It’s clear that Dragon Star Varnir isn’t a bad game, but you’d be better off playing this port on any other available platform.
Nintendo’s console-handheld hybrid has been playing catch up with third-party titles basically since it launched. We’ve seen a number of games ported to the system from the last few generations. Dragonball Z Kakarot and Ni No Kuni II are the most recent of them to come to the platform after a number of years on other systems. Developer Compile Heart is slowly but surely working more and more of their new and back catalog onto Switch from other platforms, with Death end re;Quest 2 (which I liked enough on PS4) coming out next year.
Dragon Star Varnir initially launched on PlayStation 4 almost three years ago; all the way back in 2018. It was ported to PC in 2019. Now, those who loved the title the first time around and want to play it on the go can, or newcomers interested in more tactical RPG battles can jump in with the full suite of DLC. After playing the game on Nintendo Switch I checked out some videos and reviews about the PlayStation 4 version, which was well-liked by critics, because I needed to see exactly how much better the game ran on other platforms.
Play this anywhere else
Let’s get this out of the way first, because it’s the most important thing I can say: Dragon Star Varnir on Nintendo Switch is a technical mess. The frame rate often falls below 20 frames per second. It gave me a headache to look at for an extended period of time. If you have a PlayStation 4, that is where you should play this game, because it’s hard to recommend on Nintendo Switch for those with other options.
Luckily, the plot doesn’t pull the usual RPG build-up. Players are thrown into the shoes of Zephy, a young man whose job is to hunt witches. After being seriously injured and found by a group of the same witches he’s supposed to be hunting, they heal him using dragon blood that ultimately turns him into a witch. Honestly, it’s all a bit silly, but there are plenty of anime waifus for players if that’s your thing. Immediately after, you’re thrust into a battle against a dragon, which is where Dragon Star Varnir presents itself for the first time.
It was pretty jarring though, going from a relatively good-looking cutscene to sub-20 FPS. Obviously, some concessions had to be made to the Nintendo Switch version to even get it to run at this framerate. More than that though, I don’t know exactly why it runs so poorly. Other titles like Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity have a tough time maintaining 30 FPS, but that game is much more detailed than Dragon Star Varnir. Textures are muddy here and dungeons are boring and lifeless. There’s no reason for this game to run like this, especially when you compare it to a lot of the other better, higher-performing JRPGs on Nintendo’s platform.
A unique twist on a traditional battle system
To its credit, there is a lot of character customization in Dragon Star Varnir, which actually ties directly into the combat. Those who have played JRPGs should generally know what to expect here, but the twist is altitude. Since these are witches (and they do ride brooms) players use altitude to their advantage, which can offer different stat bonuses depending on what level they’re on.
Different altitude levels can affect which enemy or enemies you attack while considering spacing for your next move. Additionally, players can earn new abilities by taking down dragons, which results in a bit more strategy. Whichever character does the final bit of damage to an enemy can absorb them to get new stat bonuses or abilities related to the type of dragon. Much like some of the other niche RPGs, it takes a little getting used to.
You’ll actively want to learn new abilities for other characters as the cast in Dragon Star Varnir is one of its selling points. There’s a wide swathe of charming characters here, each with their own distinct personality, and all of them are presented in well-drawn character models. It’s good too because you’ll spend a lot of time reading and looking at relatively static screens.
Unfortunately, you’ll likely find better ways to spend your time on Switch than playing Dragon Star Varnir. Off the top of my head, you should jump into Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol. 1 or even Disgaea 6 before considering this port. Dragon Star Varnir is a technical mess on Switch. So for those that have a PlayStation 4 and want a quick shot in the arm of waifus, that’s where you’ll want to play this game.
Game Freaks 365 received a review copy.