Zengeon – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by IndieLeague Studio and published by PQube, Zengeon is an anime styled action RPG/Roguelite blend, with several unique characters and varying play-styles to choose from. Decimate the demonic hordes that get in your way and battle colossal bosses, with an almost infinite number of power-up and skill combinations. This title is available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, with links to each version of the game at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PQube for providing the copy of Zengeon that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story (taken from the official website). Please note that I will be only covering the core elements of single player gameplay. This is due to the wide range of variables that can occur and an unfortunate inability to connect to other players for the online multiplayer.

Story – For centuries the Celestial Academy has protected a seal within the Blessed Land, keeping the Dark Emptiness from entering this realm. But… everything must eventually come to an end. During the Lunar Eclipse, a great power tore through the seal’s enchantments, unleashing the Dark Emptiness upon the world. Now, the Demon God makes his return… It is up to you, as one of the students of the Celestial Academy, to repel the Dark Emptiness and repair the seal in the Blessed Land!

Gameplay – Zengeon is a unique Action RPG and Roguelite hybrid, where the player will face hordes of enemies within randomly generated levels. The themes and bosses for the stages remain the same during each run through. However, the power-ups, enemy placements and paths will be different, as well as the player resetting to level 1 each time. This means that every play through of this game will be different, making for a very challenging experience when first starting the game.

Before starting the game, the player can select the character that they want to use, with 2 of them unlocked at the start and more unlocked over time. Each of the characters has costumes that can be equipped, changing their look for the run through the game. The playable characters in this game each have their own unique skills, while sharing the same universal move set of a standard attack, two specials (that have a cooldown between uses) and a dodge skill.

The different characters can be split into two distinct types, as either ranged and melee, with the different play styles having their own strengths and weaknesses. With each character starting off as squishy easy to defeat targets that can get overwhelmed quickly, this can lead to a quick defeat if the player makes mistakes or gets swarmed. This can be very frustrating when first getting used to the game, with quick and sudden deaths becoming common for new players.

But there are systems implemented to balance the challenge. The enemies that players defeat drop resources that can be collected. These are experience points that can level up the player, heal ups to heal damage and coins that are used as currency. There are also items that can be dropped by enemies, giving the character new abilities and the ability to power up their skills up to level 3. These item drops are random, making them important to get when they are dropped.

During play, there are chests that can be opened with coins collected in the stage. These chests are separated into two types, spirit Item chests and experience chests. The item chests will drop two items for the player to choose from, with the items being dropped from three different object pools, the experience chests will just drop points to help players level up. Here are the different items that players can expect to see during a run;

  • Passive Items – the passive items are pick-ups that give players a variety of possible effects, ranging from boosting health and damage, to summoning skills that activate during combat. These are the most common items that can be obtained and the most useful as they can shift the tide in the players favor. These items can be collected multiple times to boost the effects of that item.
  • Active Items – these are collectable items that have a charge meter that need to be filled before use. The active item pool consists of items that are very useful in different situations, letting the player heal or use a special powerful attack. The items can have a limited number of uses, needing to replenish them by upgrading the item when another is found or switching them out entirely. The player starts every run with a fully charged Healing Item.
  • Story Items – these are special items that will provide permanent upgrades that the player will keep upon defeat. These will give bonuses that are retained between runs, including reduced ability cooldowns and stat boosts from the start. These items will drop at random and can be collected over multiple runs through the game.

In game, the player will come across statues that they can activate as a shop. These shops allow players to trade items that they don’t want for a selection of items, requiring one item and a set amount of coins to obtain the item desired. These shops are rare, so it is important to use them when possible if the player has items that don’t synergize well together. Knowing how to balance items and what items to choose is very important, as there are many options that can fit each player.

The combat is very frantic, with enemies attacking from all directions at times, which can cause players to be overrun quickly. This can be deadly during the early stages, however, as the game progresses the difficulty of battle can be reduced if the right items have been chose for the character in use. Unfortunately, due to the labyrinthine layouts of some stages, it is possible to get trapped in dead ends and swarmed by foes, leading to a sudden end.

