Monday, January 25, 2016

Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai (SFC) Review

Received: March 8th, 2014 / Written: January 22nd-25th, 2016
Alternate Title: Whirlo [|O|]
Year: 1992 | Developed and Published by: Namco | [|O|]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  Well, I guess it's that time for me for my blog again: redemption time, and boy do I really need to explain myself.

Happy 30th Anniversary, Game I Have Not Played
Image from Wikipedia
In 1986 Namco created an action-adventure game in the vein of The Legend of Zelda for the Famicom called Valkyrie no Bōken: Toki no Kagi Densetsu, the first in what would eventually become a series for the titular shield maiden descending from heaven to save Marvel Land from the dark clutches of the Dark Wizard Zouna, which remained Japan-only.  It did, however, find itself rereleased on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console in 2007, the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console in 2013, and the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console in 2015--all in Japan, though.  =(  I never played it sadly.
Image from Wikipedia
Then, three years later in 1989, Valkyrie alongside her companion Krino Xandra would make a grand return for the sequel Valkyrie no Densetsu made for the arcades, having also been converted to the PC Engine in 1990 (with varying differences) and phones (in the mid-00's).  I'm not sure how they went from Nintendo 8-bit exclusive to arcade follow-up (when usually it's the other way around), but there you go.  Initially it was Japan-exclusive until Namco would officially translate the game for the West on the PlayStation One compilation Namco Museum Volume 5 in the late '90s, being the only version of the game available outside of just Japan.  I haven't played this game either, but I am interested in trying it someday.
Photo taken by yours truly, presenting today's game
If you've ever wondered how the heroic Valkyrie and Xandra met each other or what led up to their very first encounter, then you're in luck for today we get to talk about the 1992 Super Famiconsole-exclusive prequel Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai (retitled simply as Whirlo for the PAL SNES release the same year), which I have played.  And owe one huge apology to.  =(

I found out about Xandra no Daibōken while browsing online several years ago (the first time watching Shiryu's YouTube video of it), namely on RVGFanatic's website... well, technically he quoted the Super Play review of the game (who gave it a very high rating in the late 80s percentage) and only offered his own two cents in the end of that page: he was not enthused and found it to be frustrating (last I checked).  But despite that the game did look interesting from what screenshots he provided and I was curious about it, and it wasn't until February 2014 (almost two years since I got a Retro Duo) that I decided to give it a shot and order it from eBay.  And when it arrived that early March, well... I was not exactly in the best of moods around that time (technically, several days after the fact).

Okay, so at first it wasn't so bad (I found the first two stages to be wildly challenging at first, but that's because I wasn't that accustomed to the game and controls), but then I reached the third stage and gave up on the game entirely after I constantly failed to get past this one part (which I'll explain shortly).  I was also starting to feel a bit depressed around that point (I admit I have a bit of a dark outlook on life, and I wasn't certain what my future would hold for me if I ever decided to become part of a professional company: would I be successful or would I fail?), and taking the game's story too much to heart kind of added to that depression for me; I did get better a couple months later, but that one segment was so demanding for me that I was scared to touch Xandra no Daibōken again--at first.  ={

In the off-chance that you've been frequenting my StarBlog you'll notice that I have mentioned this game sometimes, usually not in a good light; even after the Retro Duo's SFC slot stopped working for me on October 2014.  Where I feel I went too far however was on my (outdated) 2014 Personal SFC Recommendation Bar where I gave it the lowest rating (5.0) and had this bitter statement to say:
"Namco's Valkyrie series of games did well enough that eventually they decided to make a prequel with Krino Xandra as the main character...  Despite the fact that it's thematically lighthearted Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai has got a very depressing tone lingered throughout.  Even the story reeks of depression...  That wouldn't be so much a problem if the game was not so devastatingly difficult...  Depression and high difficulty should not be a valid combination.  The pastel-toned visuals are decent and while the soundtrack admittedly sounds impressive even it has got depressing undertones which will make you feel even more sadder.  ...  ...  It is not worth the depression (and frustration) it'll end up giving you, for it could've used a lot more polish and plenty of leniency in order to be good or even the slightest bit fun.  Avoid!"
Boy don't I feel like a total asshole right now.  }'X>  *feels inconsolable shame*

Despite what I had said, long after the Retro Duo's SFC slot did not function anymore, I had on some occasions contemplated playing Xandra no Daibōken again (forever abandon my bitter attitude towards it, as bitterness is unbecoming); I promised to myself that if I ever got to play my Super Famicarts again that one of the things I would do is give Namco's title a chance--a true chance.  One of the most genuinely true chances I could ever hope to give to a game that I felt I had wronged in the past.  An effort from the heart.

