So you’re looking for another JRPG to add to your collection, and you’ve stumbled across a new game from Compile Heart. There’s a demure looking female next to a heroic young man brandishing a sword on the cover. Congratulations! You’ve found Dragon Star Varnir, a non-Neptunia, non-Fairy Fencer, and non-Date A Live game. (I was starting to believe they forgot how to make other IPs, too. *wink wink* )
Zephy is a Knight tasked with hunting and killing the witches who live in hiding before they give birth to the dragons that seek to destroy his world. All of this changes when he is injured and left behind by his troops. Witches stumble across him and take pity, attempting to use their magic to heal him even though his job is to kill them. When the magic fails, they take a slightly more risky route and give him some dragon blood. Unfortunately, Zephy’s body reacts in a way the witches could never have anticipated.
And so Zephy joins the witches he once hunted in the hopes of finding out the truth behind the curse that plagues them. Alongside Minessa, Karikaro, Laponette, and their little sisters, it’s up to them to save themselves… and maybe the world, too.
Go, Go, Battle Witches
Dragon Star Varnir features the familiar turn-based style of gameplay we’ve come to know and love in most JRPGs. Physical and magic attacks? Check. Items to use and the ability to guard? Got that, too. But you see that Devour option? That’s what you want to use as often as possible. Not only do some of the Devouring attacks do incredible amounts of damage, but they can also provide you with battle benefits, such as replenishing HP and SP. And most importantly, Devouring is how you’ll acquire Dragon Cores to expand the witches’ knowledge (more about that a little bit later).
Depending on which battle formations you set you can give your team some bonus battle perks. Figure out which of these works best with your team, because the trick to Dragon Star Varnir is that you’re playing on a three tiered field. Some enemies will switch between levels, while others may be so large that their bodies span two or even all three. The majority of the large enemies you will face that eat up the field will be your boss dragons. Thanks to the leveled field, you can target certain aspects of the dragon, like their wings or feet, and in destroying those you will seal off certain attacks. Check their limbs before blindly attacking the boss and you’ll save yourself some headaches.
Devour Your Enemies
So let’s talk about the importance of Devouring. If you want your witches to gain stronger magical and physical attacks, to gain passive skill bonuses, and just become general powerhouses, make sure you are always trying to Devour those enemies. Not just the larger dragons, either; pretty much every monster you encounter can be ingested and give you a core. Lesser monsters will have smaller cores with fewer nodes to unlock. Boss dragon cores will be available to all of the members in your party. Every other core will be added to the library of the witch who Devoured it, so ensure you are cycling your witches and having them all snacking on as many monsters as possible.
After unlocking your new Dragon Cores, set your skills for your offensive and support characters. Figure out which characters you want to be your healer with a side of destruction, who will be your power forward, and which one is the well-rounded one. Just make sure to cycle the team up when you go grinding for cores. Those characters in support roles will only grow stronger if you’re making sure they are also getting a steady diet of new cores.
When trying to decide which of the many niche JRPGs I want to throw some money at, I’m always looking to see what kind of side-story bits are there to enhance my experience. Dragon Star Varnir did not disappoint; there’s a gift-giving mini-game of sorts that lets me give my main women gifts in the hope that maybe they won’t hate poor Zephy so damn much. This is a simple thing: give the witches gifts they like to fill up the sphere, and once it is complete you’ll get to do a whole lot of reading. Give them items they dislike, you’ll get nowhere.
Also available from the Witches’ Den is access to the rooms of the Little Sisters. Since the witches need to make sure they eat enough dragon meat so they don’t go mad or let the dragon inside consume them, you need to ensure they eat enough to keep this delicate balance in check. Full disclosure here, I kind of ignored this for a while. When I did go into their room to feed them, all three were on the brink of going mad. So I gave them a bunch of food, left to run through another chapter, and when I came back discovered that two had run away and gone mad. When the young witches go mad, the dragon takes over. Now you are tasked with killing their dragon form which also nets you their dragon cores.
But Dragon Star Varnir has its flaws. The biggest drawback for me was just how much the assets had been reused. By the time I got to Chapter Six I was craving something, anything, new to make me feel like I wasn’t walking in circles the entire game. Maybe if there’d been more actual voice over happening I would have been distracted or not noticed this as much. But reading 10+ minutes of dialogue on several occasions didn’t help. Most of the time the dialogue read repetitively, the characters restating and rewording sentences just to drag out the story. I am not ashamed to say that I mashed X to get through the text faster.
If you love these small, niche JRPGs and can snag a copy of Dragon Star Varnir at a discount, I’d say pick it up. The $60 price point for recycled assets and a game that has more reading than voice over just seems a little too steep for me. But hey, that’s just one girl’s opinion.
Dragon Star Varnir review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.