Dust: An Elysian Tail is an independently-made, side-scrolling action RPG game by former Jazz Jackrabbit animator Dean Dodril (a.k.a. NoogyToad) of Humble Hearts for the Xbox 360 and Windows PC.The story of the game centers around the eponymous protagonist, Dust, who has no recollection of his past memories. He sets out on a quest to find the answers he's looking for with the ancient Blade of Ahrah in hand, along with the sword's guardian, a nimbat named Fidget, to aid Dust during his quest. Along the way, he must also help various villagers in need of a hero. Eventually, he becomes involved in a conflict with a genocidal dictator who seems to know something about his past...The core gameplay of Dust: An Elysian Tail is essentially a Metroidvania-styled game where players explore the vast world of Falana, fight various monsters, and gain special abilities to access new areas. Along the way, Dust can gain XP and raise his stats, pick-up raw materials to craft items, and accept side-quests from various villagers. Just don't let the hand-drawn scenery distract you.The game was first planned as an Xbox LIVE Indie Games title during its early developmental stages, although after the submission of the game at Microsoft's Dream.Build.Play contest at PAX East of 2009, Dean Dodril won the grand prize of a contract with Microsoft to release the game as an Xbox LIVE Arcade title at the event. Aside from the game's music (provided by Hyperduck SoundWorks), the game has been developed entirely by Dean Dodril himself.Dust: An Elysian Tail is also part of a series set within the An Elysian Tail universe; the series currently consist of this game and an animated film titled Elysian Tail that is also currently in production. The game has been released on Xbox LIVE Arcade on August 15th, 2012 as part of the "Summer of Arcade" titles, while a Windows port was released on May 24th, 2013 on Steam, both priced at $14.99. A launch trailer of the game can be seen from Dean's YouTube channel here.For a similar 2D hack'n'slash with heavily stylized and hand-drawn graphics, see Muramasa: The Demon Blade.
The beautiful yet dangerous world of Falana is host to the following tropes:
100% Completion: If exploring every nook and cranny of area while helping the needy in various side quests is your thing, then get ready do a lot of that in this game. Full completion of the game even yields a 117% progress bar.
Aborted Arc: Haley's potential crush on Dust—which, to be fair, was pointed out by Fidget, so it was to be taken with a grain of salt—is never brought up more than once, and its one time being brought up was fairly early on in the story.
Action Bomb: Blombs, floating creatures whose sole purpose is apparently to explode when anything that isn't another Blomb gets too close. They can only be harmed when taking a deep breath — otherwise, they're effectivelly invulnerable to just about any attack. There are also explosive mutant zombies in the Sorrowing Meadows.
Affably Evil: Despite being the Big Bad, General Gaius tends to treat Dust better than Dust's own allies do.
Amnesiac Hero: Dust. Wakes up in a clearing and remembers nothing, and is then accosted by a sword and a flying fox. Over the course of the story, he remembers more of his past.
Authority Equals Asskicking: General Gaius, who can match Dust blow-for-blow, openly says he was Cassius' better in combat, and has such insane endurance that he needs to be brutally pounded into the heart of a volcano before he finally dies.
A Taste of Power: In the trial version of the game, players are given almost every ability in the game except the Iron Grip and Boost Jump ability.
The Atoner: Dust (well, his Cassius half at least)
Dust:I am justice incarnate, brought to this world by forces beyond your comprehension. A cleansing storm to sweep across the land and purge it of your foul presence. I am Dust. And your campaign ends here, now. Throw down your weapons and surrender, or you will face an enemy unlike any this world has ever seen.
Badass Normal: Jin. It's never revealed precisely how, but one pissed-off kid managed to slay a nation's strongest warrior single-handedly, although he died in the process. They're stated to have been bound together by having died at the same time, and the cover art depicts Cassius cradling a presumably-dying Jin in his arms, so it may have been a Taking You with Me surprise attack.
Big Bad: General Gaius. His goal is to wipe out the reptilian Moonblood race, apparently in his desire for racial purity.
