Release date: November 16, 2023
Developer: Inti creates
Editor: Inti creates
Inti Creates has certainly earned a reputation for creating quality 2D action titles, bringing games like Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and its sequel, as well as the Blaster Master Zero series, to the Switch over the years. The studio’s latest game, Yohane the Parhelion: Blaze in the Deepblue, based on a fantasy spinoff of Love Live! Sunshine!! The setting lends itself well to a video game and has a solid foundation that ensures fun while it lasts, but unfortunately it doesn’t take advantage of this enough to make this a mediocre experience at best.
Yohane the Parhelion has a very loose story in which Yohane and his friends explore a mysterious new dungeon that has appeared on the outskirts of Numazu. Separated from her friends who ventured into the labyrinth and never returned, Yohane and her companion Lailaps must delve into the dungeon themselves to save everyone else, all while trying to discover the mysteries that surround it. Even if you are using Love Live! are not familiar! Sunshine!! Yohane is an engaging protagonist with an almost embarrassingly cheesy and quirky personality that comes through clearly in every line she says in cutscenes and in her in-game hints when she attacks. Even though their interaction with the rest of the cast is brief and never enough for those unfamiliar with them to get a feel for their relationships or even their personalities, this is clearly a game designed specifically for the fans, and there’s more than enough of that here to satisfy those who know the characters. The story serves more as a vehicle for gameplay, with interaction being an added bonus or fan service rather than the focus of the game.
Yohane the Parhelion is a 2D Metroidvania, and if you’ve played one before, you won’t find any surprises here. As Yohane, you traverse a series of interconnected areas, defeating enemies and engaging in very light platforming to find your missing friends, guarded by boss fights that you must overcome. You are free to explore the area as you wish, but the game indirectly guides you on the right path by placing obstacles in your way that require skills that you will acquire later in the game.
The game is very numbers based, and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the controls are precise and responsive and the player is never faced with particularly frustrating puzzles, platforming sections or bosses, it is noticeably lacking where challenges and hidden secrets have become the hallmark of the genre, something players looking for something more than just a simple experience should consider. Yohane the Parhelion appears to be intended for those unfamiliar with the genre: most enemies can be defeated in one or two hits, and although bosses take significantly more punishment, attacking them and giving them a shot is generally enough Avoid counterattacks to ensure victory.
Once you save one of Yohane’s friends, you can use their unique ability to explore more of the dungeon. These abilities have very limited application, but are useful throughout the dungeon and have a special charm thanks to their animations: for example, you fire Yohane from a cannon to close gaps that she can’t close by jumping, and Hanamaru rolls across the screen at high speed to destroy spikes and she gets dizzy when she collides with something. These can also be upgraded to more powerful versions by finding unique items in side quests, allowing you a bit more interaction with the characters, which fans of the series will no doubt appreciate. The standard traversal upgrades, such as double jumping and climbing, are scattered throughout the dungeon, making these abilities feel more like additional rewards for progression.
Although you can use your comrades to attack and defeat enemies, this is generally quite cumbersome as their attacks are slow, difficult to aim properly, and are clearly designed more for environmental puzzle solving than combat. Instead, the game encourages you to create your own gear using the cast system, which utilizes items dropped by defeated enemies. There is a wide range of weapons with the usual advantages and disadvantages: weaker weapons are faster and have a lower Darkness Point (DP) cost, stronger weapons are slower and have a higher cost. Which weapon you use will largely depend on your personal preference, as the game primarily lacks challenge and the enemies have no notable weaknesses. The level of freedom here is good, although I generally found that using the strongest weapon I had was the better choice due to the bosses’ huge health points.
The cast system is an interesting way to acquire new weapons, making fighting enemies feel rewarding and loot drops are widely available so you don’t have to spend hours grinding up an enemy just for a new weapon, but unfortunately you will The game will tell you exactly what you need to craft a particular piece of equipment and will even give you an on-screen notification letting you know when you can craft something new. However, you will not be told where to find the missing items. This makes the entire system feel a bit haphazard and unfocused, especially when many enemies drop the same type of loot, and due to the open nature of the map, progress is often impossible to see. Many stronger weapons and armor require items that you could have gotten at the start of the game, which keeps them relevant, but it also means that for much of the game you are missing an item or two to create something, which leads to the Question if you haven’t been to the right area yet or if you just haven’t gotten the right drop from the enemies.
Yohane the Parhelion is a much more accessible game than many Metroidvanias, with generously spaced save spaces that you can fast travel to at any time. This was a feature I really appreciated during my playthrough as it saved a lot of unnecessary regression. It was common for me to find areas where I couldn’t progress due to a lack of skills. It also made it much easier to revisit areas later to get treasure chests that I couldn’t reach before: the game marks these on the map when you enter a room, but never tells you exactly where in the room they are so you always have them at hand It’s fun to discover your secrets without wasting time trying to figure out if the room you’re in actually has secrets to discover.
The game features an attractive pixel art style that places more emphasis on the character animations than the backgrounds, although each area feels so different that it feels like you’re entering a new biome, with the backgrounds following each Give the area a unique aesthetic. Bosses have equally unique and memorable (if sometimes bizarre) designs. Unfortunately, repetition and recoloring of enemies between areas with the same attack patterns is common, causing the game to feel quite monotonous over extended play sessions. Dialogue uses anime stills and occasional cutscenes that are of much higher quality and fit the game’s anime theme.
The sound design in Yohane the Parhelion is excellent, with some very memorable and engaging area themes that stayed with me long after I left the area in question. The game is also voiced entirely in Japanese, with voices from the anime reprising their roles. There isn’t a lot of dialogue in the game, but that makes it feel high quality, and for fans there’s also a new song, Deep Blue, which serves as the game’s theme.
Yohane the Parhelion is an extremely short game and I was quite surprised when I beat it within five hours, even after searching the map for hidden items and collectibles. Aside from crafting all manner of items for personal satisfaction, there is nothing left to do in the game after completing the story, and beating the game does not unlock any additional features or higher difficulty levels. This notable lack of replayability makes the price seem particularly high: unless you’re a big fan of Love Live! Sunshine!! Then you won’t get your money’s worth here compared to other titles that offer more on the first playthrough and also offer greater replay value.
Yohane the Parhelion: Blaze in the Deepblue is a competent game that does little to set itself apart from its contemporaries. Lack of variety in enemy design, simple environmental puzzles, and lack of replayability make it feel like a lot of wasted potential. Its only defining feature is Love Live! taste, and for fans of the anime that will probably be more than enough to convince them to pick this book up, but if you’re unfamiliar with the source material there’s not really anything here to recommend it over similar titles , especially given the amount of content for the price.
Yohane the Parhelion: Blaze in the Deepblue copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.