Xenon Valkyrie+ Review — Hardcore Roguelike for the Wrong Reasons
Xenon Valkyrie+ is far from being the best roguelike on Switch, as it will leave players with a taste of injustice and frustration.
Following the overwhelming success of games such as Faster Than Light, the roguelike genre has grown intensively these past years, with many news games releasing both from indies and from big companies. While the genre was already extensively represented in Japan with works such as theMystery Dungeon games, it’s not far fetched to see it experience a boom in the Archipel as well, with games such as the infamous Omega Labyrinth series by D3 Publisher.
This might be the reason why roguelikes from non-Japanese developers but with anime aesthetics have been surfacing as well. This is the case of Xenon Valkyrie+ a roguelike with cute anime girls from Diabolical Mind, a small team of Spanish developers.
Xenon Valkyrie+’s story is about stopping an evil sorceress named Lumila, who manipulates robots and tries to revive an evil god to destroy the world — or something like that. Needless to say, the story isn’t the thing that’ll you pay attention to here.
You’ve got three characters to pick from: Eloen, the cute anime girl with white hair on the game’s key visual, Renna, another cute anime girl but with red hair, and Nue, a fish-man sort of alien. All characters have roughly the same arsenal at their disposal: a gun, a sword for short range, and limited grenades. The game’s levels require you to go deeper and deeper, defeating monsters until you reach the teleporter to take you to the the safe area. This area lets you spend ability points to upgrade your stats, buy HP and ammo, chat with NPCs, and move on to the next level. Bosses will also hinder your path every two levels so players will need to plan their route carefully, in order to kill as many monsters as possible for experience and get stronger weapons.
Everything sounds cool so far, right? Well, unfortunately, the game has several problems. First off, each character has its own special ability. However, only Eloen’s unlimited bombs give a true advantage. Explosives in Xenon Valkyrie+ allow you to dig, reaching usually unreachable enemies, money, or treasure chests. Nue’s double jump ability is useless, as the teleporter at the end of a level can bring you back to the top. Renna’s radar will allow you to see a chest, only to realize you can’t access it without bombs. Bombs are essential.
? Iyane Agossah (@iyane07th) February 10, 2019
Next, the game’s controls take a big amount of time to get used to, especially in regards to the inertia of your jumps. Every character can wall kick like in Megaman X, but you’ll need to be extremely precise to access some places with it. Xenon Valkyrie+’s controls are pretty clunky and will ask players to be minutely precise. Don’t believe the frenetic pace of the trailer. Xenon Valkirye+ is a very slow game. Hurrying will only make you reach a swift death.
One good comparison is the first Resident Evil games, with their purposefully clunky controls to accentuate the players’ feeling of powerlessness, and thus fear. Except only massive frustration awaits here. Xenon Valkyrie+ is unforgiving, but in a bad way, and most of your permanent deaths will leave a taste of injustice.
? Iyane Agossah (@iyane07th) February 10, 2019
This culminates in Xenon Valkyrie+‘s boss fights, which downright forbids you from using any weapon but your sword, and with no prior warning (I thought it was a bug at first). Most boss patterns aren’t necessarily hard, but the fact that you must get close and personal to deal damage will inevitably lead you to receive some as well. Even after learning a boss pattern by heart, you’ll need flawless execution to defeat them. This makes the mechanic where each boss encounter is random in each run even more frustrating. You can have a great run, manage to find a good sword, only to stumble onto a boss you’ve only seen once or twice, meaning you don’t yet know its patterns and only death awaits.
As you defeat bosses, you will receive Teamerites, the sole permanent resource in the game. This lets you buy stronger weapons, which appear randomly in chests in your runs. Problem is, the RNG is too strong, and most of the time you’ll only find bad weapons during your run. Or only guns, meaning you’ll be stuck with the low attack starter sword in boss fights.
Teamerites can also be used to unlock teleporters, letting you start a run directly from a deeper level. Once you’ve cleared the game with all characters, and clear it again with Eleon, you can challenge the evil god in a true last boss shoot’em up battle. It’s quite unforgiving like the rest of the game, and the slightest hit results in a game over.
Xenon Valkyrie+’s sprites and graphics could have used a small upgrade following this Switch port. Plus, the game’s cover artwork is the only place you’ll get to appreciate the anime aesthetic, as the only few other artworks are shown during the endings. The OST is nice but gets repetitive after exploring levels over and over.
In the end, even with a decent amount of time to invest yourself into it, most of the feelings you’ll get by experiencing Xenon Valkyrie+ will be frustration and disappointment.Xenon Valkyrie+ isn’t that bad, but what buries it once and for all is the fact that there are much better roguelikes worthy of your time.