When a headstrong schoolgirl named Yumo inherits amazing abilities, she takes on responsibility for protecting the realm from Chaos whilst trying to find a cure in action RPG brawler, Dusk Diver.
Dusk Diver mixes Persona-like anime RPG exploration elements with 3D real-time fighting mechanics to deliver its narrative. When Leo, the local guardian god saves Yumo after a Chaos Beast attack in the middle of town, he accidentally transfers his fighting ability as well as his powers to transition between the realms to her. Unfortunately for Yumo, when she utilises these skills, Leo transforms into a tiny Lion who can only offer her advice as she attempts to save the world.
Set in the midst of the Taipei shopping district, the overworld aspects of the game are concentrated around the tasks, conversations and quests that Yumo must complete to progress elements of the story in addition to locating Dragon Stone shards which not only bestow an all important (and finite) experience boost but also act as keys to opening dimensional fissures and progressing through the chapters.
Fully realised in 3D, the city centre is suitably detailed although barrier mechanics are utilised to keep you within the playable area. People litter the streets and both shops and street vendors where you can buy a variety of items help bring the city to life. The Nintendo Switch version plays to its limits by only rendering detail on the city’s inhabitants when you are within a set distance, whilst outside that distance a coloured silhouette helps retain the density without the cpu requirement going through the roof.
The game shifts to an alternative version of the Ximending area once a fissure is located and traversed, within this area the only inhabitants are the entities of Chaos. Generally these enemies are spawned on proximity and the city is fairly void of life apart from a few gates, artifacts and item blocks until that point. Shards and various keys are (well) hidden within each portal to allow progression within the fissure as well as throughout the story but the real elements here are the combat and the narrative.
Fully voiced in Chinese or Japanese and with on screen subtitles in the local install language, Dusk Diver has a diverse and well represented voice cast delivering the story. Considering the install size for the digital version, its impressive the entire story is voiced and the delivery of the individual characters is both distinct and assists in creating the players connection with them and their individual mannerisms.
Yumo has the ability to run, dodge and jump during both overworld and combat situations although during the latter additional capabilities come into play. Dodging at the last second engages “Just Dodge”, a period where time slows and damage is increased. Offensive capabilities are split between the remaining face buttons on the controller with Yumo initially having a Light and Heavy attack which can be comboed at differing lengths dependant on Yumo’s level or the input variation and timing.
In addition to standard attacks, Dusk Diver introduces a number of additional offensive options within the first few chapters. Summon attacks allow the guardian to temporarily transform to attack with increased power. These attacks act as finishers to combos and differ in strength and delivery dependant on the combo. Powered by a special bar you fill by collecting blue orbs (which are generated by defeating enemies), these attacks have the ability to break guard on some enemies and as such become a “go-to” attack for progression at speed.
A secondary transformation called D-Arms, a guardian weapon attack and a powerful D-Arms Guardian attack complete the options giving the player a fairly comprehensive collection of abilities to string together to keep combat fresh. Eventually Dusk Diver also expands the guardian roster as part of the main story which allows even further variation in each extra attack type and suitability to each engagement Yumo faces.
Unlocking and completing certain overworld quests continues to expand each guardians strength or capability and Yumo always has the option to go back to each chapter to collect missing shards. Experience however (used for levelling up) is only attained by reaching certain ranks in each chapter. In practise this means being rewarded for an A Rank in Chapter 1 will only result in a reward if its replayed and if you can achieve an S Rank.
With good variety in its combat sections, a faithful recreation of Ximending Shopping District, and an interesting story, the strength of Dusk Diver’s narrative delivery will drive you forward to the end of the game despite some grind in the final third.