Review – Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE
Some may deem this next statement blasphemous, but I reckon that Inti Creates has more than earned the label of Metroidvania savant. Just take a gander at their catalog. It’s thanks to that pedigree that whenever news from them show up, I freak. Having grown during an era when Mega Man had dominance, this gameplay style evokes nostalgia galore for me, it’s also too amazing to forget. Running and gunning won’t ever get old, and when I’m wrinkly and gray, it’ll still be popular. As a degenerate, I’m doubly interested due to this aesthetic. If you’ve dabbled in titles like Gal Guardians and Azure Striker, you know precisely what to anticipate with Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE. With a knack for random capitalization and the refusal to input spaces, will that harm the fun factor?
When I first saw the trailer for Yohane, I figured it would be just another Waifu-vania. It wasn’t until scrolling down and reading the comments that I discovered that, yeah, it is, but it’s also a video game adaptation of an anime. I know, I hear the sighs, but rest assured, as perversion is a nonissue. It’s nonexistent, and replaced by charm.
Whenever I’m conversing with the characters, which isn’t frequent, it’s tough not to notice the charisma oozing from their pores. The exchanges are typically joyful and a stellar topping on this simple plot line ice cream cone. I love the snippets of personality shining through, and hell, after the credits rolled, I did feel compelled to seek out the show it’s based on.
Of course, riffing off an already established IP does have a fair share of downfalls. For starters, anyone unfamiliar with the source material will miss references. Not only that, but no one even gets formally introduced. Yohane name drops at a whim, believing you’ve been pre-exposed to everyone. Thankfully, despite these setbacks, the glee doesn’t subside. Inti Creates did a superb job cramming in lively demeanours for everyone, given the short script – size doesn’t matter. Now, when I say a short script, I mean it – we aren’t buried underneath a wall of text. An argument can be made that cringe still knocks at the front door, but it’s ever so slight, and besides, I found the silliness endearing. At the very least, it’s a fine additive for the main feast.
My previous mention of Mega Man wasn’t without purpose. Inti Creates happens to be the mastermind behind the Zero franchise. With that in mind, it should be no surprise that the core loop retains some of that DNA. Like it, eight girls are needing to be rescued. By defeating the bosses that kidnapped each one, they join with our heroine, the titular Yohane. Alright, there’s a minor difference: since she’s not a robot, she’s unable to infuse elements into her being. What instead occurs is I can summon up one of these ladies and utilize their respective techniques – there’s Kanan and her mechanical frog that squishes enemies, or Chika, who has this massive plasma bazooka that shoots the face off your foes. It’s a neat idea, but the execution isn’t the best.
What I consider the hook of Mega Man is that I can tackle levels in whatever order I damn well please. If that’s not enough, the weapon I inherit after defeating a boss serves as the weakness for another – trying to figure out the ideal sequence helps to elicit engagement.
Sadly, that facet is absent from Yohane. It’s a linear path with the smallest opportunity to deviate. Even then, it’s only there to give players the illusion of freedom. Due to the predetermined nature, I couldn’t test for those advantages – that’s until the final stretch, anyway. It’s honestly missed potential since, to be blunt, I forgot about half the attacks I gained access to. It didn’t take long to suss out the most optimal options, meaning I ignored a large bulk of this feature, and that’s no bueno.
Okay, the Metroidvania genre generally gets mislabeled by reviewers, and I’m usually part of the problem. However, I really think Yohane fits. It isn’t a focal point, and calling it a side-scrolling action is probably more apt, but regardless, I do backtrack. Several areas are unreachable in the initial hour or so. It’s only after getting certain talents, like the patented double jump, that I gain access and can explore further. Who knows? I might even discover a trinket.
They prove to be pretty darn nifty, too, since they upgrade the abilities that the girls possess – if she shoots a cannon alone, then a boost brings a pair of friends to join her. It’s an interesting concept, but it does continue my biggest qualm – once I stumbled on something strong, I exploited it to hell. If it’s overpowered, everything else feels grossly redundant by comparison.
From an accessibility standpoint, I’ve got to call out the level design. Sure, it’s common for this type of romp, but for me and my goldfish-caliber memory, it made returning to past spots arduous. I’d be roaming through corridors, massacring whatever is in my way, aimless and scratching my head. I couldn’t remember where a certain ability was required to progress. Having a stamp system in place would help make locating these easier. If I had a visual aid, it would be straightforward, as opposed to just wild guesses.
Of course, I’ve got to give credit where it’s due – there’s an incredible, and I do mean incredible, fast travel aspect. Every chest I’m missing is also visible on the map, but because I couldn’t recall why I left them behind unopened, it led to a tedious cycle of checking and rechecking ad nauseam.
One thing that had me ecstatic, and irrationally so, is the crafting. It’s simplistic, requiring me to gather materials by smashing pots – eat your heart out, Link. It’s available at any time. The minute I have whatever a recipe requires, a quick pause and shuffle through the menu is all getting it started entails.