When I got a Super Famiconsole this Christmas ('15) and the New Year 2016 started, I began the game anew that night (on January 1st), and my attitude towards it has softened exponentially.  So how do I feel about this title right now?

Marvel Land was leading a peaceful life, and no more tranquil was the world than it was in the Sandland Village where the Xandra Clan, green anthropomorphic creatures with amphibian features, took residence.  Unfortunately their peaceful lifestyle was soon to be shattered due to an unforeseen eruption which caused the land to slide down thereby slowly plunging into darkness.  Zouna, the Dark Wizard who recently escaped from his prison, was to blame for this catastrophe, and he wouldn't stop there.
He planned to plunge Marvel Land into darkness and punish all who oppose him, beginning with the Xandra Clan whom he subjected to the "Ashes of Despair", draining color and energy away and coming with a plague that ended up turning many members of the Clan into stone.  Unfortunately one of the victims that got afflicted by the plague is Krino Xandra's infant son who's nearing death.  Oh, Namco, you had to go there, didn't you?  <=(  Not wanting to stand around and do nothing about the slow deterioration of Sandland Village, Xandra vowed to go through thick and thin and go high and above in search of a cure to help his kind.
With this mission he sets off on his first adventure, deciding to speak with the Elder to find out how to save his kind.  When Krino meets the Elder and after expressing the bad news, the sage Xandra explains that in order to lift the blight that you will need the Sun Cure, an Elixir known to cure any ailment; but to get the Sun Cure you need to procure seven Light Crystals scattered around the world.  Only after holding all seven of them up to the sky will you be able to get what you're looking for and save everyone.
Fortunately for you the Elder just so happens to have one Light Crystal in his possession.  All right, one down, six more to go!  =)  What troubles await Krino Xandra in his huge endeavor, but more importantly: will he succeed and restore peace to Marvel Land?

Krino Xandra's important adventure begins
Unlike Valkyrie no Bōken: Toki no Kagi Densetsu and Valkyrie no Densetsu before it whereas they were top-down action-adventure games viewed from the bird's eye view, the prequel Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai is a 2D sidescrolling action-adventure/platformer viewed from the sidelines.  Here you take the controls of the young father Krino Xandra who's armed with nothing but a pitchfork to defend himself, as it's the only way to take down enemies in the game.  You can thrust your pitchfork ahead of you while on foot, use it while holding onto climbable rope, spinning around with it when holding Y in midair, or downward if you press down and hold Y together while in midair (if the tines touch the ground you'll be stuck for a momentary period until Xandra frees himself).  Well, those were the pitchfork controls, now let's delve into the various jumping controls.  And boy are they various!  <=O
Xandra no Daibōken sets itself apart from most platformers of the Nintendo 16-bit era in that there are not one, not two, not three, but four jumping controls; I am not kidding, as those jumps will get you places.  There is a catch though: only the normal jumps can actually be controlled (by just pressing or holding the B button, how high or low you jump depends on how long you press it), while the other three cannot.  Those jumping controls in question are the sprint jump (lightly press the A button as you dash, mainly to cross wide gaps), the high jump (hold down the A button and let go when you're ready to leap high above; hold it too long and Krino will tire out), and the Whirlowind Attack (hold down the X button as he gains altitude preparing his special attack, and let go when you feel he's at the correct height to make him launch far ahead).  For the latter two if you want real altitude just move and/or adjust your position a little and you'll be all set.

