Title: Xenon Valkyrie+
Release Date: January 2, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Developer Cowcat originally released Xenon Valkyrie+ in 2017, the game’s pixel graphics and retro design made it a title that I had to keep my eye on. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to play it at launch, and it was soon added to my ever growing backlog of games I need to play.
Now, the team has brought the game to Nintendo Switch which opened the door for me to finally play through the game that has eluded me for so long. Thankfully, the hype I created for the game in my head wasn’t let down, but at the same time, it wasn’t the experience I was expecting at all.
Xenon Valkyrie+ tells the story of a group of heroes who are gearing up to put a stop to a witch’s evil plans. To do this, they must make their way to the moon and fight through hordes of enemies as they travel through its deepest caverns. The game features a handful of NPCs who you’ll meet along the way, but generally, the story takes a back seat which makes the gameplay stand out front and center in the spotlight.
There are three playable characters to choose from who each have different stats. However, throughout the game, each character’s stats can be upgraded. When it comes to the characters, I found Eloen to be the most balanced of the trio and just stuck with her for most of my runs to the bottom.
Like I previously mentioned, Xenon Valkyrie+ is all about gameplay, and trust me when I say that this game will satisfy all the masochists out there because it is difficult. Each cavern of the moon is procedurally generated, which has players start from the top and requires them make their way down to the exit door. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, no because there are tons of enemies in your way that will do anything they can to stop you in your tracks.
From my first time in the moon, I quickly discovered what angle this game was trying to play after I died in less than 5 minutes. 10 tries later and I made it to the first boss and 6 tries after that, I beat it. Thinking back on my experience, I can only compare this game to Spelunky on crack. Exploring the maps usually yield a nice reward in the form of coins that can be used to upgrade your character’s stats. Players also get rewards for destroying enemies, but let me just add, the only reward you’ll be begging for in the later parts of the game will be a health potion.
Sure, it’s possible to just run through each map quickly to the bottom, but you better bring your A-game because enemies get stronger and it’s crucial to level up HP, Attack, and Defence before entering the later caverns. Being a roguelike, this does make the game’s progression a little slower because you’ll want to take your time and collect all the experience you can even if your death is most likely approaching.
Thankfully, the developer has added a checkpoint system, but they just don’t hand you a checkpoint and let you go on your way. No, this is Xenon Valkyrie+, so you’ll need to pay for that with precious resource materials that are acquired from boss fights and purchased at stores as well as some of your funds. After you bought the checkpoint, you’ll be able to restart from that level with a nice stack of upgrade tokens to use before you head back into the moon.
If I hadn’t made it clear, Xenon Valkyrie+ is no walk in the park. The game requires that you hone your knowledge of the vast number of different enemy types and master the gameplay systems in order to make it out of this mission alive. The enemies in the game are no joke, they’ll seek you out on personal kamikaze missions just to see you dead. Similarly, some of the later maps even hide enemies or impair the player’s view of their surroundings — it’s like the developer does everything in their power to make sure you never have an ego during the game.
Besides being plenty difficult, Xenon Valkyrie’+’s level designs aren’t that interesting. While there are some gimmicks in the later levels, they are all pretty much the same which makes the adventure seem a bit repetitive. The game also allows you to purchase new weapons, but again, this doesn’t unlock them for you — this is because this is Xenon Valkyrie+ and players purchase weapons to unlock the chance to find the weapons in special chests while they make their descent, which is totally random.
Xenon Valkyrie+ is a great time sink in quick bursts, which makes it perfect for the Nintendo Switch. The game’s difficulty didn’t bother me too much because I’m a sucker who enjoys “getting good”, but there are some design choices that could be improved on and this starts with making the game a bit more accessible to players in order to gain the interest of those who haven’t played a roguelike title like this before.
From the music to boss design, Xenon Valkyrie+ is a game that had me hooked, if only to prove to it that it couldn’t get the best of me. Its mechanics make you want to constantly improve and perfect each run. If you’re not already a fan of these types of games, I don’t think Xenon Valkyrie+ will win you over. However, for any gamer who enjoys high difficulty that comes with bragging rights as the main payoff, then this is what you’ve been waiting for.
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