In a dark, desolate future, there is a city fortress called Valfaris. Having re-emerged from a place unknown, the kings son sets off to investigate what happened to the city and his father. Bringing forth death, carnage, destruction, and metal in a side scrolling shooter, this adventure that proves the genre still has what it takes.
While the plot line of Valfaris isn’t what’s going to bring players on board, it sets the stage for what’s to come. Featuring an almost evil like feeling of decay and death, the game surely dives head first into its atmosphere and setting. The closest series I feel Valfaris can be compared to; Contra of course. It’s difficulty, high intensity action/platforming, and wide assortment of nasty looking creatures only compound this thought. If Contra was rated PG-13 though, Valfaris would be the R rated version. Lots of blood, guts, and nightmarish looking creatures. There are some other games that came to mind as well when playing. The sound effects remind me of the top down RPG Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen for some reason. Meanwhile the pixelated graphics gave me a feel of Blizzard’s Blackthorne. Of course the soundtrack reminded me of their preview game SLAIN.
Immediately I was captured by look and feel and only wanted to dive deeper into the experience. As if the developers were invoking an older retro playstation style side scroller I somehow missed in the 90’s. With pixel and pre-rendered elements that I just adore from the past generations. Add in an 80’s heavy metal cover theme and I’ve just described Valfaris in a nutshell.
While the game plays like Contra or Metal Slug, it does so with an elegance and a penchant for extreme taste of brutality and heavy metal and surprising variety. While the core elements of Valfaris remain as a run and gun shooter throughout, there are moments of melee and figuring out what weapons work best for a situation. The level of variety during my play through was always a surprise. One minute I was climbing up walls and gunning down weird aliens and creatures, the next I’m hang from one, as it flies around the environment. This variety also shows in the huge amount of boss battles encountered. Almost always exciting and fun, but challenging and rewarding to defeat.
The game is extremely tough at moments, there is a fair balance to checkpoints here. Players will come across pedestals to activate and as long as a certain stones have been found throughout the level, it can be activated as both a checkpoint and an upgrade station. The upgrade points are found by defeating certain enemies or locating hidden spots. The weapons are broke down into melee, primary weapon, and secondary. The melee attacks help regain mana that’s used for the secondary weapons. The primary weapon can fire indefinitely. Meanwhile there are various weapon types found and unlocked over the game with plenty for players to choose from to cater to their play style.
Valfaris is a complete package. It offers one of the most fun and exciting side scrolling shooters I’ve played in years. It has such a unique visual style and setting that most retro fans should absolutely swoon along with any 80’s metal aficionados. The challenge is there but never so much as to make me rage in anger. The checkpoints helped and are well thought out enough to prevent that. There is very little to complain about either. Some odd performance stutters when things get heavy, but otherwise it’s all metal and running smoothly. I can’t proclaim enough just how much this games variety and pacing blew me away. Every time I sat down with it, I was worried it was coming to an end. That’s how great my experience was with it. Bottom line is that fans of the genre, fans of metal, fans of gore and brutality and shooting crazy nightmarish creatures in video games, get ready. Prepare to go on a journey most excellent, Valfaris is metal as fuck.
A pre-release Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes