Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Steam
[Review code provided by PQube Games]
Welcome to “the Shibuya of Taipei”, Ximending! Dusk Diver lovingly recreates the real life hotspot and sets it as the backdrop to a battle between gods, men, and the phantoms known as “Chaos Beasts”.
Playing as Yang Yumo (voiced in Japanese by Rina Sato), a high-school girl on summer vacation, you find yourself granted the powers of the guardian gods. Using those abilities, it’s up to you to enter the the hidden dimension Youshanding and protect the human world.
The story’s premise is perhaps not the most original, granted, but it’s got enough unique beats to keep things interesting. The game has a strong core cast of entertaining characters that keep things moving nicely, and Ximending is an enjoyable setting to poke around looking for collectibles and sidequests.
In terms of presentation, the game has some of the style of Persona, but maintains a unique flavour. While Dusk Diver isn’t a graphical powerhouse, it’s still very appealing to look at thanks to its use of clean, vibrant colours. Character and enemy design is also very good here, and colour coding is used throughout the game in simple but effective ways.
Like its presentation, Dusk Diver‘s gameplay has read from the notes of other games. Similar to titles like Senran Kagura or Dynasty Warriors, battles consist of large packs of mooks that are beaten down with combos strung together with Light and Heavy attacks. Of course, super attacks and a powered-up transformation state are a given. It’s a very familiar format, but combat is punchy and satisfying.
Where Dusk Diver adds its own twist is through the ability to summon your guardian allies to finish out a combo, with the ability to quickly switch between them. By doing this, you can feasibly get multiple guardians on screen at once – it makes for some very flashy combat. Each guardian has their own specialty, so making use of them properly adds a slight tactical edge to things.
Although the combat is fun, it can get a bit tedious after a while, particularly when fighting bulkier mobs. The game only has so many combos, and once you’ve unlocked them all it’s just a case of rinsing and repeating.
Fortunately, Dusk Diver is not an overly long game, and even completing the vast majority of side content, I was done with the game’s main story before it had worn out its welcome. For those looking for more to do, each mission has a Hard difficulty, and there’s collectibles to be hunted down in each stage, as well as S ranks to be won.
To the game’s credit, it does make attempts to break up the Beast bashing, both in Ximending’s overworld and Youshanding’s combat stages. In the former, you’ll find plenty of reason to explore the streets looking for Dragon Vein Shards, completing sidequests and going for meals with your buddies. At one point I caught myself calling the overworld “baby Yakuza”, which is not a bad comparison at all.
Almost every piece of side content has a purpose – usually buffing your characters – so it never feels like you’re wasting time. Collecting Shards is required to open up the next story mission, but the requirements are quite low and easy to keep on top of. If you’re in a hurry, you can even pay a small amount of in-game coin to mark them on the map – even if you don’t, Boss is quick to point out when a Shard is nearby.
Once you’re back in Youshanding, there’s a handful of stages with their own gimmicks. These include a stealth mission, various platforming challenges, a defense mission and a chase scene. These stages are a bit more hit-and-miss, but they’re also quite lenient and never became frustrating. If nothing else, I appreciate the attempt to mix things up.
The game does have a couple of issues that are worth mentioning, but there’s a good chance they might get patched out later on. The first is the game’s English translation, which is noticably spotty. It’s never incomprehensible, but there’s some odd wording and blatant typos here and there. In this case, there’s definitely been a promise to update the text as time goes on.
The second issue is the game’s voice acting. While the acting itself is very solid, there seems to be some hissing in several lines; I noticed it particularly when Boss is speaking, but it’s present for other characters, too. I played the game through with Japanese voices (Chinese voices are also available), so I’m not sure if it’s an issue across the board or not. Either way, it isn’t a big problem, but it’s noticable enough to annoy now and then.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Yumo and the Guardians in Ximending and Youshanding. Dusk Diver isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a well made and charming game. I should also note that I think the game has some excellent art (some of which I included in this review).
If you’re a fan of anime brawlers like Senran Kagura or the Fate/Extella games, then you’ll probably find a lot to like here. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking for something in that vein – you won’t be disappointed.
Dusk Diver delivers a solid anime beat-em-up experience. Exploring Ximending and battling alongside the Guardians in Youshanding is enjoyable for the 10 or so hours it took me to beat the game – and there’s still plenty to do when I go back to it.
While it’s not a perfect package, there’s plenty to like about this one, and it never overstays its welcome. I’d recommend Dusk Diver to any fan of Senran Kagura and similar titles.