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Review: Super Daryl Deluxe (Nintendo Switch)By Gabriel PVJ Jones At 09.04.2018 15:22

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If their media is any indication, Japan reveres High School. It's peculiar how they consider this tumultuous period in any teenager's life as seemingly the last time anything ever made sense. Everyone is so happy and carefree that it's almost sickening. In the United States, High School is treated like the cosmic joke it actually is. Where else can one to go to suffer through four years of pain and torment? The students are miserable, and the faculty even more-so. It's no surprise that this critic's daily reoccurring nightmare is being back in school. Then again, maybe someone's nostalgia for that period of time depends on how popular they were.

Daryl is about as far from the typical videogame protagonist as one could imagine. Awkward doesn't even begin to describe him. Imagine someone irritatingly silent who is only capable of gawking. His trousers and headband are an eye-searing shade of orange. The boots he wears probably cost more than the home he grew up in. Without a doubt, he's a black hole of charisma, a soulless slug without cause or direction. Daryl is so unlikeable and pathetic that it's hard not to sympathise with him. All he wants is to become popular, and maybe even make a friend. At least, that's what Super Daryl Deluxe is about, right? It's honestly a little hard to tell.

This game markets itself as an "RPGvania," drawing similarities to classics such as Symphony Of The Night. In practice, it actually feels more like a "Single-player MMORPG." A mish-mash of bizarre creatures and other oddities stalk the hallowed halls of Water Falls High. In most cases, they ignore Daryl, choosing instead to wander left or right without a care in the world. Once attacked, however, they will become hostile, prompting the hero to crush them with his arsenal of skills. Upon defeat, the fiends explode into a fountain of coins and other goodies, such as items or body parts. Yes, quest-giving NPCs have a nasty habit of asking for the skins, limbs, and organs of any nearby monster. Expect to do a lot of killing for experience, cash, and textbooks. Completing quests will also award Daryl with popularity points. Over time, these points will unlock passive abilities that make his life a little easier.

Since the end of the world, the value of textbooks has apparently skyrocketed. Most of them are in the hands of sketchy trench-coat salesmen and the aforementioned quest-givers. It's worth taking the time to hunt down these rare tomes, because Daryl can exchange them for skills. Swinging a sword, firing an arrow, or surfing on a wave of pure imagination; these are all skills, and are essential for surviving school. Up to four can be equipped at a time, and they all operate on cooldown timers. Instead of trying to button mash, players should arrange their skills so that there's always one that can be activated at that very moment. The right combination can make Daryl an explosive blitzkrieg, a clever saboteur, or the horrifying result of Dante and Bayonetta romance fanfics.

In most cases, adversity exists only to be profited from. The enemies are certainly unique in appearance, but they are easily stunned and quickly destroyed by combos. The later areas mix things up by including baddies that spit projectiles or cause status effects but, in the end, they are still fodder for the MMO-styled quest system. It's all rather mindless, but there is a sense of comfort that comes from all of the level-ups and equipment upgrades. The boss encounters are a little more involved. These opponents have attack patterns, multiple abilities, and even weaknesses that must be figured out. It's nothing spectacular, but the added variety keeps the game from becoming too repetitive.

The appeal of Super Daryl Deluxe is hard to describe. Almost all of the characters are genuinely terrible people. They are obnoxious, don't show any compassion or respect, and engage in sociopathic activities. The protagonist has the poorest judgment imaginable. Everyone uses and abuses him, and he just stands there, with his jaw perpetually slack. It's agonising to witness. Then, there's the plot, which meanders into situations more nonsensical than the last. Daryl travels throughout the disparate realms of art, science, and elsewhere. He meets some of the world's most renowned geniuses, and they all turn out to be jerks. The more time somebody spends in Water Falls High, the further they are dragged into the abyss.

Intentional or not, this game does a fine job of skewering the traditional MMORPG experience. Dragged from one locale to the next, slaying countless beasts in a cooldown-centric battle-system, and engaging in mind-numbing fetch quests; everything that defines the genre is exposed for what it truly feels like. The process of fighting and levelling is essentially a series of distractions, busywork to occupy one's time. The feeling of awesomeness that comes from levelling up or acquiring a new piece of equipment quickly fades away. This can be attributed to the fact that the "weapons and armour" are almost as dorky as the main character. Seriously, nobody is impressed by some guy running around in a cardboard hat and swinging a protractor. Maybe if he gains a few levels, he can dual-wield a pair of conductor batons. Players might not be amused that they have become the butt of one big practical joke.

What's most shocking of all is how compelling this farce turns out to be. A lot of games have something called a heart, a conscious, or some other thing that prevents them from going too far. Eventually the player is given a warm fuzzy feeling that they can hold on to; a person or object that will never let them down. Nothing of the sort can be found here. Instead, there's just discomfort, dread, and despair. It never reaches the point of nihilism, but that's probably because the world already ended, and nobody can make sense of what remains.

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Final Score
There are videogames that have issues and are held back from greatness by a series of missteps. [i]Super Daryl Deluxe[/i] is a special case, because its wounds are self-inflicted. There were clearly a number of other directions this game could have gone in, but the ridiculous path it chose is probably what makes it so intriguing. The blatant repetition, the largely pointless narrative, the unlikeable cast; if even one of these elements were out of place, then the adventure would probably fall apart. Frankly, this is a baffling conclusion to arrive at, but few titles are designed to own up to their bad qualities. This one knows it has poor ideas, and runs with them anyway. It's actually kind of admirable, but still really hard to recommend on a whim.

6

/10

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