance with one another. Never do the characters seem out of place in their beautifully painted surroundings, the writing fits each personality to a tee and coupled with the brilliant voice acting and superb score makes it one of the most believable and effortless sounding RPGs to date. And don’t get me started on the banter between Dust and Fidget. Genius.
Final rating: 9/10. Which comes as a bit of a shock to my picky standards. For the perfect mix of old and new that I thought was unattainable in one game, Dust: An Elysian Tail is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.
With a reminiscent feel of games past, Dust: An Elysian Tail will be available for purchase on August 15th via XBLA.
Thank you, Dust, for being the sole reason I don’t regret impulse buying an XBOX.