Title: Dragon Star Varnir
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea factory
Genre: JRPG, Role-Playing Games, RPG
Audience: PEGI 12
Release Date: 14/06/2019
Price: £49.99 – Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
What the Developers say
In a world where the bones of an ancient beast tower over the land…
Zephy, a young warrior, is part of a respected group whose role is to hunt and kill witches – a group of people cursed with the affliction of giving birth to dragons. When he is almost killed on one of these hunting missions, two mysterious witches save him from the brink of death by feeding him the blood of a dragon.
Granted new magic abilities thanks to their efforts, he soon finds his fate intertwined with that of the witches and reluctantly joins them to fight against the Empire he once served, vicious dragon hunters, and a witch more powerful than any in existence.
Can they fight against all of this and save themselves, or will his new allies succumb to the dragon’s curse?
Dragon Star Varnir is a JRPG through and through, with all the JRPG tropes you can shake a stick at. Being a Compile Heart game, it has the fan service to boot. Along with the fan service, there is a relationship building a decent story and feeding young kids raw meat (don’t try that at home).
The story follows Zephy, a holy knight who is on a mission to rid the world of witches and dragons. After being separated from his squad and almost killed by a dragon. He is saved by two witches he had sworn to kill, by giving him dragon blood.
This act of ‘kindness’ turned Zephy’s life upside down, and he is granted the power of a witch. This makes the hunter the hunted as he is turned away but his holy order and becomes their number one target. Follow his story as he and his new allies try to figure out why Zephy became a witch and how it will change his view of witches and all he has been taught.
Dragon Star Varnir follows the typical JRPG formula all Compile Hearts’ games follow. Cutscene, Explore, battles events in dungeon, Boss, cutscene and interactions with the party. Quite frankly, I love it.
Let us start with the battle system. Dragon Star Varnir has a slight twist on the battle system generally used by the developers. Each battle is in the air, I mean it’s a party of witches so where else are they to fight?
The battle systems at its core is still a turned based system, where attacks can affect one enemy or A.O.E attacks: elemental strengths and weaknesses, buffs and debuffs. The difference here is there are three levels to fight on, top, middle, lower. In a regular battle, it means nothing really, as when attacking the regular enemy the character will automatically go to the correct hight. It is the GIANT DRAGON FIGHT!!!!!! Where it counts.
Giant Dragon battles are the games boss battles. These Dragons cover all three levels with each level having its own health bar. On top of that, each level has a different attack associated with it, for example, Head – poison breath attack that will hit the whole party. Destroy the head will stop the attack, and so on till it dies. It is fun and with a slight tactical approach.
This is not the only difference in the battle system; there are three active members and three support members in the party. The support will randomly and not too often assist its partner with a follow-up attack. This, for me, worked as it was not so overpowered and used sparsely, made it seem like a good bonus when it hit.
These transformations are the equivalent to the Final Fantasy IX trance system, even having the same annoying problem.
While attacking and being attacked, the meter will increase next to the character. Once entirely in the next round the fan service, I mean transformation will occur. This is the overpowered double all stats move. It is not only glorious to use as you feel like one badass half dragon-witch, but it looks cool too.
The huge drawback is like the Trance is it activates automatically, why? It is so annoying knowing there is a boss fight about to happen and knowing you have this fan service transformation and boom you run into an enemy, it is lost, gone, kaput. It was a complaint of mine in FFIX it is and always will be a complaint here, and anywhere else it is used.
Hands down, the most crucial ability each character has, forget magic or attacks, Devour is a must. This ability does what it says it, devour a dragon provided the move kills it. Devour ties directly in with character progression and available skills.
Once a dragon has been devoured for the first time, it will grant the witch a blood dragon core. (If a boss if devoured all witches get a core) The cores will need to be unlocked by using points gathered by fighting. Each core has an upgrade system attached to it these upgrades will grant new abilities physical and magical along with stat bonuses. With this system, it is relatively easy to make a team that fits your play style.
Compile Hearts likes to make the player care about the characters that are in the story by building up relationships (and fan service) and Dragon Star Varnir is no different. Gifts can be found or purchased then given to the witches to build up relationships and open up dialogue.
I enjoy these little events, I am a lore nut, and when I play a game knowing there is something I don’t know will drive me crazy. I am that type! I am that guy who reads every book in a game. Some in-game events work as a means to provide the further story and occur within dungeons. I have always liked this system, but unfortunately, it is getting a little stale needs a facelift.
With the interactions, there is feeding the little sisters meat to make sure they do not die or have a Dragon do the scene from Alien, and then they are born. This also will determine the ending you receive.
Audio & Visual
Visually, Dragon Star Varnir is a good looking game, although it’s not going to win any prizes. Each enemy looks lovely especially the giant dragons, they all retain an anime-style look to them but compared to other games from Compile Hearts, for instance, Fairy Fencer F, this is a massive step up.
Some magic spells look lovely, and Devour looks stunning, as do the transformations. There could be more work and time given to the areas that are visited, as well as the overall polish, but it still looks good.
The audio department is the same as visuals, good but could be better. The winners of the audio have to be the voice actors. They all have stellar performances. The music is good as are the sound effects, but nothing to be excited about or even remember, they perform the function they need to do.
Dragon Star Varnir is a short JRPG, around the 20 hours mark. So, if you would like to play it again, there is not a massive time sink. As well as the short play time, the cutscenes can be skipped, thus speeding the game up. A reason to go back and play would be for the different endings along with varying choices of dialogue to see the differences.
Dragon Star Varnir is a good JRPG. Even with its flaws, it does nothing to break the mould. But what it does do, it does well. This game is worth checking out for the fan service, Story, alone.