"Uh oh, this sure looks ominous!"
So yeah, when it comes to the game's overall jumping controls I think it's safe to say that they're the equivalent of a double-edged sword; they can be really invaluable to you if you execute them properly or they can be your own undoing if you wind up misusing them (since you lose a life with a single hit)--I should know, I speak from personal experience.  But with enough time and practice they can work to the game's benefit; the small drawback is that it kind of adds a sense of awkwardness, and even when you do somehow master these controls it can still feel awkward at points (they're not bad, but they're not exactly the most comfortable of controls).  But awkward or no, they're the only means for you to cross wide gaps, hop towards platforms high above (or far ahead of) your normal jumping capacity, and if there are boxes that need to be pushed away just use the Whirlowind Attack; and this is not a once in awhile thing either for there are many similar occasions here and there.

"Take that!"
Xandra no Daibōken's soundtrack that accompanies the game's stages sounds incredible, relying purely on being instrumental throughout, and of all the games I played on the Nintendo 16-bit made by Namco I think this is their best music out of the lot.  =)  Something I didn't quite take all that well at first in 2014 (because I was feeling depressed) but have since learned to appreciate and like as I played it this month is the way the songs are composed in a manner that incorporates a bit of emotion.  The title theme is strangely inviting and appealing despite its brevity, and the story cue is eerie yet pretty at the same time.  Those two cues kind of set up the tone for the game.  But then when the game truly begins you're treated to Krino Xandra's heroic theme, which is actually my favorite song in the game!  =D  What I like the most about it is how inspiring and amazing it sounds, signifying adventure has just begun and that it will not be easy.  There are some low notes in the middle that add a bit of sad undertone to it, but I think the point it's trying to make is that everyone's hope rests on Krino's shoulders, and Krino is the very living embodiment of hope for there is no turning back.  This is especially true since it's played on several occasions; so prominently in fact, it's played during the credits sequence.  I approve!  =)

"FOR MY SON!!!"
The other songs are especially impressive in their own right and perfectly match the very atmosphere and environments they are attached to.  The Haunted Forest theme sounds mysterious and lonely in its composition that it's enough to send chills and elicit a bit of emotion.  There is a theme that is so beautifully composed and sincere whenever Krino has important conversations with some of the secondary characters that you can't help but feel invested.  The mountain theme is very menacing and urgent, the Tree Forest theme is engaging and filled with wonder, the cavern theme is very ominous and threatening, and the song played during the very last section of the game is one of the most epic songs I've ever heard from a 2D platformer (might not mean much when heard out of context, but click the link and listen to it if you don't believe me); so epic, in fact, it legitimately feels like a do or die moment when playing that part, but now's not the time to talk about it.  =D  The boss theme (yes, "the" boss theme, nothing else of the kind here) is way too intense with lots of riveting and sped up string work that it makes you feel nervous as you must bout the bosses without being hit once.

"Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!"  8O
The visuals in Xandra no Daibōken are of the pastel-toned variety--like fellow platformers such as Shōnen Ashibe, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose!, and TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure--and they are charming and pleasing to the eye, and at times can be visually engaging.  The first stage where once there was green and crops abound is now enshrouded by white and gray (it's pretty sad imagery, and you can't help but feel bad about it), later seguing to the Haunted Forest where you cross by stream as you see star constellation horses walking in the dark backdrop and unusual ghosts spilling stars onto the water, followed by entirely white ground caused by the blight.  And this is just the first stage, but visually it does get better from here.

*due to the very genuine nature of this review/apology
from the heart, this screenshot's originally intended
Thanksgiving-related tagline has been rejected*
I hope you understand
When you reach the second stage it is so refreshing to actually see the bright sky above you as opposed to black, and at one point the day gradually turns from morning to dawn, reminding me of a similar point in the first stage of Super Earth Defense Force=)  Inside the mountain is some imagery inside that's kind of dark and neat, with the flaming red background and menacing purple skull-pillars in the backdrop.  Other great visuals include the water-submerged town, the fungi-infested cave, there's a great view of a mountain in the backdrop of the fifth stage, and the Tree Forest segment is oddly fascinating.  I think the best part, however, is in the very last segment of the very last stage (it's so surreal and beautiful to look at), but I'm not telling, as it's one of those things that ends up making it all worthwhile.  =')
During the intro and ending and inbetween stages are cutscenes with the characters designed by Hiroshi Fuji, all wonderfully drawn with amiable anime/manga design and fittingly framed with a nicely crafted border which adds a bit of charm and does a very compelling job of telling the story in a picturesque manner.  While some frames comprise of stills, there are some with minimal animation, and they're really good to look at, perfectly-selected colors and angles and all.  =)  This would probably explain why you cannot skip these scenes if you've seen them once (after starting from your last progress), only speed up the narration.

