Genre: Action RPG
Developed by: Humble Hearts
Published by: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PS4, iOS, Switch
Feeling Like: Dust in the Wind
Dust: An Elysian Tail is an obscure, strange, unique, charming entry and I’ve maybe met one other person who has played it. NBA Jam it is not.
Every character in the world of Dust is an animal, or at least anthropomorphized. They’re overly cartoonish but beautifully drawn. It’s as if Usagi Yojimbo, the Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock and a Don Bluth movie all got together to make a video game. Be still, my beating heart.
It’s not quite Muppet-like, but it might as well be. Anything with this kind aesthetic means I’m on board. Does it make sense that an elephant runs a tavern, or you’re conversing with flying squirrels? Who cares? It’s cute and visually dynamic and the voice acting is appropriately exaggerated.
I love this kind of stuff. Always have, always will.
From a gameplay standpoint, Dust isn’t #253 because it’s an amazing metroidvania…I’m not actually sure it obeys the classification in the first place. The gameplay felt a tad monotonous, though never felt boring. Comforting. I knew what I was getting; revolutionary gameplay wasn’t on the menu. Flying through the area and shredding enemies with hundreds of magic projectiles was a tried-and-true strategy, but I never felt like there was much needed beyond that. The map could’ve used a re-work as well; I wasn’t necessarily lost, but I did lack a concise direction at times.
Is that just another way of saying I got lost?
It wasn’t a chore to play, because the characters and the story pull much of the weight. I cared about Cassius and his flying cat/bat (a Mimbat, according to the Wiki) buddy Fidget was overly endearing. Like, too adorable for words. They tried to make her as cute as possible and it worked. Every slight against her made me wince and I was heavily invested in her story. It’s been a while since I played Dust, so my memories are hazy – apparently there’s a talking sword? You’re saying I was so drawn to Fidget that I forgot that your own weapon gives you tutorials and lore drops throughout?
Easy to see why. I miss Fidget! If we ever get a second cat, that’s what I’m going to name it.
Youtube Comments agree with me, Fidget is one of the best all time companions. Naturally there aren’t a group of hobbyists whose opinion you should trust more exists than Youtube Commenters.
Ok sure, it’s not Shakespeare and of course you have to save the world and all the friendly denizens from an unspeakable evil. But if that trope was enough to get me to stop playing video games altogether, this blog would be called “The 2”.
But Dust has a cool samurai hat and all the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed (literally) friends you make along the way warmed my heart.
The ending still sticks with me. Without it, Dust wouldn’t be nearly as high.
You defeat your final foe in a thrilling one on one (two on one if you count Fidget, which you always should) battle against a backdrop of rushing lava in the center of a volcano. After you strike the final blow, a Lion King scenario emerges, with General Gaius hangs from a ledge while he screams your name. The voice actor really went all out here. The end villain cursing the protagonist’s name as they perish is another trope that we’ve all seen and heard a thousand times, but here it’s different. Maybe it’s the contrast of how cute and cuddly everything looks set against this dramatic, blood-curdling holler.
I won’t go into details about their relationship, but it’s more interesting than you might think. The swelling music and outstanding credits song that follows is truly special. Good endings are hard to come by in any medium, and while Dust’s may not get top marks from staunch critics, it’s up there for me as one of the most satisfying.