Bigger Bad: Possibly the unnamed king General Gaius and Cassius served.
Bleak Level: The Sorrowing Meadows. The Blade of Ahrah explains they were not always the way they are now, but they have been corrupted. All the trees are dead; your foes are mindless undead and twisted abominations.
Bonus Dungeon: The Cirelian Trials, which are Death Courses where you're tasked to move through an area, avoiding damage from obstacles and enemies, as quickly as possible to score high points. Scoring enough points rewards with gear you might not be able to get until later on.
Book Ends: Sort of. At the start of the game, when you first meet Fidget, it's after she's been chasing the Blade of Ahrah (which had flown off on its own). She begins to do the same thing again in the ending, only this time, it's not flying off on its own. Instead, it's drifting away alongside Dust's spirit.
Combos: Naturally, although players are free to mash their way to victory and enjoy the story rather than fight with finesse. To stress this, you get bonus XP for combo chains as long as you don't take any damage in the process, and one of the Achievements and side-quests requires you to get a 1,000-hit combo. This can be done in the very first boss fight, using Fidget's magic.
Chain Lightning: Fidget eventually gets the ability to shoot lightning bolts at enemies, which can be combined with Dust's Dust Storm technique and electrify near-by enemies at once.
Composite Character: Dust in an in-canon example, being the sum of Jin's compassion and Cassius's badassery
Conspicuous CG: Most noticeable is probably the Blade of Ahrah, though the airborne gunships used by Gaius' army are also plainly CG. It actually helps their aesthetic; most of their details are still hand-drawn, and the result is that they look shiny, polished, and just a tiny bit unnatural, which is entirely fitting for the only mechanical enemies in the entire game. Gaius' soldiers are also partially CG, most notably the armor and weapons.
Controllable Helplessness: After you defeat Gaius, Dust is lying on the ground exhausted as Gaius is shouting his friend's name while hanging over a pit of lava: the only thing you can do is slowly crawl forward in an attempt to reach out to save him.
Lady Tethys. She had gone mad with rage over Gaius' actions, and cut off Mudpot's water supply. Beating her knocks her back to her senses.
Baron Kane, after defeating the ravenous demon form he turned into in death. Beating him cleanses his spirit, and he reunites with his still living wife Cora.
Defictionalization: Noogy has stated that he's seeing if he can find someone who can make real life nimbat dolls.
Degraded Boss: The giants, first encountered early in the game where Dust saves Oneida and Geehan, later becomes regular enemies. The same happens for the red claw enemies in Sorrowing Meadows and floating ice enemies in Blackmoor Mountains.
Difficult, But Awesome: The parry mechanic requires you to both have good timing, and face your opponent. That said, it stuns the parried enemy, and it increases your damage against said enemy. Some foes require a parry in order to do any damage at all against them.
Difficulty Spike: The Sorrowing Meadows. Two new types of enemy - a mook maker who occasionally summons enemies which explode if you run into them and a creature which can knock you out of midair - are some of the few enemies in the game which present any real threat to Dust. The difficulty bump in platforming/level navigation comes in the previous level, though.
Dub Step: Once you find both of the Duck DJ friends, the Sanctuary turns into a rave party, and the music has a light peppering of dub.
Enemy Summoner: A flying wizard in the Sorrowing Meadows endlessly summons zombies and exploding zombies for as long as it can see you, until you run from it or kill it. For added annoyance, it teleports from melee attacks, making Fidget the only one capable of harming it.
Exact Words: Ahrah mostly avoids direct lies, though he does do so once or twice.
Fairy Companion: Fidget, to Dust. She's a small fox-like being with bat wings.
Fantastic Racism: The story setting takes places during a ongoing war against the Moonblood (a race of lizard-people) in a campaign led by General Gaius to wipe them out.
Flat Character: Nearly all of the villains are completely one dimensional and lack any form of backstory or motivation for what they do. Even General Gaius is given absolutely no reason for wanting to destroy the Moonbloods beyond "because I can".
