There are plenty of anime styled games that come out each year, but very few do enough to warrant me giving them a go. Watching the trailer for this and reading what it was meant to be, I got strong Persona vibes from it, and I’ve loved that series since I first played it on PS1, so I had to give it a go. While I see the inspiration, this is much closer to the newer Digimon games, but less enticing.
Dusk Diver places you in Ximending, which Wikipedia will tell you “is the source of Taiwan’s fashion, subculture, and Japanese culture.” The developers even made it a point to include local points of interest that mirror the real world locations. Indeed, this hub is beautiful to look at, but it seems a bit lifeless for what it could be. This isn’t Kamurocho from Yakuza, nor is it the various locales you visit in Persona 5. Instead, it feels like a sterile set with points of interest popping up as necessary to proceed opposed to a living character you can interact with. While I can appreciate the monochromatic silhouettes for characters in the distance that have textures pop when you get close as a way for optimization, the fact that they’re basically cardboard cutouts makes the charm drop off pretty quickly. Sadly, the texture pop-in is not negated for the environment due to this design choice, as the world is constantly rearranging so much during cut-scenes and traversal that you might think it was intentional.
Your time spent in the city is minimal, depending on how well you do in the alternate dimension. There are collectibles in this that are necessary to proceed with the game, and if you don’t manage to find the necessary quantity while fighting monsters and platforming, you’ll have to wander the streets of the normal world and wait for the game to notify you that you’re close to one. This wouldn’t be so bad if the city was interesting, or there were other things to do along the way, but you’re limited to buying food/items and collecting for the majority of your time, unless you’re heading to a waypoint that isn’t a gateway to the other dimension, but it’ll eventually lead to that tear in spacetime.
Probably the most notable portion of the game is the dialogue between the characters, although this suffers as well, seemingly from localization. And that’s not the only thing that was troublesome – there were plenty of HTML like errors in things such as tutorials that were meant to change the color of the displayed text, but you see the code instead of the desired result. There are some decent interactions between the characters, and the personalities clashing are what kept me going as the rest of it was very monotonous, especially in the beginning. I kept wondering when the game would flesh out, as I knew it had to based on the trailers.
The combat itself is pitched as being for those that are familiar with the Musou genre. Essentially, insurmountable odds against a single driving force that has an absurd kill count per level. This is definitely provided, but similar to the recent Utawarerumono: ZAN, it’s missing something. Maybe it’s the overly simple combat due to lethargic enemy AI, or perhaps it’s the small areas you’ll explore that are reminiscent of Cyber Sleuth in design. Something you don’t typically see in this genre is some platforming sections. One of the first levels introduces this as a feature, and I had to redo the same portion about three or four times (not to mention how many subsequent tries accompanied the levels following), and it makes you realize just how barren and boring the world is, even with the supernatural elements. Adding features to a game is all well and good if they are fully developed, but lengthening the game with mediocre and sometimes even poor design choices only makes the flaws stand out that much more.
I went into Dusk Diver hoping for something great, and in terms of visual aesthetic, it manages to be enticing. The setting is promising, the characters are enjoyable, and the story is a trope fest but has potential (I enjoy comfort food). Unfortunately, every portion of the game feels unpolished and at times like it wasn’t play tested to ensure it was actually fun. If you’re looking for an anime musou-type game that takes place in a modern day real world location, then you have specific tastes and this will fit that need, but I would recommend waiting on a few patches and perhaps a drop in price.
5 out of 10
- Anime Aesthetic
- Real World Locations
- Character Interactions
- Poor Platforming
- Boring Enemies
Dusk Diver was developed by JFI Games Inc and published by PQube. It is available on NS, PC, and PS4. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of Dusk Diver, check out the publisher’s site.
Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.