Pop idol princesses are a phenomenon that has had a tight grip around the zeitgeist of Japan and most of Asia at large. Love Live! is one of many and it’s not for the faint of heart. It is a multimedia juggernaut, born from the unholy union of ASCII Media Works’ Dengeki G’s magazine, the music label Lantis, and the animation studio Sunrise.
Love Live! thrives on audience participation, a chaotic democracy where fans wield the power to shape the destiny of their beloved idols. This interactive element is the lifeblood of the franchise, injecting a shot of adrenaline into the traditional idol formula. Through reader voting games held in Dengeki G’s magazine, fans cast their ballots on everything from school names and group formations to subunit members and single centers.
Love Live! has already a couple of video games under its belt, but Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE is the project’s first foray into the action platformer genre. Before this, the girls were mostly relegated to puzzle and rhythm games. Can Love Live! translate into a metroidvania? Find out in this Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE review!
Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE
Developer: Inti Creates
Publisher: Inti Creates
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: November 16, 2023
Price: $29.99 USD
Inti Creates is one of the most reliable developers when it comes to action platformer games. They’ve been at it for over 20 years and have delivered some of the best Mega Man games in the franchise and even branched out with their own with the likes of the Gunvolt titles.
Their take on the Blaster Master games was so well-received it became a trilogy of hits. Inti Creates also kept Bloodstained relevant with their retro-style platformer spin-off series with Curse of the Moon. After a string of successes with their lewd panty-shooter Gal Gun titles, it spun off with the solid Castlevania-like, Gal Guardians: Demon Purge.
Inti Creates’ pedigree is top-notch and has been consistent for decades… which is why it is utterly painful to find Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE to be life-drainingly dull. This has to do with the way the game controls, level design, progression, and lack of variety.
The premise is inconsequential as if the team knew that nobody would play this for its story. It follows Yohane who goes to an underwater dungeon with her dog so she can rescue her friends. If you aren’t versed in Love Live!, then prepare to feel like a child wandering into the middle of a movie.
There are a lot of admittedly cute girls in Yohane, but don’t expect to get any idea what kind of characters they are. At best, they are all very broad pop idol archetypes… at least, that is the impression the game implies based on the inane conversations in the visual novel-like cutscenes.
Ignoring all the tedious dialogue is easy and hopefully, the 2D action will satisfy right? Regretfully, Yohane feels stiff and there is a notable delay when jumping and attacking. This isn’t like in old Castlevania where actions have weight, Yohane is expected to traverse a massive map, not a short gauntlet of platforms.
She also doesn’t have a reliable weapon like the girls in Gal Guardians but has to summon her companions to attack. All of these have lengthy wind-up animations which make the game feel slower and less responsive. Yohane begins with only one and every companion rescued becomes a new attack. All of them feel too slow because of the lack of attention given to the attacking animation.
Like all Castlevania-inspired action platformers, Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE also features a sub-weapon system that runs on MP. These are acquired from progressing and defeating bosses, or they can be found. Like Yohane’s companion attacks, the sub-weapons are unresponsive and feel a few nanoseconds delayed. Using this in tandem with the companion attacks feels like the only way to be effective in combat.
Another module revolves around a crafting system where Yohane will need to gather components from defeated enemies so she can craft new accessories and equipment. There is no leveling up like in Symphony of the Night; the only way to gain power is to make new gear which is a welcomed change since it mitigates XP grinding and pushes gamers forward.
There is never any confusion over what can be crafted since the list shows all possible items. Anything that can be crafted with available components is highlighted and all ingredients are noted, so it’s easy to know what is needed at any moment.
The only problem with moving forward is that it means contending with some boring-level design that feels haphazard. There isn’t any logic or sense of momentum in the layouts and the sequences where Yohane goes into the randomized dimension do not look any different from the stages that were designed by hand.
Thankfully, getting around can be painless. Returning to past areas for missing treasure or to harvest more components is quick thanks to fast travel being available at the start.
As boring as Yohane plays, it does manage to look nice thanks to Inti Creates’ deft pixel art and animation. Yohane shows a lot of personality in her sprites and she is animated fluidly. Bosses are large and detailed and every aspect of the game ties in to the underwater theming.
Regretfully, Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE does make the same mistakes as many retro-style games where artists mix HD art with chunky pixel art. The overly sharp and modern HUD elements clash with the retro appeal of the visuals and the character portraits look out of place as if they’re from a different game.
Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE appears to be tailored specifically for Love Live! fans. Given the game’s overall lackluster experience, it seems Inti Creates lacked enthusiasm for this project and likely is not Love Live! fans themselves. This game failed to make me interested in whatever Love Live! is supposed to be.
There is no shortage of metroidvania games with cute anime girl protagonists. Inti Creates has made a few good ones, but Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE is not among them. It is a joyless and mediocre effort on their part.
Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by Inti Creates. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Yohane the Parhelion: BLAZE in the DEEPBLUE is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.