Dark Void Zero Review «

With Dark Void Zero, Capcom once again shows that they can successfully mimic an old-school aesthetic in a brand-new title. Much like Mega Man 9, this DSiWare-only title features an all-around 8-bit style and delivers challenging, but largely satisfying platforming action.
A downloadable prequel to the console version of Dark Void, DV Zero stars Rusty, one of Nikola Tesla’s rocket-pack warriors, and takes you through three spacious stages that have more in common with the post-16-bit Castlevania games than Super Mario Bros.. Each stage is dotted with special keycards and other items you must collect, as well as extra weapons that allow you to access new areas, leading up to a boss battle and, of course, the next stage.

Click the image above to check out all Dark Void Zero screens.
Going into it, I was afraid DV Zero would turn into a frustrating mess, considering that there’re no mid-level save points. But thanks to checkpoints conveniently located near key locations, and the game allowing you to restart at the beginning of the last stage you reach, I feel DV Zero balances challenge and stage progression well. Unlike the otherwise terrific Mega Man 9, which tugged at my six-year-old self’s heartstrings, but left me completely frustrated due to its unforgiving difficulty.

On top of the typical running and jumping, DV Zero throws in a rocket pack that allows you to fly. While the game’s style evokes the 1980s aesthetic, the rocket pack controls are simple and fun: a single button press initiates a double-jump-like move and two, quick button presses lets you hover indefinitely. I’m glad Capcom decided not to force you to collect “fuel” or some other power-up to stay aloft, as I found that to be one of the most annoying aspects of flying in many “classic” games, like Solar Jetman.

Stage progression is obvious, always pointing you in the direction you need to go, but with hidden items strewn throughout each level, you have the option to explore some and deviate from the set path. However, the thing that will keep me coming back to the game again and again is the ability to rack up points. Much like old arcade and cartridge-era games, DV Zero awards you not with Achievements or Trophies, but with a three-character space to immortalize your score.

Click the image above to check out all Dark Void Zero screens.
In keeping with the throwback feel, Capcom has crafted an entire experience around DV Zero. From the moment you boot the game up, an image of an NES cartridge appears with instructions to blow into the cart (or in this case the DSi mic). The digital instruction manual includes a complete, fake backstory that delves into why the game was never released in the 1980s and how only one copy remains in existence. The whole story is written completely tongue-in-cheek, and really adds to the fun.

DV Zero surprised me with its well-laid-out, retro-style platforming — so much so that my daily commutes flew by as I kept my nose in the screen. I would love to see a follow-up, but as this was basically a promotional tie-in, there’s little chance of that happening. Regardless, the game has many more hours in store for me as I strive for higher and higher scores.


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