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Xenon Valkyrie+ (Switch) Review

by Matthew Zawodniak - December 31, 2018, 9:08 pm PST
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4.5

Just don't upgrade your ammo.

As another entry into the crowded market of rogue-like platformers, Xenon Valkyrie+ is not very cohesive. The structure of play is pretty simple: each stage has the goal of descending through a level, fighting enemies, and collecting item pick-ups to power up your character while searching for the teleporter to the next stage at the bottom. In between stages you can buy items and level up your character’s stats such as HP, defense, and ammo. Trying to explore the stages starts to reveal Xenon Valkyrie’s haphazard design flaws. The pixel art visuals are striking and distinct, but they also make it difficult to tell what’s happening on screen most of the time. Character and enemy sprites are tiny, and the overall aesthetic is so busy that everything blends together into visual soup.

Exploration isn’t terribly rewarding either. Aside from gold pickups and more enemies to grind experience points, the only thing worth finding in Xenon Valkyrie’s stages are locked chests containing stronger weapon pickups. These chests must be opened with a key that can only be obtained from large, tough enemies. These large enemies tend to have way more health than the common small monsters scattered about, and fighting them with just your toy-sized sword can be difficult to do without taking damage. It’s possible to guarantee your own safety by using your gun instead of the sword, but this is definitely sub-optimal play since you have limited ammo, and it’s really not a good idea to upgrade your guns instead of your sword.

Upgrading your guns is really a waste because of Xenon Valkyrie’s brutal boss fights. There are multiple different bosses you can fight, but they each disable all of your items and skills except for your sword. There is no safe way to approach bosses without putting yourself dangerously in range of the boss’ heavily-damaging attacks. At the start of the game, bosses will deplete around half your maximum health in one hit, so if you waste any of your experience points upgrading guns you’ll have no chance of making a run last longer than ten minutes. Boss fights are by far the most punishing thing in the whole game, and you’ll be building so much of your character’s stats around just those fights that the cooler, more free-form exploration stages feel a lot more restricted.

This kind of mission structure could be forgiven in a game that puts a heavy focus on its boss fights, but none of that is at play here. Bosses have very few attack patterns to learn or react to. Once you get the hang of a pattern the only meaningful thing you can do is make sure your positioning is perfect so you don’t mess up the thin margin between completely missing your sword swing and taking damage from jumping into a boss’ hitbox.

Xenon Valkyrie is at odds with its own design. Exploring the stages is fun, but all that fun starts to melt away when you realize just how little freedom you have to experiment with different character builds. The level up system is simply is not balanced enough to match the rest of the game’s mechanics. It’s just too frustrating to play Xenon Valkyrie. While you can probably figure out the exact way to optimize characters in order to beat bosses with ease, I can’t really see a reason you’d want to.

Summary

Pros
  • Platforming while exploring stages is really fun
Cons
  • Brutally difficult bosses
  • Gun upgrades are a waste of experience points
  • Poorly tuned leveling system

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Game Profile

Genre RPG
Developer
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Xenon Valkyrie+
Release Jan 01, 2019
RatingEveryone 10+
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