Time to climb up to see the Elder
There are various characters that Krino Xandra meets throughout his adventure, like the bouncing Quarkmen, pixies, fairies, humans, and Kappas; and they all have likable designs in-game and have varying animations for when they move or converse with you or other characters (sometimes with their hands, other times with their emotion that you see on their face).  On the enemy front are creatures such as cavemen, sentient flames, turkey vultures, robots that shoot laser beams, turtles with maces, and goblins to name some of them; the bosses are bigger than you, naturally, and have interesting designs (such as the Crescent King and the Anaconda), even Zouna when you face him.  And finally there is Xandra himself who's got the lion's share of animation at his disposal for his walking, running, jumping, climbing, falling, tumbling down, losing, stuck, and pitchfork-using animations are solid; and during conversations he would sometimes have a determined look in his eye, smile at encouraging news, nod his head, hold up an important item he finds, and at one point he even blushes.  It's pretty endearing, and seeing him have a range of emotions in these moments is nice.  =)

"Ouch!"  =(
When I first played Xandra no Daibōken I made a big deal about how the lighthearted tone was mismatched from the story which I initially felt had the opposite tone (it's only at the start when it's dark), but that's not true; I was wrong.  It can work with the right controls, and while its jumping controls might largely be on the awkward side of things it does end up working if you get those controls down pat.  Yes, the game's tone is lighthearted as a whole (beginning of the story aside), and Krino does have diverse death animations that are represented lightheartedly; such as being touched by enemies (spins around until he's on his rear), after he's been punctured by sharp objects (where he grabs where he's been punctured in his body with eyes bugging out while falling offscreen), or being touched by flames (where his body turns to ash with his eyes big and shocked at that occurrence)--and you know, those are cute and/or humorous.  But then he's got certain death animations that are rather disturbing to watch considering the tone of the game; like when he's drowning because he cannot swim on water, or when he's being electrocuted after being touched by a laser beam.  Holy crap, that's dark, Namco!  =O  ...maybe it's got to do with the fact that you have to get by on just one HP?  =<

*POOF*
Xandra no Daibōken is a platformer that does not pull any punches in terms of difficulty as it is quite difficult indeed, for plenty of reasons.  Like HAL Laboratory's Kirby's Return to Dream Land any time you start this game (from the beginning or from a password, thank God for the latter) you start out with seven lives; I know, unusual comparison.  But unlike the Nintendo Wii game where you're not likely to use up all your lives at once, that's exactly what'll happen in this SFC platformer if you're not careful in your venture (and they cannot be replenished either).  One of the reasons for the difficulty stems from the aforementioned additional jumping controls (which are awkward but can be worked around with enough practice), while another reason is attributed to adapting to the precarious area designs.  It's not all straightforward as at times you must cross wide gaps with your sprint, punch through walls or push objects with your Whirlowind Attack, or do high jumps towards platforms that are normally too high for your normal jumping capacity; this is especially true when a lot of the time any one of these things transpires over endless pits (where falling is a no-no).

This is where I gave up two years ago  ={  I've since
regretted that decision  X{
Back when I first played Xandra no Daibōken in March 2014 I was very surprised by both how difficult and how sad the introduction was.  And bear in mind, I was starting to feel depressed at the time.  Of course, after several game overs and tries I have eventually made it to the third stage (even when I knew what to do it was still tough for me), and that's where I felt it was too much.  There was this upward scaling moment where you had to consistently jump up two platforms slowly rising up, one by one, and the more you jump on them the gradually faster they go.  No matter how many times I tried to get to the top I just could not make it and I failed, over and over again.  X(  Not to mention that each time Krino Xandra loses all his lives his fate was rather horrific to witness.

