If you’re looking at the title of this game and scratching your head, let me explain how we got here. Love Live! is a Japanese multimedia franchise revolving around fictional high-school-aged idols that form groups and compete against groups from their rival schools. The centerpieces of this musical empire are a loosely connected group of anime series, of which there are currently four iterations, and a mobile rhythm game that ties them all together, called School Idol Festival.
Yohane the Parhelion is a spinoff of the second Love Live! anime, Love Live! Sunshine!, which takes the cast of that show and places them into a modern fantasy alternate universe. (Think swords and sorcery in the same setting as cars and nightclubs.) There’s a currently-airing anime, subtitled Sunshine in the Mirror, and the subject of this article, BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE, a new Castlevania-esque action platformer from developer Inti Creates.
BLAZE sees our title character Yohane and her magical wolf companion Lailaps searching for her missing friends in a labyrinth crawling with dangerous beasts. The various locales are randomly generated, but as is typical of the genre, the player will be discovering secrets and crafting equipment to reach new areas and take down new bosses. The game is intended to be a lighthearted, easy-ish take on a notoriously challenging genre that gives fans of the parent series a first taste of Inti Creates’ signature titles.
Graphically, the game boasts a detailed pixel-art style that reminds me of most of the games on the Super Famicom, combined with modern particle effects and a steady framerate. The demo dungeon I played was a fairly typical “mysterious magical cave,” but screenshots of future levels also show off a gorgeous pirate shipyard and sandy ruins.
The key difference between Yohane the Parhelion and other “metroidvania” titles is in the way the main character is played. Yohane is not a particularly skilled fighter, but she is able to magically summon both Lailaps and large magical weapons to take down enemies. The big selling point of the title is that she can also summon her rescued friends to perform unique attacks.
In the demo, Chika, for example, was able to use a rolling attack that would strike large enemies multiple times and could be used from a distance. I like the way this mechanic ties in the key goals of the story to the actual gameplay, as every buddy you save then adds additional combat options for you. I did feel like the character control needed a little bit of adjustment, though, as Yohane was a bit stiff in her movement compared to the slicker feeling of games like Dead Cells or the also-upcoming Trinity Fusion.
With a little adjustment, though, I think that Yohane the Parhelion: Blaze in the Deepblue will take full shape into a beginner-friendly game that still lives up to Inti Creates’ high standard. It offers a unique take on the genre even for veterans while bringing in fans of the parent series who want to see their faves do more than sing and dance. I’ll be looking forward to seeing this cast in action when the game releases this fall.
Yohane the Parhelion: Blaze in the Deepblue is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam on November 16, 2023.
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