Finishing Move: Performing an air throw that deals enough damage to finish off one of the gunships in the final level comes with a slow-motion effect and causes them to blow up when they hit the ground, which hits every enemy on the screen. However, if the air throw doesn't do enough damage to finish them off, the throw just turns into a normal slash.
Fungus Humongous: Found in the Cirromon Caverns, where they infrequently drop liquid on you; sometimes they heal you (blue), most of the time they spray poison at you (red).
Funny Background Event: You can use the right stick to pan the map screen upwards to see Fidget sitting on a twig roasting and eating marshmallows or sleeping.
Game-Breaking Bug: There's a few in the Xbox 360 version in the Blackmoor Mountains. One in particular you should be aware of is that if you try to slide on certain floors, the game glitches out and causes you to fall through the ground instead as if it was a thin platform.
Not even the PC version is safe. Early versions of it could cause your CPU to overload and overheat before you could even see anything other than a pure white screen.
Also in PC Version, there's a bug where falling faster than the camera or leaving the camera view could crash the game. Unlike the previously CPU eater bug, this one was not fixed in any update.
Go Out with a Smile: Dust in the end. The guy really took being swallowed by rising magma like a champ.
Harder Than Hard: If Tough mode wasn't challenging enough for you, how about trying your hand at the Hardcore mode? However, the game modes are rather nonindicative - while one might expect Hardcore to be Nintendo Hard, in reality it is STILL an easy game even on the highest possible difficulty, and it isn't hard to defeat the game on hardcore mode the first time through. Indeed, the primary threat in the game is not enemies - who will seldom even hurt you, and who cannot kill you in a single hit if you are not in flashing red hit points, something which is unchanged in hardcore mode - but environmental hazards, which can trap you in hitstun and kill you without any chance to escape regardless of how much health you have. Regardless of difficulty level, you will soon be mowing down the enemies without taking damage, and the platforming puzzles are identical across difficulty modes.
Heart Container: The twelve "Friends" you rescue throughout the game gives Dust a 5% bonus to his maximum HP, up to a total of 60% extra HP.
Homage: Of the developer's favorite side-scrolling games.
How Did You Know? I Didn't: During a sidequest, Dust gets possessed by an evil presence from a box. The holder of the box, Reed, suggests that Dust kill himself to get rid of the presence. Despite initial concerns, Dust does so, and it's a success. When he asks Reed how he knew that would work, Reed replies that he didn't and had a revival stone ready just in case. Dust points out that it was entirely fortuitous the the child who originally found the box didn't have the curiosity to open it.
Hyperactive Metabolism: Food is how you heal in this game. You can scarf down numerous chickens, soups, burgers, and crab legs with no ill effects. In fact, some foods actually boost your stats and heal you of ailments.
Dust: *takes a Gappy Sheep* Fidget: "Wait... Did you..." Dust: "Hmm?" Fidget: "Did you just put that thing in your inventory?" Dust: "Yeah. What?" Fidget: "Okay then."
"I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: The entirety of the battle between Dust and General Gaius. However, it bears an unusual twist: it's an extremely rare villainous example. Throughout the entire fight, it's Gaius doing this to Dust, appealing to the soul and memories of his old friend and ally, Cassius. What keeps this from being a "They Still Belong to Us" Lecture is that Gaius doesn't seem to be trying to deceive Dust or cause discord between Dust and his allies; he truly believes that there are some remnants of Cassius somewhere inside Dust.
Battle Master's Pendant is probably closest to one; it doubles Dust's base attack and you can only get blueprints for it from the enemies in the final area.
The best augment is Mithrarin's Augment, while the best armor is Mithrarin's Robe.
For Fidget, the Foul Ring of Devastation triples the base stat, and as a ring it can be worn twice. Combine this with Mithrarin's Augment plus Battle Master's Pendant, with all items multiplying on top of each other, and you end up with a total bonus of x27!
