Launched 2004, Duel Savior is a visual novel and 2D fighter hybrid. Set in a fantasy world, it’s your goal to save the magical world from incoming doom. While each of its segments may not be particularly interesting, as a whole Duel Savior combines of multiple genres successfully, making it worthy of a playthrough.
The story is somewhat reminiscent of that from Muv-Luv. The main character, Taiga, is brought to another dimension along with his sister Mia. Here they learn that they were summoned as candidates in order to become the next messiah and defend the world from an incoming threat called the Ruin, who like the BETA from Muv-Luv, bring destruction to everything in their path. The candidates and heroines for you to choose from are Berio a priestess, Rico a loli summoner, Lily a tsundere mage, Kaede the loyal ninja, Mia your sister who is madly in love with you and Nanashi, my personal favorite, a zombie and necromancer girl, whose limbs keep falling off (yep you get to date the living dead). While it may have plot holes and the majority of its characters feel a bit too generic, it’s far from a bad game.
Combat plays similar like that in a typical 2D fighter. You have a normal and heavy attack. Holding down or forward changes the type of attack. Also holding both the normal and heavy attack buttons will unleash a devastating special move depending on the direction of the keys you pressed. Killing enemies grants you experience. Leveling up only raises the size of your special meter, making the game focus more on combos and juggles and less on grinding. Using a special attack consumes two segments of your special meter. Doing a heavy attack immediately after another attack allows you to cancel the cool down period in exchange for a segment of your special meter, essentially functioning as a rapid cancel from BlazBlue.
Battles generally tend to be one of two categories, boss battles and standard battles. Standard battles tend to get repetitive because of the sheer number of enemies that do not pose much of a challenge. Boss battles are much harder and put your skill up to the test. Depending on how well you do you may want to crank up the difficulty to the hardest, where each new playthrough makes the game more difficult.
The battles bring a well needed break from the ton of reading you will be doing. I’d like to see more games incorporate this kind of gameplay and story mixture in the future, pacing the plot elements with gameplay elements. Even though combat brings a fresh change of pace for a visual novel, it still manages to get repetitive after the third and fourth playthrough. Alleviating this a bit is the fact that after completing the game once you get the option to play as that girl in combat during your next playthrough.
Like in many other visual novels, you will have to play through the game multiple times to grasp the whole story. The amount of choices is quite satisfactory. You will generally get to pick where you want to go, and after you make a few picks the day is over. Text changes during these areas depending on your previous choices. An example would be a character talking about an item that was referenced in the previous section only if you encountered it. A word of advice, it’s best not to play this game like I did, saving in front of every choice and seeing the outcome for both, because if you plan to opt to play the game multiple times these small but frequent difference in dialog will make the game a lot less repetitive.
The artwork, even though decent, is rather inconsistent. The character artwork is a bit awkward at first, but after you get used to it looks quite nice. Characters have a chibi look during fight scenes. Unfortunately these aren’t very sharp looking, making the otherwise intense fights less attractive. The game features a ton of different backgrounds, some of which surprisingly appear only once. The music is forgettable. I can’t remember a single soundtrack, but at least it’s never annoying.
Duel Savior has full gamepad support. This allows you to seamlessly transition between visual novel segments and fight scenes. I always love when a visual novel allows me to lie back and read using a gamepad.
On their own Duel Savior’s story, characters and even combat may be mediocre, but as a package it works quite well. Some of the characters were interesting and the boss battles really brought a good challenge. The game will take multiple playthroughs in order for you to completely grasp the entire plot and well-spaced choices and battle scenes make future playthroughs less of a chore. If you are looking for a visual novel that emotionally move you this one is definitely not it, but if all you are looking for is something different, than you should take a look at Duel Savior.
The game is available for PC and PS2 and has a unofficial translation. For those that are interested in the combat system you can check out the time attack demo here, as well as some promotional videos.