Valfaris, the side-scrolling action love child of Contra and Doom, shreds onto the Switch letting players head bang on the go. On his way back to his home world of Valfaris, Therion finds that his home is overrun with vile creatures hell-bent on making sure he doesn’t make it out alive. Thankfully he can utilize a wide variety of weapons, from long-range plasma rifles to good old-fashioned blades for melee combat.
Much like earlier 2D side-scrollers, Valfaris is a brutally difficult game. Expect to die quite a bit along the way to confront your wayward father who has seemingly turned your planet’s citizens into disgusting mutants. There are plenty of checkpoints along the way that can be activated upon finding special items known as Resurrection Idols, which can be inserted into checkpoints. Most of these can be found through normal progression, but others can be a little trickier to find.
Unfortunately I would have liked more opportunities to explore the areas a bit more. There are secret areas hidden throughout the campaign but if you miss them, that’s it. There’s no going back, which would be fine if the game didn’t want you to find collectibles like Blood Metals that are used to upgrade your many different weapons. Most of the game’s weapons are also found through natural progression, but some are also hidden in these secret areas. I would have liked the ability to at least to go back and check out some parts I might have overlooked the first time around.
There are a ton of rad weapons available at your disposal for the sole purpose of ripping through alien scum. Each weapon is different from the next in its abilities and it’s up to the player to decide which one works best for them and which ones to upgrade. I’m always a melee kind of player so I upgraded my Bastard Sword early on to one-slash enemies. I was also fond of the Bringer of Mayhem, a Plasma Rifle that chains energy damage to multiple enemies. Because of the weapon variety everyone’s playthrough could be totally different than anyone else’s. This also invites players back to switch up their strategies and replay the game multiple times.
Therion can use a shield to block attacks and send projectiles back at the enemies if timed correctly. This uses energy so it’s not consistently reliable. You can earn energy via melee attacks on enemies. This felt like a nice balance as it encouraged me to use my sword just as much as my guns so I’d always have enough energy for my shield and weapons that relied on energy.
As I mentioned earlier, the game is quite challenging. I died a lot from not only the boss fights, but also the challenging platforming, and even some normal enemies. If you’re a player that is frustrated easily by games like Cuphead then maybe Valfaris isn’t for you. Most boss battles require the player to recognize specific patterns and then execute a strategy to take them down, which is much easier said than done. Like all great games, repetition will grow your skills and eventually it becomes easier to dispatch the enemies as long as you stick with it.
The game is absolutely beautiful and animated in highly detailed pixel art, making it look like it could have come from the heyday of awesome looking shooters. The environments have a wide range of colors and details going on in the background. It’s easy to see that a lot of work went into the presentation here.
Valfaris’s soundtrack permeates metal, blasting riffs in your ears as you stomp through alien corpses. This was hands-down the biggest reason I was excited to play this game. If you’re a fan of heavy metal then you owe it to yourself to try this one out with headphones on and volume up.
In handheld mode Valfaris looks and plays fine, but I preferred playing it on my TV screen with a Pro Controller for better button accuracy than with the Joy-Cons. Either way is an enjoyable experience.
Valfaris is an amazing 2D action side-scroller injected with a heavy dose of metal that’s sure to please anyone with an itchy trigger finger ready to hunt down some alien mutants. Just expect to die a lot at first, but the more you play it the more metal you’ll become.
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Retake your planet back from your wayward father in this action sci-fi epic filled to the brim with double bass kicks and guitar riffs. Just don’t head bang your Switch, okay?