Irony: General Gaius believes that Dust is merely his friend Cassius under a spell by the Moonbloods. The ironic part is that this is true. While this in no way justifies the genocide, the Moonbloods cast a spell that would call upon the Sen-Mithrarin, one warrior made from two opposite souls that could always keep each other in balance. Cassius was the fearless warrior half, and became Sen-Mithrarin along with a boy named Jin, who'd killed him for murdering his family of Moonblood sympathizers. They hoped that Jin's conscience would temper Cassius's bloodthirstiness, but the resulting gestalt entity has his own personality.
Item Crafting: As Dust pummels foes into oblivion, they often leave behind raw materials such as lumber, scrap metals, and other resources to craft equipment like armor, pendents, and rings.
When Dust and Fidget encounter their first Blomb, which blows up a Mook in a cutscene (and right next to a save point):
Fidget: "Oh my. He really should have saved first."
While Fidget is the go-to gal for this (combined with Medium Awareness), Dust gets in on it too at the end of the trial mode stage.
There's an actual sidequest wherein you need to achieve a 1000 hit combo to complete it, that is all.
Fidget points out how much Dust flies around the screen when he activates his Dust Storm while jumping. He's all like WOOOOOOOSHHHSHHH!!! She also wonders how it's possible for Dust to see anything straight ahead of him, what with that hat of his always obscuring his eyes.
Fidget also points out how Dust always has to start a fire whenever he pulls out the map when talking to Old Grey Eyes about their flameless light magic.
Merger of Souls: Towards the end of the game it's revealed that Dust himself has the souls of Ginger's brother and the Big Bad's henchman/best friend who slew each other. It's explicitly stated that the resulting being has its own mind and body, with either soul just providing moral guidance and power respectively.
Metroidvania: The game consists of a couple of reasonably large maps with hidden secrets to find, and places that you need to return to once you have more abilities.
Misplaced Retribution: Fuse orchestrated the monster attacks of Aurora because he mistakenly believes they're aligned with Gaius.
Missing Time: Eventually, Dust realizes that what memories he does have are ones from a year ago.
Mushroom Man: There's a race of kind-of Mushroom people living in Mudpot.
Mundane Utility: The Dust Storm attack, and even more so its aerial variant, also works quite well for picking the coins and materials left in your path of destruction. Its wind effect will cause all the items to fly into its vortex and often right into you as well for an incredibly easy pickup. Blueprints will still need to be picked up by hand however.
Petting Zoo People: There are no humans in the gamenote Except The Cameo Friends from other video games, who some of which are cartoonish representations of humans done in their own source art style.. Everyone is an anthropomorphic animal of some kind, with most being some kind of mouse on account of the primary hub in the game being a village of theirs.
Playing with Fire: Fuse, a Moonblood driven by his desire of revenge against General Gaius' after his onslaught. Fidget later gets an ability to shoot fireballs, which can be used with Dust's Dust Storm to create flaming pillars after defeating Fuse.
Plucky Comic Relief: Fidget, the guardian of the Sword of Ahrah, the magical sword Dust is carrying.
Possession Implies Mastery: When Dust first demonstrates his fighting skills, he asks in wonder where he learned them. Ahrah says that wielding him grants the user sword skills. Turns out he was lying.
Power Copying: After defeating Fuse and knocking some sense into Lady Tethys, Fidget learns to mimic their attacks.
The Power of Love: Described on the Wedding Ring, which gives Dust some of the best stat boosts in all areas though it's third best for the Fidget stat.
Punny Name: Fale, the guy in Aurora Village who supplies the guards of the village with sub-par equipment. Finishing all of his quests unlocks the Achievement "Opposite of Fail", which makes it more obvious.
The title of the game itself is play on Tale/Tail, given the characters are all anthropomorphic animals.
Properly Paranoid: At the very least, Reed's paranoia about the box is justified, as it contains an evil presence.
Red Herring: After a while, it seems pretty obvious that Dust is Cassius, a Royal Assassin, who survived the battle he supposedly died in and just doesn't remember who he is. However, it turns out things are nowhere near as simple as that...