GEEZUS!!!  D8>
That's enough to give anyone nightmaresD=>
And if you think there is no penalty for using a password after receiving a game over, the sad news is yes there is: as it actually keeps count of how many game overs you've gotten (if any) due to the Black Xandra count.  In the back of my mind I thought that if I ever beat the game with just one Black Xandra on my count then something bad would happen, so what I did (just to be safe) was to try to beat the stage and keep a log of the end of stage password, so that way the next time I get a game over I would use that password instead of the bad password.  And that's exactly what I did when I gave this game a second chance as well.

But alas, 2014 was not this game's year for me.  On most occasions I try my best to get as far into any Nintendo 16-bit game I play or beat it, and if I can't at least I can say I tried (no big deal); but Xandra no Daibōken was different for me.  I took the story at face value (maybe too much), the fact I could not get past that one portion, the fact I could not save everyone (not even Krino's son), it took a real toll on me and amplified my depression even further; I was becoming bitter towards it to the point where I gave up on it and I ended up saying all those things about it on my blog that I wish I could take back.  ='(

It was only sometime in 2015 that I felt compelled to give it another shot, feeling that I was too hard on it.  After I got a Super Famicom console this Christmas, I was happy because it meant I could play my Super Famicarts again; and on January 1st my plan was to give this game a true chance, and it took me three weeks to beat it.  I know how admitting wrongness is hard sometimes, but I once felt that Xandra no Daibōken was impossible (only because of that one moment).  When I got to that upward scaling segment again, I finally managed to get to the top after a few tries (much to my surprise), and the game got a lot better from there.  And even before having reached the hard-earned ending, I just knew: I had never been so wrong in all my life.  <=')

One of the breather segments of the game
It was very late into the game (the last stage, in fact), where I was amazed that I had gone so far, that another platformer had sprung to mind.  The platformer's name?  None other than the publicly reviled ActRaiser 2.  It's no coincidence given that they're both difficult in their own right, but it was at this point that I had gotten an epiphany--I was feeling for this game in 2014 what the majority had felt for the Quintet platformer: the "Fox and the Grapes Syndrome".  I was the fox, and the ending (the very finish line of the game in question) represented the grapes, and because it was seeming less and less likely to get very far because the challenge value felt like it was too much for me at the time I had ended up not bothering with it anymore (and that's why I did not like it); the same way that people reacted to ActRaiser 2.  But honestly, I like ActRaiser 2, and I had stuck with it for all three difficulty settings which took me about a month to beat back in 2011, this despite the fact that it was challenging (but not impossible with a little perseverance).  "Who am I to give up on Xandra no Daibōken when I did not give up on ActRaiser 2 when I first played it?", I had thought to myself.  When I started this game anew, I had vowed and committed myself not to give up on it and play to the very end, no matter how many lives I lost, no matter what obstacle was thrown in my way, no matter what.  I owed this game a true chance, and I was not going to go back on my word.

And sure enough, perseverance has paid off once more, for it was quite a rush to beat the final boss in just one solitary HP (admittedly having taken me many tries to get there and do battle), and when I finally beat it on January 22nd, I can proudly say that I was very

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overjoyed that day!  =)  In 2014 I did not think I would ever get past the third stage, and yet almost two years later I managed to do not just that but get farther and farther.  And the more I played the better the game kept getting for me.  It was hard, yes, but not impossible; not anymore.  And I meant what I said on my Backloggery; beating this game was like a breath of fresh air for me.  But playing and beating this game was not enough I felt, for I wanted to make my new thoughts on it official on my blog, feeling that if I didn't talk about it soon then my guilt over the bitter things I said would keep gnawing on me until I did.

