Dusk Diver is a stylish beat-em-up similar to Koei Tecmo’s Warriors series set in the Ximending shopping district in Taipai, Taiwan. You play as Yang Yumo, a young girl who finds herself in an alternate dimension known as Youshanding, under attack by the evil chaos beasts who live there. When the Kunlunian, Leo saves your life it appears as though Yumo has a spiritual power that allows her to connect with the power of the Kunlunian. Out of her depth, Yumo is brought under the supervision of the Boss, a stone bear figurine who decides to help Yumo with her newfound problems.
Our story continues with Yumo exploring areas of Youshanding as they become more problematic, meeting new characters along the way and trailing the steps of a misguided Kunlunian who wishes to make all worlds equal and set the chaos beasts free in the world of humans. In terms of narrative structure, you will find yourself reading some text and listening to your choice of Japanese or Chinese dialogue, then entering small dungeons filled with hundreds of beasts for you to punch and kick your way through.
The story is simple but not particularly engaging, it works as a way to drive you to the next checkpoint but nothing further. The characters are all quite entertaining though meaning it’s never a chore to further the story and spending some time building your relationships with the lively cast is fun and gives you some added benefits in combat. The real joys of the story are the interactions between the party of four you spend the most time with. Yumo is the only one who really has a head on her shoulders as the three Kunlunians who join you are each as bizarre as the last. Leo is a friendly gangster/lion who just wants to help people, Bahat is an emo/bat who spends most of his time tired due to the potential sugar crash of only ever eating fruit and Le Viada is a celebrity/goldfish probably known best for her unnaturally large breasts and the way they jiggle.
When the game isn’t busy sexualising goldfish, it’s probably forcing you through the many enemies of Youshanding. Yumo doesn’t use any weapons and instead punches and kicks through the armies of chaos in a rather fluid system that blends light and heavy attacks with a support system that sees you summoning your party members for help depending on the situation. Leo does a lot of damage, Bahet is good at taking down enemy shields and Le Viada can set up long-range traps.
You can switch between the three characters on the fly with the d-pad which adds to the strategy of the basic combat, do you want to go straight for damage, reduce their shields first or even set up a combination of the three. When mashing your way to success you get different attacks depending on how you string your light and heavy attacks together and this changes the way your supports attack as well. While at first it seems very simplistic, the more you progress, the more the combat becomes surprisingly deep. Towards the end of the game, I found myself stringing together combos, dodging at the last minute to trigger a kind of Bayonetta witch time effect and sending my comrades out in delicately timed button presses to ensure they’re doing what I want them to do, while the neon-tinted visuals wash my entire screen in colour.
Dusk Diver truly is a sight to behold. Whether you are walking around the incredible detail of Ximending or slapping cat-like mascot characters in the face in the neon underworld, Dusk Diver is always full of colour and life. The world is inhabited and while from far away the NPCs look like neon silhouettes, each one has their own design and energy up close. There are adverts for watches and designer clothes littered around the environment, a fried chicken chain of restaurants called MFG with a young anime girl version of Colonel Sanders on the sign. The world feels different and unique, it is comfortable but sprinkled with cultural signatures to create a world that’s lived in and real. It does help that this is a real place, but it doesn’t take away from the amount of detail the developers have put into making this world.
Dusk Diver may have impressive scope and a fun combat system but it still has issues. I know this is kind of par for the course when it comes to the musou genre but there are only a small amount of enemy types to encounter. While boss fights are an exciting test of your abilities, the few varieties of basic beast on show are repetitive and can often take a lot of hits before dying. These beasts tend to fill small sections of the map at any one time and you need to defeat them all before moving forward, adding to the slog. This is a problem because it makes what could be a great product feel very dull and uninteresting and the aforementioned repetition makes it feel devoid of any real content past the main story and some odd fetch quests.
There is also a big issue with the translation or localisation of the game. Dusk Diver is riddled with spelling mistakes, at first I could take the odd “besdies” or “invanding” but these mistakes started creeping into a lot of the quests and even the user interface at one point until eventually I just got a text box full of code after completing a mission. Being somewhat familiar with the publisher PQube though, this is not usually the case, so It is surprising and disappointing that Dusk Diver fell through the cracks in this way.
Dusk Diver is a beautiful, fun and flawed experience that fails to provide bang for its buck. If you’re a die-hard fan of this style of beat-em-up you may be able to look past the game’s lack of content and unacceptable amount of mistakes in the script. You’ll still enjoy your time with Dusk Diver but the lack of content and replayability makes it difficult to recommend over the titans of the genre. It’s a good game, I’m just not sure it’s good enough.
Dusk Diver (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Dusk Diver is a beautiful, fun and flawed experience that fails to provide bang for its buck. If you’re a die-hard fan of this style of beat-em-up you may be able to look past the game’s lack of content.