Dark Void Zero was an interesting title before its release, not just because of its NES presentation and gameplay style, but also because Dark Void Zero carried with it a unique backstory that most video games just don’t. Around the release of its bigger brother, Capcom created Dark Void Zero to be used as a marketing tool.
Capcom presented us with a story of how Dark Void Zero was a long lost video game that was developed for the archaic Playchoice-10. Upon cancellation of the Playchoice-10, Dark Void Zero would get locked away in a vault, until the year 2010. Of course, I now know this is a fictional story, but at the time I believed it; poor gullible me. Dark Void would go on to make very little splashes in the next-gen pool, but Dark Void Zero would be a title praised for its accurate NES presentation and gameplay.
In Dark Void Zero you control Rusty, a soldier born in the Void who has been presented with the mission of exterminating the Watchers. The Watchers are an alien race from a now extinct planet looking to call Earth its new home. They couldn’t just inhabit Earth as they were being opposed by the military; instead they built portals that linked to various areas on the planet that would make their invasion more effective. A more efficient, larger, and more stable portal was built in the center of the void, and it is now up to Rusty to foil the Watchers’ plans.
Dark Void Zero is a platforming shooter that draws similarities from games like Mega Man and Metroid, but Rusty has more than just fancy weaponry at his disposal. You can also use a rocket pack which will allow you to hover over dangerous areas, or fly to seemingly unreachable sections of the level. Gameplay for Dark Void Zero takes place over three levels with the goal being very simple for each; find portal control codes and shut the portals down for good; each level also ends with a boss battle.
It has simple and easy to learn controls with the D-Pad controlling your movement, shooting with B, and jumping/rocket pack functions mapped to A. This is a control scheme very reminiscent of the NES era and it doesn’t really get much more difficult than that.
Each level in Dark Void Zero is actually quite big. You will need to find key cards to progress, and ultimately the control code on each stage. There are plenty of challenging platforming sections, especially considering you don’t always have the rocket pack, and a lot of enemies on each map. Most enemies will just shoot at you and can easily be bested, but the game will sometimes overwhelm you with enemies making progress a little more difficult.
There are many power-ups to help you on the journey, which includes the rocket pack. It can only be used when you obtain it during the level, but beware as it can be lost as well. I think using the rocket pack is the highlight of the game; you can hold A to fly skywards, or tap A twice to use its hover function. The hover function makes it easier to play the game, whereas the other functionality feels kind of pointless. There are also a few different varieties of guns to find, but only one gun can be held at a time.
While Dark Void Zero is a pretty fun game (and true to the NES style), there is a serious lack of variety in your objectives. You will be doing pretty much the same thing in every level, which wouldn’t be too bad if the goals were changed up a bit. The same can be said for the boss fights as they are all way too similar. There are new elements added in for each battle, but the bosses are essentially copies. There are some additional items to find such as collecting 100 tech points on every level, and a set of 5 things to either find or destroy. I’m trying not to hate on the game, but each level feels a little too similar.
Dark Void Zero looks and sounds just like an NES game. I really dig the 8-bit NES look and Dark Void Zero pulls it off flawlessly. Sprites are nice, even if they are made a little smaller for the DSi screen, and the environments are indicative of the NES era; meaning you may have to use your imagination just a little. However, the star of the entire package is easily the soundtrack. It’s a shame that the game ends so soon, because that magical Capcom chiptune style is back in full force. I especially like the theme for Stage 2 which has quite an epic adventure feel.
If you are a fan of NES platformers, or just a huge Capcom fan in general, then you will find plenty here to enjoy. Dark Void Zero will run you 500 DSiWare Points ($4.99 on the eShop) which is a great value for a well put together game, even if it is a little short. There are some areas that lack variety, but with multiple things to accomplish on each level and an overall challenging design, Dark Void Zero really delivers. This may not be for gamers that don’t like the retro approach, but big Capcom fans will absolutely love this game.