Good thing that mystery Quarkman saved that
baby from that turkey vulture  =)
One of the things that differentiates Xandra no Daibōken from the other games in the genre was its strong emphasis on story.  Most platformers of the Nintendo 16-bit age did not deal much with story due to being more about action, and when they did it was only for brief spurts.  But in this game the story does not pan out simply during the cutscenes but during in-game conversations as well, mainly during breather moments when you take a small break from the action.  Those moments really add a deep flavor in Xandra no Daibōken, and you know what?  Putting all of that into account, the narrative is actually pretty good, and Namco's done a very commendable job with the compelling story.  =)  And if I recall correctly I read that Klonoa's structure (also by Namco) was based on this SFC platformer's template; I do not know if that is true or not (I haven't played any Klonoa game), but feel free to tell me if I'm close to the mark or if I'm real off-base (if you have).

"Be free, my whale companion!  Be free, b---"  O.O
(Uh, oh!)  *runs away*
Now let's talk about my favorite character in the game, who's also the main protagonist you're playing as, Krino Xandra.  He's selfless, he's kind, he's got a very big heart, he's got no experience outside of his native Sandland Village yet he's willing to travel far and wide to save his fellow brethren and son, and while it might start out as a quest to save his village the moment he journeys to the other parts of Marvel Land it becomes so much more than that as he ends up helping those who either share his predicament or those who are in real need.  It's no longer just about saving his infant son now but everyone affected by Zouna's evil deeds, and Krino is willing to do everything he can to ensure the return of peace; even when he's tempted or asked by someone to turn to the wrong side or do wrong, he will press on to do what's right at all costs.  This is a really good character, for all those positive traits make him very likable and because of that I can't help but admire Krino; I would actually follow this guy anywhere.  =)  Which makes it heartily distressing for me what they've done to him in the European version Whirlo=<

Ah, if only the pirate captain from Ardy Lightfoot was
this simple to fight
Months after Xandra no Daibōken came out for the Super Famicom PAL gamers got a chance to play it as Whirlo, the latter of which has become a rare collectible that would normally cost thousands of dollars (!!!!!!) because in the European continent it got lost in the shuffle in 1992 alongside fellow platformers Super Mario World and Super Castlevania IV.  From what I've gathered his personality is still the same, which is good, but it's his outward appearance that was slightly altered.  The Japanese cover perfectly captured the pure embodiment of hope, selflessness, and bravery and said so much about the game despite its composition.  Whirlo's cover?  Completely misses the point: as "Whirlo" (as Krino Xandra is referred to in Europe) grabs onto a rope tied to a bone he's standing on while gazing at an armful of gold coins he collected on a pirate ship with pirates surrounding him giving it the appearance of a swashbuckler.  There is a pirate ship segment in the game, and whoever designed the cover must've had access to it, but it's not the whole game (in fact, it's not until more than halfway through), and it is most definitely not a swashbuckler.

I'm so appalled by how off-base the PAL cover is that I cannot even stomach providing a link to it, it's that misleading; I haven't been this disapproving of a video game cover since Europe tried to present Equinox as something it was clearly not--oh yeah, I went there!  =<

Would you look at all those mushrooms?
Which leads me to what more I found out about the PAL version while browsing Devimension (a good site, by the way): in Xandra no Daibōken Krino's eyes are calm, while in Whirlo Namco of Europe decided to give the character a pair of angry eyes as if he were a post-2002 American Kirby cover (even his life icon looked angrier).  What was wrong with wide eyed Krino Xandra?  =(  He's very approachable that way and you believe his goodhearted nature, he was perfect just the way he was; the only time he showed his angry eyes was when he used his pitchfork or was preparing his Whirlowind Attack.  Did the European Namco division not think gamers were going to take the game seriously if they left him as is?  Because it's pretty apparent that the game takes itself and the gamers seriously.  Whatever their intention, it resulted in someone who looks angry and constipated throughout in-game as the main character.  Who wants to hang around with someone who's angry all the time?  That doesn't sound fun.  =(

And behind these underground chambers you'll
discover the reason it never came to North America
Also according to Devimension its European translation apparently was not up to snuff, either having given the characters and enemies entirely new names or gender-swapping a few of them based solely on the color of their outfits; you know, you can have male characters who wear magenta (including the villain) and female characters who wear purple, right?  If this is truly the localization that Europe was subject to, then no wonder Whirlo costs 125-200 times the regular price tag of Xandra no Daibōken (last I checked)!  That said though, Xandra's adventure is for the most part an import-friendly game,
meaning that despite all the kanji that the characters and enemies (and narration) spout at times it is still playable and enjoyable even if you cannot exactly understand the language.  =)  It makes for an otherworldly experience, SFC importing does.  The only part of the game that threatens to become import-unfriendly (should you not understand the language) is during a part of the third stage where you must interrogate the Nick Clan in search of the real Nick; you have unlimited tries, and it is a breather moment (no enemies, but the fake Nicks do drink and get wasted after you ask them something--yep, you read that correctly), but if you get even one wrong answer you must start over again.  It is possible after several tries, but that one bit is a little annoying I admit.  Everything else is fine, though.
 
