Title: Suzukuri Dungeon
Developer: KarinProject, SoftHouseChara
Release Date: June 18, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Visual Novel
The premise for Suzukuri Dungeon doesn’t follow your typical hero’s journey. Instead, you assume the role of a servant to the demon queen, intending to revive her while also interacting with a few other romantic interests. As familiar as the plot may sound, the narrative is full of unexpected discoveries, with the addition of unique gameplay features kept me engaged.
Suzukuri Dungeon introduces Kazuto, an adventurer down on his luck after his party has permanently disbanded. Kazuto suspects that this happened after they entered relationships and settled down, but that doesn’t stop him from finding his place in the world. Cursing his fate, he runs into a woman named Fuu. She requests Kazuto for a minor job, to simply escort her through the local dungeon. Of course, Kazuto accepts, and they set off on an adventure together.
He impresses Fuu enough to claim that she had found the perfect candidate. On the following day, she whisks Kazuto away to the lair of the Demon Queen and asks for his help once again. At first, Kazuto is doubtful and outright refuses. However, it isn’t long until Fuu coerces him into agreeing through a bet. This leads Kazuto to become the first servant of the Demon Queen.
Despite this rather grand introduction to the characters, the story itself follows a slice-of-life pattern. Kazuto adjusts to life as a servant and abiding by the demon queen’s demands. This provides enough insight into their relationship while not dumping overly emotional dialogue on the reader. Some scenarios include reading manga and going off to buy the perfect sweets for the demon queen.
The pacing during these scenarios is great, I never saw these interactions as mundane, and I felt like I understood their personalities more because of them. In addition, many of the moments were humorous, even if they were somewhat predictable and light-hearted. If you’re a fan of quirky anime, then you’ll most likely enjoy this overall tone.
Between chapters, Kazuto is in charge of defending the demon lord’s dungeon. These segments are initially played across 15 turns, but that increases as you level up the dungeon. Players can customize their dungeon, manage units, talk with the heroines, rest, and promote units during turns.
Promotion and rest will conclude the selected turn, while the other options don’t require you to use Rest. Further, Promotion features a scene where you go to a neighboring town to boast about your dungeon to get people to travel to it. Finally, once the promotion has ended, adventurers travel through each room to take on challenges that you’ve created.
The battles go by swiftly, with my most extended dungeon sequence only lasting two minutes. The reason for this brevity is because you have very little to do during these sections aside from activating character skills. The skills are helpful and, when timed correctly, can send enemy units back to the beginning or heal your own units.
All skills cost SP gained from having the adventurers fall into traps and fight your units. However, the rate at which you gain SP is prolonged, only allowing you to activate a single skill during a round. So it’s important to strategize when to use it.
The hoard is the backbone of your dungeon and the reason for the adventurers to attempt traversing it. If you let too many adventurers go through and steal your loot, then your score will decrease, making it harder to get adventurers to take on your dungeon.
Ideally, you want to balance fun, strength, and your hoard to satisfy the adventurers and get them talking about your dungeon. The rooms that you construct attributes to either of these stats or both. So, you can fill your dungeon with nothing but traps, but that wouldn’t be any fun. Additionally, you could create a dungeon to allow adventurers to have the max amount of fun, but you will end up in the red if too many get through.
This balancing act can be complicated. I frequently found myself making my dungeon way too difficult for most enemies. The ones that did get past had a jump mechanic that I wasn’t aware of that allows them to skip rooms and traps. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the enemy types, even if they stole my gold.
The game loop revolves around promoting your dungeon, watching cutscenes, modifying your dungeon, and talking to a heroine of your choice. The talk mechanic is how you will progress your relationship with the girls. Each turn you complete will grant you a single talk-point, while resting will give you three. Thus, to progress, you need to complete tasks that impress the girl and have a talk-point to spend.
I found myself able to choose the girl I wanted to talk to every turn without fail. Once you see all of her scenes, you are allowed to progress to her ending. Unfortunately, selecting this will end the game no matter how many turns you have left. So it’s best to save it for when you are near your final turn to get a different ending than the default.
Once you reach any of the endings, you can save your clear data and start a new game. Importing your clear data allows you to carry over unit levels and unlock upgrades. This makes it out to have rogue-like elements where you repeatedly fail, gain strength, and come back stronger than you were before.
The experience is rather addicting as it’s possible to shorten the game’s runtime from eight hours to an hour and a half as you get stronger. Additionally, the replayability is high given that you’ll want to see the various ending, but the gameplay doesn’t hinder this after the first playthrough. Luckily, creating dungeons was still fun even after my fourth time through.
Suzukuri Dungeon offers an unexpectedly light-hearted narrative with a charming cast of villain characters who are each memorable in their own way. The gameplay sections of strategic dungeon customization kept me engaged for multiple playthroughs to access the additional routes. It’s this blend of gameplay and decent scenario writing that makes it an easy recommendation from me.
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