By Steve Baltimore / August 16th, 2021
|Title||Dragon Star Varnir|
|Developer||Idea Factory, Compile Heart|
|Publisher||Idea Factory International|
|Release Date||August 3rd, 2021 (Switch)
June 11th, 2019 (PS4)
October 8th, 2019 (Steam)
|Platform||Switch, PlayStation 4, Steam|
Dragon Star Varnir is one of the very few Idea Factory titles I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on. When I was offered a chance to review the Nintendo Switch version, I jumped on it. I generally love the characters and stories in most of Idea Factory International’s titles, so I figured this one would be no exception. Let’s see if this one will meet my expectations.
The story begins with a Knight of the Empire named Zephy. He is out hunting the witches of this world, since these witches bring rise to the biggest issue facing the empire, dragons. When a witch is born, they have a dragon in their stomach. As they feed themselves, the dragon grows and will eventually burst out of them, leaving nothing of the witch behind. During this hunt, Zephy is badly injured by a dragon. A group of witches stumble across him on the verge of death. The knights have captured one of their sisters, so in a desperate attempt to save Zephy and use him as a bargaining chip, Minessa gives him some of her blood. Not only does this heal him, but it awakens some magical powers within him. Being outcast from the knights and the only life he knew, Zephy must now team up with these witches and battle the empire he once loved.
This is a darker story than you find in most Idea Factory International releases, but that’s not a bad thing. I felt the overall story was pretty good, even if a bit predictable. The characters, however, are the real stars of the show here. Minessa is that very dependable older sister type. She spends the bulk of her time trying to find a way to free the witches of their terrible curse. Karikaro is very hot headed and often wants to rush into any situation without thinking. She is a great cook, and has a tender side to her as well. Charlotta is a mysterious witch you encounter early on in your journey. She claims to be the witch responsible for the Carnival of Death that took the lives of over one hundred witches a decade ago. The big question is, is she friend or foe? Faria is the eldest of the younger sisters. She is at the age where she can be considered a big sister and go on dragon hunts. She is very headstrong and always wants to prove herself as an adult. Laponette is my personal favorite of all the witches. She seems almost emotionless at first, but this is due to her power of clairvoyance. She can see the future of anyone she touches, and since this doesn’t show her happy events, she hates this power and wishes to be rid of it. Last, but certainly not least, are the three little sisters: Chiquita, Pio and Monet. Living life as a witch is hard, but these three are usually in high spirits. The older sisters are working very hard to keep them safe until the curse can be broken.
I honestly had a blast getting to know every one of these characters. The bonding events via the Witches’ rooms are great. They really show off each girl’s unique personality and traits. You will get an epilogue with whichever witch’s affinity you max out first, so choose wisely. The story events with the little sisters often tear at your heart, and make one game mechanic mean a lot more than it would if they weren’t a big part of the story.
Since this is a basically just a review of the Switch version of the game, I will mostly be addressing the performance of this port. You can check out our review of the PlayStation 4 version if you want to get more in depth on how combat works and the game’s other sub systems. The one thing I do want to go over here that I feel was left out of the PS4 review is the Little Sister’s Hunger Gauge. At a certain point in the game you will be able to visit the Little Sister’s room. You will have to feed them every so often or they will go crazy from hunger, run away and become a dragon. Their hunger gauge will increase with every step you take in the game’s dungeons. It doesn’t matter how much you fight, how many items you pick up, or how adorable Laponette is. You get plenty of things to feed your adorable little sisters, but the problem is if you overfeed them, it will awaken the dragon inside them. This means you need to balance how much you feed them with how much exploration you do, up until a certain chapter where the gauge locks. You can ignore this, let them all turn into dragons, and then try to get the other ending in New Game+ where the gauge is permanently locked.
Graphically, the Switch version of Dragon Star Varnir is passable. You can certainly see a downgrade from the other versions, but it’s really not enough to make the game look terrible. The framerate in most areas while docked is pretty decent. The more wide open areas will cause it to drop a bit, but if this bothers you, you can turn off the shadows in the options and that will smooth things out bit. Combat runs great while docked. I didn’t notice any lag or stuttering while playing the game docked. The problem with this port comes when you play it handheld. The framerate is pretty bad no matter what kind of area it is, and the combat doesn’t run nearly as smoothly either. It’s playable like this, but it’s not a very good experience.
While I loved Dragon Star Varnir, this port is pretty rough. If you’re planning on picking this one up, I would certainly plan on playing it docked, mostly. The framerate in handheld mode is just way too janky for my tastes. That being said, I love the characters, story and combat here, so if this is the only platform you can snag it up on, you should do so. While the framerate is rough, all the artwork, characters and story are intact here. It took me around 25 hours to do one playthrough, and I will likely do more to see the others girls’ epilogues. This one is worth the $29.99 price tag, but just be aware the handheld mode performance isn’t very good.
Game was provided by the publisher.
Compile HeartDragon Star VarnirIdea FactoryReviewsSwitch