Flaming torch
One thing I began to appreciate was that despite being a platformer there were a handful of occasions when you had to use your noggin.  For example, there is a secret entrance inside the pirate ship that can only be opened when all three weights are touching the switches, so in order to do that you have to alternate between the three weights if you want all three of them to touch the switches at once; one of the very final challenges requires you to pay attention in order to make it past.  On the action front of the challenge, aside from the platforms and gap crossing I've mentioned before, there are moments when Krino Xandra must evade  forces that are out to end him: some examples of this involve outrunning a giant snowball, stay above the dangerous fire that rises up and lowers itself, progress from moving platform to moving platform, trying to escape a wall of water indoors, evading enemy projectiles, and even jumping on a series of rafts.  Holy crap, poor Krino just can't catch a break, that brave soul.  In any other game the last set of challenges would not work, given the jumping controls, but for this game it actually feels right; and after reading the story on Devimension, it really feels right and is very much worth it with a lot of perseverance.  =)
 
(Hmm, should I go search for Peppy's true love
Buck, or should I teach Nubs to play the viola?)
The number of fights against bosses are surprisingly pretty scarce in Xandra no Daibōken as they're not fought in every stage; and most of them are pretty easy (that is, compared to the stages that you have to explore), but one wrong move and you lose a life, thereby having to start the battle over again.  Occasionally there are moments when Krino is being tempted to make the wrong choice and stray from the right path, and the characters and enemies that wind up doing that will try at least three or four times, so you have to make a decision; and largely the first decision is the right decision (trust me).  But there is one moment later on where a decision will lead to a different part of the stage; the first one being action-oriented and the second... not so action-oriented, let's just say.  It doesn't affect the narrative or anything, but it is a nice slice of replay value (among other reasons for it to have replay value).
 
Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai is nowhere near as depressing as I once thought it was, and I acknowledge now it was my fault for feeling that way in 2014.  Of course I can see how one would feel that way at first considering the story literally starts with death and plague (you can't possibly have a darker opening), but from the second stage onward and the more Light Crystals you gathered the more hopeful things were starting to look, no matter the challenge.  There are actually plenty of uplifting moments found in the game, but the uplifting moments in question have to be earned (especially very late).
 
Of all the bosses you fight, he's arguably the
toughest
So where exactly does Valkyrie fit into all this, given that Xandra no Daibōken was made as a prequel setting up the encounter between her and Krino Xandra?  She does appear in the game, I'll say that much, and their encounter as well as the ending is rather satisfying and rewarding when all is said and done; but her silhouette does show up any time you're brought to the good password screen.  I think it's a pretty good touch.  So... now that I've gone on about the numerous aspects of the game, what are my final thoughts on it overall?  Back in 2014 I was bitter about it because a single portion was hard for me to get past, which made me say things about it that I wish didn't say; but having given it a second chance this January changed everything.
 
Pirates abound
The farther I got and the more challenging it got, my feelings started to gradually improve as I played more of Xandra no Daibōken and got as best I could a hold on the controls.  First I started feeling that it was a bit of a mixed bag, but soon I started to think it was better than that after I had gotten past the third stage, and during the middle I began to see it as solid fare when I started to come to grips which controls to use and when to time them, until finally I settled on the final verdict that the game was very good in my opinion.  At first I did not think much of it, only to actually start appreciating it, and then from the middle of the fourth stage onward I started really liking it and caring about it, and before I knew it I realized it was slowly becoming a favorite that I ended up loving it.  And this progression happened in the span of just three weeks.  I'm glad I gave it a true chance, and I wish I didn't give up on it when I first played it years ago.  <=)
 