Reincarnation: When both Jin (Ginger's brother) and Cassius (General Gaius' Royal Assassin) defeated each other in battle on the night General Gaius' army wiped out the village, their souls became one. The last of Moonbloods reincarnated the intertwined souls and together they became Dust.
The ending implies that Dust's double soul can do this again, and that his death was not final.
The Reveal: In the aptly-named "Revelations" chapter.
Sequel Hook: At the very end of the game, after Dust's apparent sacrifice, Ginger and Fidget see his spirit and the Blade of Ahrah rise from the volcano and fly off, with Fidget chasing after them; furthermore, the Moonblood Elder all but directly states that Dust is not done just yet. Not to mention that, just before the final battle, Gaius suggests that he's just the middle man, and the attempted genocide of the Moonbloods was ordered by someone else - whom is probably the king he serves, as Cassius implies in a flashback.
The way to access the hidden room in the Blackmoor Mountains where Tim can be found with an hour-glass carved into the wall requires the Red Crystal so Dust can ride the tornado. Fidget even points out just how weird that entire transition was.
The creator was planning to include another Castlevania II reference by having Fidget be disappointed about the items at the end of the mansions in Sorrowing Meadow you need to collect not being "some sort of a rib or a rotting body part".
Your main aerial combo to throw: XY → XXXY not only looks similar to Ryu Hayabusa's Izuna Drop, it shares the same button input.
The ground Dust Storm ability strongly resembles the Prop (Shredder) ability from Devil May Cry.
When you pick up Haley's Transmitter she will appear as a blue spirit and tell Dust that she's talking from beyond the grave. This is clearly a reference to Muramasa Senji, who is also the only NPC in the game who crafts weapons for you.
Defeating the first boss will cause the screen to Fade to White and show a completely different scene from before as the boss lies dying, with a diffuse white glow at the edges of the screen. Afterwards, the two return to the "normal" world. This is a reference to Assassin's Creed. note In Assassin's Creed and its sequels, assassinating a story target will transport the assassin and the victim to an area inside the Animus—the computer running the simulation of the past—called the "memory corridor", which is an empty room in the Animus, where the two will talk for a while until the victim dies. It is unclear whether this conversation is real, a way to compensate for the simulation not matching real events, or merely symbolical.
Social Darwinist: General Gaius. This is the closest thing to an explanation we get for his death march against the Moonbloods.
Spoiler Cover: The cover of the game clearly shows both Cassius' and Jin's dead bodies on the ground, with Dust himself rising above them, kind of ruining the twist. However, this isn't really obvious until near the end of the game.
There's a reason why Dust is all ghostly in the above image.
Suicide by Cop: Inverted in an early side quest. When Dust gets infected with an evil entity from an opened box, the only way to get rid of it is to get a monster to kill him before the curse does.
Underground Level: The Cirromon Caverns, a large network of caves located underneath Aurora Village.
Visible Invisibility: Gaius' scouts/assassinsnote they wear the same style of hat as Dust are either totally invisible, or rendered as blurred outlines that occasionally flicker with electricity and distort their surroundings. Dust's attacks cannot actually connect with them unless they are partially-visible. Easiest way to force them to become visible? Fidget's electrical attack.
Wake Up Call Boss: Lady Tethys. She is very swift, her attacks deal moderate damage even with the highest defense and best armor available and she loves to spam spells which will make you fall on spikes in the lowest part of the arena if you move recklessly. Additionally, her melee attack has decent range and might catch you off guard. However, you can still kill her by spamming projectiles then hitting her while she is in hitstun.
We Used to Be Friends: Dust is a Sen-Mithrarin formed by the souls of Jin, Ginger's kind-hearted brother, and Cassius, General Gaius' ruthless assassin and his closest friend. Eventually, Dust gets into a heated confrontation with General Gaius not only as Jin's sworn enemy, but also Cassius' closest friend.
What the Hell, Hero?: The aforementioned side-quest of choosing to lace Gianni's laundry with poison ivy. Let's just say Dust and Fidget are doing karma's work to teach Gianni a lesson for abandoning a young boy in the middle of nowhere, if the player chooses to do so.