Valfaris (Nintendo Switch)

Valfaris is the latest title by Steel Mantis, the team behind Slain: Back From Hell. The latter receiving mixed reviews & 2 releases, will Valfaris crack it first time or is it doomed? 

Valfaris puts you in the war boots of Therion as he declares one man war on the spaceship Valfaris. The story is told through mostly text boxes during the stages but the opening cutscene is brilliant taster of the pixel art on offer here. 

Valfaris is described as a heavy metal infused SciFi and that is exactly what is on offer here. Don’t expect deep plot, lore or character development, there is a story here but it’s more of an excuse than the bulk of the title. 

If you are familiar with Slain: Back From Hell then you’ll be happy to know, graphically Valfaris has upped the game ten fold. Everything is fantastically animated and the character designs are part glorious and part grotesque, exactly what you would expect from this team. The scenery for the stages is incredibly varied, especially for a game set on a Spaceship!. 

Therion couldn’t be more metal if he tried, long flowing hair, plasma sword and gun in hand & he stops to headbang whenever you pick up a new item. The enemy designs range from space troopers to alien beasties & the boss designs are some of the standouts, it’s always a pleasure to see how the game will one up the previous boss encounter.

The music on offer here is shocking Heavy Metal, there isn’t really any variation on that so it’s down to your taste in music how much you enjoy it. I will say the music perfectly complements the visuals and gameplay, almost to a point you’d think the game was made for the tracks!.

On the gameplay front Valfaris has more in common with titles like Super Turrican and Contra than Metroid and the like. The levels playout in a linear fashion & offer the odd hidden path for you to explore, there is no backtracking to previous areas if you miss something. 

The enemy count is staggering and they are relentless, you’ll need to act quick to get through the stages and make use of the various weapons at your disposal. As mentioned you have a gun and a melee weapon, as you go on you’ll unlock more such as an Axe, flame thrower, lazer and missile launcher. You also have a stronger secondary weapon to really deliver the pain. 

You also have a shield at your disposal, this uses the same bar as your secondary weapon so you have to prioritize with your situation. If you time the shield just right you capture projectiles and can send them back.

A unique aspect to Valfaris is the checkpoint system. Throughout the levels you find Resurrection Tokens, you use these to trigger checkpoints, you can also keep hold of them to give you more health which causes a risk vs reward element, do you have a convenient checkpoint or do you hold onto the token to give you a fighting chance against the bosses.

Valfaris is very old school in its approach, enemies and bosses have set patterns and you’ll have to learn them to survive. There are multiple platforming sections and fortunately the controls are tight enough to not be an issue. The difficulty ramps decently and already starts out as a challenge rather than holding your hand through the door.

Valfaris offers a fairly lengthy campaign for a platform shooter coming in at around 10 or so hours depending on exploration and deaths. There is a New Game+ mode coming soon as free DLC for those who want to run through again with your upgraded weaponry. 

I love Valfaris and was a huge fan of Slain: Back From Hell, that doesn’t stop me from saying that Valfaris is leagues better than Slain though. It’s a much tighter, heavier and tougher yet fairer experience. It’s a fantastic title to look at and the music is outstanding, if the recent Contra: Rogue Corps left you wanting, Valfaris is more than happy to force feed you cake until you explode into a gory pile of innards!.

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