Xenon Valkyrie+ may look all cutesy and silly on the outside, but inside lies a tough-as-nails platforming/shooting roguelite with a surprising amount of depth. It all seems simple enough when you begin, you’ll have to slash and shoot your way through four worlds, each made up of three stages, with two normal stages that have one or more mini-bosses and one big end boss stage, Naturally the stage layouts are randomly generated and the boss types are also randomly selected, though the selection pool isn’t very big. Things change enough to keep you on your toes though, and while the difficulty curve isn’t horribly steep, it does have a rather tall summit.
Enemies start off simple enough, but get trickier and trickier in their attacks and patterns, and the environments start filling up with increasingly nasty hazards, all of which really starts biting into your humble little health pool. The key to victory here is maximum exploration and destruction. You’ll need to search levels as thoroughly as possible in order to maximize your income because you’ll desperately need the money to buy health potions and other vital items in the shops between levels, and you’ll need to kill as many enemies as possible to level up as many times as you can for those talent points that can be used to raise your health, ammo, strength, and defense. The only other help you’ll find is in the big white chest each stage holds, each of which is locked by keys that drop from minibosses. This is where you’ll find new swords and guns, though as usual with a roguelite, this is only helpful if luck is on your side.
Destructible environments, a bit in the vein of Spelunky, can also help and hinder you along the way. The default character’s special weapon is an unlimited supply of bombs, which don’t do much damage to enemies, but can be used to make your own paths through walls, floors, and ceilings. You can make shortcuts and gain access to otherwise closed off areas, but you can also just as easily deny yourself access to these places if you’re careless in your bombing. Funny thing is, I didn’t even know how much I came to rely on the default character’s bombs until I finally moved onto another one and realized that other characters don’t have bombs, only a very limited stash of grenades. It makes things a lot tougher once you remove those bombs from the equation.
So yeah, again, pretty tough game. The final boss in particular was a real bastard…at least I think that was the final boss. I’m not 100% sure on that yet. It took me many, many hours and many, many deaths just to finish off what appears to be the last guy with the default character, but it seems that even that was not the real end yet. There are a handful of hidden worlds, which I’ve only found two of so far (and still haven’t beaten either yet). There are two other characters available right now and there is said to be at least one more to unlock, if not several more. Each not only has their own strengths and weaknesses, but can unlock a different endings, as well as at least one of them being able to access a unique secret world. There are more weapons to be unlocked, more secret quests and items to be found, and rumor has it that a hidden ultimate weapon must be found in order to do battle with the real final boss to truly end things.
I’m sure this sounds daunting to some, but me, I’m thrilled that there’s so much left to be done after the first victory. To me, roguelites are at their best when they give you good incentives to keep diving back in for more, because if you can just find and unlock everything there is on the first successful playthrough, then you might as well just be playing a normal game!
So all in all, while there are some minor flaws, I’d still call Xenon Valkyrie one of the better roguelite games I’ve played for Vita (which is my favorite system to play these kinds of games on). It has solid dynamic gameplay, cool pixel art graphics, a sweet soundtrack, and a ton of secret-filled content to keep you coming back over and over again. Definitely recommended for roguelite fans!
Xenon Valkyrie is available now digitally for Vita and Windows.
Disclosure statement: Review code for Xenon Valkyrie+ was provided by CowCat Games. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.