It gave me a reason to meander the halls of the dungeon, masking the monotony of it. For those curious, my obsession with stat growth is why I’m so giddy. I yearn for that power trip, explaining why I got heavily invested in clay pottery genocide. My hunger for the cream of the crop in equipment needed satiating. The pace at which I found ingredients is done amazingly, as well, never resulting in a long grind session.
Look, we’ve got to discuss combat because it will be divisive. It’s somewhat slow, which I’m not a fan of. Yes, when I pressed a button, the corresponding action was immediate. If I commanded Yohane to jump, she busted a respectable leap. As a disclaimer, this hiccup is tiny in the grand scheme. That said, her attacks are accompanied by an awkward delay – they’re quite methodical.
I suppose in that way, it forces a strategic approach. The thing is, for this genre, I prefer to be a speed demon and get snappy kills. That’s not the case, and instead, the damage is sometimes reliant on nailing arbitrary timing. If I don’t, I miss them completely. Yohane’s default weapon suffers the same fate. She wields a wolf to defeat her enemies with, and after use, it’ll hang – for the briefest of moments, all inputs stall.
In an attempt to alleviate the above situation, Yohane follows the old-era philosophy of patterns. Fighting a boss and surviving depends on knowing what’s coming based on what already came. In other words, death is nine times out of ten, guaranteed on initial encounters. Well, unless your reflexes are pristine, and you can learn on the fly. I can’t, so yeah, it was curtains.
If you’re concerned about the challenge, it’s most intense during the first go around but then drops as you study your adversary and perfect dodges. That won’t necessarily mean I’ll emerge victorious unscathed. The offensive against me is flung at a rapid-fire pace. I struggled and made liberal use of healing items. These aren’t limitless, though, as there’s a ceiling to how many I can carry, demanding I stay on my toes or take a loss.
I’m an old geezer, and gray hair has taken over my goatee. As such, this wonderful pixel art style felt nostalgic as I grew up with it. It’s a favorite of mine. The sprites don’t have that smooth aesthetic, looking textured around the edges. It took me back to the early 90s when I was a lad gaming on my Nintendo. I can’t say the same as far as the CGs go.
Those have a modern tinge and are, well, they’re bloody gorgeous. I don’t know what else to say that’s not praise. The character portraits are crispy, and I absolutely adore the reaction frames. Now, to reanalyze when I noted looking up the anime, the work to ensure the girls are one-to-one with the source is commendable. I can immediately pinpoint who’s who, and I appreciate that effort.
For the most part, the sound design is really solid. With regards to the voice acting, it’s Japanese, it’s fine, and it fits the characters perfectly. I especially liked the exaggerated moments. As far as the soundtrack goes, it impressed me. It didn’t matter what environment I was in; the background music matched. I was vibing, but imagine my shock when I found one that was pretty much a dead ringer for something you’d hear in Hyrule Warriors. Perhaps my fanboyism for the green tunic elf makes me biased, but I was tapping away.
I should note, however, that the hybrid’s speakers don’t do it justice. They’re insanely weak, and I don’t get the full brunt of the impactfulness, thanks to how flat it is. It wasn’t until I connected to a woofer that my world opened. It’s not going to evoke emotions or amplify scenes. It’s just there for ambiance, so to speak, and it does an admirable job at that.
In conclusion, Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE is fun, but it fails to stick the landing totally. Several mechanics felt disjointed. For every crafting system that I lauded, there’s a hiccup to balance it out. Nitpick or not, the slight delay to melee is annoying. I’m known for my kamikaze ways, and I’m invigorated by panicked kills, but I can’t do that here. I did enjoy the homage to a renowned indie gem, though.
Overall, I don’t regret the 10+ hours I invested, and I can see myself returning one day. I do wish the post-game was a tad more robust. Inti Creates are known for adding extra, so to have nothing is disappointing. In conclusion, what harms it is that a portion of the mechanics were ignored – there’s a lack of cohesion. I still recommend it, but maybe at a little discount.
For the type of style it goes for, it’s very crispy. My only actual complaint would be the environments. Because the areas are so massive, it’s difficult to make them visually interesting. Still, the sprites are great, the artwork is great, and it’s just overall great.
The gameplay is fine. What ultimately hurts it is that I completely forewent even using half the abilities I have. Having a lot of choice is great, but it feels wasteful to program abilities that’ll never be used unless it’s to solve a puzzle. If I’m always defaulting to a certain ability, then repetition becomes a possibility.
Solid sound design with serviceable voice acting. A fantastic soundtrack that sounds like it came straight from Hyrule Warriors.
It’s perfectly adequate and despite not doing anything particularly new for the genre, I was won over by the clear Mega Man homages throughout. If anything, I wanted to keep going, so.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE was provided by the publisher.