There's snow place like home
Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai is a charming, lighthearted platformer that is very good in its own right, with a great protagonist worth rooting for and a compelling story to boot, and the pastel tones and impressive score help lend some depth and atmosphere to the different parts of Marvel Land.  Now with all those top quality aspects in mind, I do not think it's a perfect platformer.  It is fairly difficult, partly due to the area designs and it's also partly attributed to the awkward structure of the jumping controls; it takes a bit to master these controls and even then it may still be awkward given they're essential to your survival but can be worked around.  But when I stuck with it to the very end and overcame all those challenges and gaps it was all worthwhile and I could easily forgive the awkwardness of the controls because it was manageable with a bit of practice and perseverance, and in the long run was surprisingly a lot of fun.  Is it challenging?  Oh, yeah.  Could it be frustrating at times?  Of course.  Was it taxing at points?  Sometimes.  Impossible?  No.  Krino Xandra's resolve and the game's story were compelling reasons for me to keep pressing on and not give up when I replayed it this January.  And that's exactly what I did.  =)
 
Rafting time!
If you're searching for a game with a great narrative to back it up, then Namco's platformer is a great choice as it tells the story very well.  If you're searching for an easy platformer, then this is not the game you are looking for as it does not go easy on you if you don't use the jumping controls wisely.  If you're into challenging games then Xandra no Daibōken might be right up your alley as there is plenty of it, give or take your handling and/or mastering of Krino's four jumping controls.  If you're looking for a game with some semblance of replay value, there is some of it in abundance (in specific points).  It is largely import-friendly and if you are curious about it the game only costs about $15-25 (depending on the condition) on eBay, and it's not bad to play during the Fall or Winter season.
 
Go, Krino Xandra!  Go fulfill your destiny!
This game is not the late 80s% that Super Play awarded but it is not the 5 I prematurely gave it in 2014 either; for me, between the scale of 1 to 10 I would give it an 8.  =(  *sigh*  If Namco's Super Famicom action-adventure/platformer was a person I do not know if it would forgive me because of the bitter attitude I had towards it in the past (heck, I probably wouldn't forgive me either) but I do forgive Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai with all my heart.  I know it's such a strange thing to say (and likely my small handful of readers are reading that sentence with concern), but that's sincerely how I feel.  It took me awhile to recognize its fantastic qualities and to accept this game, but I'm glad I revisited Xandra's first adventure and abandoned my bitter thoughts altogether; and I would be more than happy to play this game again someday.  =)
 
My Personal Score: 8.0/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. Man, it feels so good to get all that off my chest.  I promise to always reference this game in a positive light from now on.
 
P.S. 2 If this were to be the very last game I ever reviewed on my blog, I would be perfectly okay with it knowing I gave it a genuinely true chance.  <=)  From the heart.  I'm almost tempted to leave it like this, almost.
 
P.S. 3 I did not think I would actually review this game so soon after my 2016 Video Game Reviews Bucket List, but I have.  =O
 
P.S. 4 Thank you, Namco, for not including a score on the HUD in this game.  Not all platformers need scores, just the lives and Light Crystals are good enough.
 
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  I hope you have a great Winter day, take care, and don't give up!  =)
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"How did you get through that secret stage?  It's normally inaccessible!"  =O
"Secret stage?  I entered through the top window."
"Oh......"  =$
"Did you say secret stage?"  o~O
"Yes!  But few are aware of its existence."
"Cool!!"  =D
"You do realize that it doesn't exactly tie itself into the main events of the game?"
"I'm still curious regardless."
"Very well; if you wish to explore it, you may do so at your own time."
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P.S. 5 Oh, I just found out this weekend, but there is also a secret stage entered by password which I found out on YouTube.  Just when I thought Xandra no Daibōken could not get any better.  =)

2 comments:

  1. So the funny thing was, I happened to find your take on this game having beaten it on my emulator last week and reading about it on Nintendo Life. It was so well informed that I came to find your website. Hi there!

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    Replies
    1. Hello! =) And thank you, that means a lot.

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