The stages are set in three distinct themes, with a town, forest and futuristic palace to explore. The enemies that appear in these stages are unique in design, but will follow similar attacks and functions. These include summoners who will spawn weaker enemies to fight, ranged enemies that will attack from a distance and close combat foes who will try to beat the player down. Learning how to approach each enemy type during the early stages can help in later stages when they are stronger.

At preset points during a run, there are boss battles that take place in an arena where the player must fight the boss. These are very challenging battles with the foes having different attack patterns, which can kill the player quickly, as invincibility upon taking damage is very limited. The bosses are the same with each run, so it is possible to learn the attack patterns of each boss. If the player is able to defeat the boss, they will be able to gain a set of power-ups to prepare for the next set of stages.

The main game play mode is the Story mode, but there is also a guard mode that can be unlocked upon defeating the first boss. This will open up a special wave defense mode, tasking the player with protecting a special cube in the center of the screen. The battles all follow the same gameplay systems as the story mode, with enemies dropping resources, chests being available to open and the character being able to level up.

However, the number of enemies that appear is increased tenfold, with swarms of enemies filling the screen all at once. These enemies will focus on the cube in the center, dealing damage to it to try and reduce its power to zero. If the cube is reduced to nothing the game will be over, as defeat in this mode will only give the penalty of a revival cool down before getting back in. This mode is endless with the core objective being to see how long the player is able to last.

The last thing to mention is the unlock system. When starting the game for the first time, there are 2 playable characters that can be used. If the player meets specific thresholds and requirements, more characters can be unlocked to play with, opening up more options and variables for the player. There are also additional costumes that can be unlocked for each character. These additional unlocks give more choices for the player, as well as an incentive to replay and try to be the game again.

There is a Co-op mode for this title, however, I was unable to test it out during my time playing the game. Now, with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.

Controls – this title has a good input layout, with all of the functions in easy to find positions. This makes it easy for the game to be picked up quickly as all of the buttons are also on screen. There is also an extra option for players to remap the four key skills, letting players change their set-up to how they like it. There is little issue with inputs during play, with zero input lag making for a comfortable experience when playing with Joy-Cons or a pro controller.

Difficulty – as this is a Roguelite style title, there is a lot of random variables to the game, which does make this very hard for players who are just starting out. However, once players have gotten used to the game, the challenge is a little lower and can be decreased further with story items unlocked. If players find the standard difficulty too easy, they can access an optional hard mode which will ramp up the challenge, while offering special unlocks for completion.

Presentation – the visuals for this game have a very anime style to them, with the characters models and images being pleasing to the eye. The environmental details are good and the enemy designs are fairly unique. But there are some negatives, as there can be frame drops with a lot of action on screen as it can really strain the Nintendo Switch. The sound design is solid, with a good soundtrack that fits the different locations and some voiced dialogue for the opening cutscene, but there is little else in terms of voice over work.

Final Thoughts – this review is long overdue, but I can say that this is a solid mix of Action RPG and Roguelite, with a pleasing anime style to it. The action moves at a fair pace, but it does have some minor flaws, with enemies quickly swarming players at times which can be frustrating. There is also some unfortunate slowdown due to the limitations of the Nintendo Switch hardware, but these are few and far between. Overall, this is a decent title that can be a lot of fun.

Zengeon is a really challenging game, with a swift death being a common occurance during the first few runs of the game. But as players get used to the way that the game works, this challenge is lessened and the story items that can be collected really help. There is also a fair amount of replay value with the extra costumes and characters to unlock, as well as the extra wave defense mode. If you are a Roguelite fan, then I can easily recommend this title as one to add to the library.

In the end, I give Zengeon a final score of 4/5. This is a solid mix of anime style visuals, Action RPG systems and Roguelite mechanics, with the random stage layouts, an almost infinite combination of items to collect and plenty of content to unlock. It can be very difficult, but is rewarding once you get into the flow of the game and there is even co-op if you have a friend with the game too. If you are interested in checking this title out, a link to each version of the game will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation version (HERE)

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