Dusk Diver (PlayStation 4) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 18.11.2019

Review for Dusk Diver on PlayStation 4

Dusk Diver is an anime-inspired musou brawler from JFI Games that tells the story of Yang Yumo, a schoolgirl who becomes embroiled in an interdimensional conflict after she accidentally steps into a supernatural world adjacent to her own. Set in Taipei's fashion-mad district of Ximending, Dusk Diver attempts to capture the unique appeal of the city while telling a supernatural tale full of twists and turns. After a look at the inferior Switch version, it's time to see how this fares on the PS4.

It's tough work crafting a musou-style action title that truly stands out. By their very nature, musous are mechanically simplistic and similar to one another, primarily varying in visual style alone. Dusk Diver unfortunately cleaves a little too close to the existing formula, resulting in some sadly unchanging gameplay that no number of character upgrades can prevent from becoming stale.

To make matters worse, the majority of the fights are extremely easy. Many of the uniformly designed enemies seem uninterested in attacking, existing solely as training dummies for Yumo's attacks. On the flip side, the combat is at least graphically impressive. Particle and light effects blossom in satisfying patterns, channelling a comic book-like aesthetic that is satisfying to watch. It's a shame that this is curtailed by gameplay that amounts to mindlessly inputting combos.

Screenshot for Dusk Diver on PlayStation 4

Structurally, the missions are simple and uninspired, consisting of Yumo entering Youshanding - the supernatural dimension neighbouring her home Ximending - and laying some hurt on the bad guys. There is some variation here with a few platforming challenges sprinkled in amongst the scripted battles, but this is not enough to prevent the monotony. As if in chorus with the restrictive gameplay, the environments of Youshanding are in a class of one, consisting almost entirely of darkened and imposing cityscapes with little deviation.

Dusk Diver's story is painfully familiar, taking a leaf out of the metaphorical "Generic Action-Anime Playbook" that seems to make the rounds in anime writer's rooms like a spinning top on a carousel. Yumo experiences an awakening of power after stumbling into Youshanding for the first time and subsequently teams up with some otherworldly heroes to fight the encroaching bad guys, etc, etc.

In fairness, though, the charming troupe of main characters is Dusk Diver's primary attraction, brought to life by a strong cast of Japanese voice actors. These characters, branded "Guardians" in the lore, are responsible for halting the tide of otherworldly visitors who are intent on ravaging Earth. Guardians act as support characters in combat, each boasting some unique moves and skill sets. Where they most notably vary, though, is in their distinct personalities. Despite an underwhelming story, the characters truly shine in some moments thanks to the dynamism betwixt them.

Screenshot for Dusk Diver on PlayStation 4

There is also a strong sense of style throughout. While Ximending isn't quite as captivating as Persona 5's Tokyo, you nevertheless get a sense of belonging that is no doubt owed to the love JFI Games has for its local city. The design of the menus and HUD elements is great, adopting a yellow theme that gels well with the overall tone of the experience. It's clear that the aforementioned Persona 5 was a major inspiration, what with its vibrant environments and hub-world exploration.

While there isn't enough to do in the backdrop-like Ximending to exalt it on the same level, it was always going to be difficult to reach those same heights. Nevertheless, the effort is apparent. A major oversight, however, is the lack of fashion-driven customisation. Alternate outfits do exist for Yumo and the Guardians, but these are simple reskins as opposed to customisable outfit elements. It's strange that a game that claims to be so invested in a fashionable aesthetic doesn't have more character customisation.

Screenshot for Dusk Diver on PlayStation 4

There are other things to do, though. Between story missions, Yumo can perform side tasks for NPC's scattered around Ximending. None of these tasks are particularly memorable, and they serve only as part of a grind to level up Yumo's powers. They do, however, contribute to populating an otherwise sparse game world. NPC's are monochromatic until you get up close to them, which is an effective way of reducing Dusk Diver's technical demands. Sadly, it backfires, as it just leaves the world feeling impersonal and empty.

Language-wise, Dusk Diver can be played with English subtitles in either Japanese or Chinese. The localisation here is hit or miss. Weird translations, spelling errors and subpar sentence construction abound in some instances, speaking to a lack of polish that diminishes the overall experience. Elsewhere, inconvenient load times break up the already stunted flow and immersion.

All these little niggles and large frustrations really add up, but… somehow, for all its failings, Dusk Diver retains a magnetic charm that kept this reviewer coming back for more. Partly because of its lovable characters, and partly because of its refreshing simplicity, it remains very playable even when its flaws take centre stage. This may sound counterintuitive to what the rest of this review would suggest, but it's perhaps the depth of love for the subject matter that JFI Games infused into this title that gives it at least some appeal.

Screenshot for Dusk Diver on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Dusk Diver struggles to make a memorable impact due to its story and gameplay failings. This is not helped by its technical issues. Nevertheless, despite its blandness, there is some charisma beneath the surface thanks to a memorable supporting cast and a clear sense of passion in its world's conception. It's difficult to recommend it, but for those who do give it a go, there is a noteworthy personality here that keeps things ticking.

Developer

JFI Games

Publisher

PQube

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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