- Developer: JFI Games
- Publisher: PQube Games
- Release Date: October 29th, 2019
- Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Price: $39.99
- Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
- Review Code Provided: Yes
So here’s a pretty interesting one. I know I just reviewed Into the Dead 2, but I actually had this game going well before hand and didn’t complete it until AFTER ItD2. And that makes Dusk Diver the first review code I’ve ever gotten, and to be upfront, this was definitely a good game to start getting review codes with.
Dusk Diver is an action beat-’em-up that came out on Steam in March this year– just 4 days after the biggest action game of the year, Devil May Cry 5. Needless to say, amidst all the hustle and bustle over DMC5, Dusk Diver initially went well under my radar. I actually only found out about it in the middle of this month, and thought it looked pretty interesting.
And as weird as hell as the game is, I was hooked!
For a short, spoiler-free rundown of the story: Dusk Diver takes place in Ximending, a digital recreation of the real-life shopping district and tourist attraction of the same name in Taipei, Taiwan. Our story revolves around Yumo Yang, a high school junior, who accidentally stumbles into a strange new world while out and about with her friend, Yusha. This world is Youshanding, an empty, nearly lifeless copy of Ximending (as in, the maps of the two worlds are exactly the same) that serves as the home of the Chaos Beasts, an army of destructive creatures who you get to use as living punching bags. On their first journey to Youshanding, Yumo and Yusha come into contact with a half man, half lion named Leo, who comes from a separate realm called Kunlun and agrees to help Yumo fight off the Chaos Beasts. Leo isn’t the only one from Kunlun here to help you out, though. There’s also Boss, who lost her powers and takes the form of a ceramic bear doll, Bahet, a music lover and former noble who’s half bat, and Le Viada, a popular model and actress in Ximending who’s half goldfish. Together, it’s you and the Kunlunians’ task to kick some Chaos Beast ass and restore peace to the world, and more importantly, Coldstone Creamery.
This is one of the first things you see in this game.
The story is alright. While it is predictable, it’s also pretty hilariously cheesy, and I liked seeing the interactions between characters and felt engaged in what was going on at all times. It helps that Dusk Diver is a short game, so the story contains itself pretty nicely and is constantly moving up until Chapter 13 (which really doesn’t have a story and is just you doing whatever you want after beating the final boss). In fact, I think I beat it in 8 or 9 hours total? It’s worth the $40 asking price for the amount of content that you’re getting.
But the story does get dragged down a bit by one thing: the English translation. A lot of the time, dialogue will lack or improper use of punctuation, words that should be capitalized are left lowercase, and there are a LOT of grammatical and spelling errors. Here’s a few examples:
There’s also a number of shorter, optional side stories called Links. They usually revolve around a single character or structure, like the My Brothers set being about these 5 brothers who are basically the Power Rangers. They’re cute little supplemental stories that offer you a reward in the form of increasing the power of your D.ARMS.
But D.ARMS is diving into gameplay territory, and I have to cover that now. Gameplay is divided into two segments: Ximending’ social life and Youshanding’s beat-’em-up action. In Ximending, you’ll run around the district and do Link missions, eat food, hang out with your friends, use gacha machines that only accept in-game currency and have only one of every item in it making it the nicest gacha system ever, upgrade your stats, and take on other side missions for Boss at Tumaz-Mart and training with the Kunlunians. I recommend you do these, as they can give you discounts on items and unlock new moves in combat. But the main thing you’ll do is search for Dragon Vein Stone Shards. These are basically the Power Stars or Jiggies. You need a set amount to access each level, with 50 out of 153 being required to beat the game. They’re hidden in some real mean spots, too, and often change in size and shape to fit perfectly into various places out of sight.
In Youshanding, you get to take pleasure in beating the crap out of hordes of Chaos Beasts. You have 4 attack types; Light, Strong, Summon, and Special. Light and Strong are self-explanatory. Summon allows you to summon Leo, Bahet, or Le Viada to your aid in exchange for one summon point. Leo specializes in heavy damage, Bahet goes for range, and Le Viada’s attacks can negate the super armor that some enemies have. Lastly, Special is a heavy hitting attack that costs 3 SP and changes depending on your current Kunlunian. At first, I felt the combat was a bit boring and unfulfilling, or even frustrating. But then…I started getting into this rhythm. Light, strong, summon. Light, light, strong, summon. I started experimenting a little bit with mid-air combat. I was unlocking new moves for the Kunlunians in training missions and unlocking new moves for Yumo herself in Ximending. And Dusk Diver just got even more fun as I went on. While its combat left a bad first impression, it quickly grew on me as a simple game providing a wonderful adrenaline rush.
With D.ARMS, that combat just gets even more insane. It’s basically Yumo going Super Saiyan, you get increased attack power, speed, and defense as long as you have enough TP to keep you going. The game also uses this to end off boss fights in stylish ways, and you can use an ultimate move that completely decimates whatever happens to be hit by it, but forces you out of D.ARMS as a result.
So the story is cheesy and fun, running around the overworld is chill, and the combat is a thrill, but how’s the presentation? It’s okay. The game ironically runs better during action sequences than social sequences, as there are a lot of people loaded in at once and the game can barely handle it. Even when it reduces their animations and gives them solid, single color textures. It does create a really interesting aesthetic, though.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the action segments run completely fine. Up until the 2nd to last action segment, when the game is loading in so many large enemies that it can handle them, it’s pretty stable. Just don’t play the game in handheld. While the resolution is completely fine when docked, it drops heavily and becomes extremly blurry in handheld. Here’s a couple of uncomfortably close screenshots of Yumo for comparison:
Dialogue is displayed in voice-acted text boxes with expressive character portraits, though only the standard portraits animate (save for Boss, who’s a ceramic bear incapable of any form of movement anyways) and the voice acting is exclusively Japanese. I won’t go as far as judging the voice acting, since I don’t speak Japanese and I’d be lying if I said I knew the quality standards of voice acting in the country. I like the dialogue portraits, they’re well drawn and express a pretty good amount of emotion. While I’m on the subject, I like the character designs a lot, with my favorite being Boss for just how weird of a concept it is that the top lady in your operations is a fat, ceramic bear.
I also think the models and environments look pretty good. My favorite environment is Sunken Youshanding, the level where the Phantom Leviathan boss fight takes place. It’s a simple aesthetic, but an insanely beautiful one backed by what might be a new favorite piece of gaming music. The soundtrack as a whole is pretty damn good too, if it’s not being cheery and happy, it’s pulling out some great bangers.
And that’s pretty much it. Is Dusk Diver a good game? Yeah, I think so! It does have some questionable choices in it and not great performance, but it makes up for that with insanely fun beat-’em-up gameplay, a deliciously cheesy and enjoyable story with memorable characters, and a great musical style and artwork. It’s also a bit derivative of Persona, but I couldn’t care less because pretty much every game ever is derivative of at least one other game before it, so it’s all good.