Vernal Edge review - An action-packed, must-play Metroidvania
It’s no secret that I love Metroidvanias, so when I was tipped off to Vernal Edge’s launch, I was incredibly excited. I would have completely missed this, had a friend not crowdfunded it, so I’m delighted to be talking about it today. While the story isn’t anything to write home about, the gameplay, visuals, and overall presentation make this game a joy to experience. It has everything I expect in a Metroidvania: Secrets, incredibly hard bosses, and outstanding power-ups.
Vernal Edge is a must-play for anyone who loves Metroidvanias, and all the difficulty and exploration that comes with the genre. It’s an interesting tale of revenge, with gameplay that doesn’t disappoint.
Vernal Edge makes the Metroidvania genre its own
Vernal is a girl who wants to kill her father - that’s a simple enough story to follow. He left her mother to die and is apparently a pretty powerful figure on his own. Early in the game, Vernal, alongside the robot Cherval, steals an airship, all with the goal of ultimately finding and killing her father.
The early-game phase does plenty to help teach the basics, and the 2D platforming you’ll be expected to do. Like all good Metroidvania titles, Vernal Edge starts you off with almost nothing. You have a sword, a spell, and can charge up your attack. That’s going to be incredibly important to master as well.
The game doesn’t feature non-stop combat, either. There are a few minor enemies to defeat here and there, which can restore some of your health upon defeat. But as you reach certain key points on the island, you’ll be locked down and will have to fight through small gauntlets of foes.
These arenas vary in size, but you can’t leave until you win - or lose. Death sends you back to the last save point, but victory means you move on. Something new and interesting to me is that these enemies have blue spheres to be aware of, which represent their Poise.
By using charge attacks and counter-hits, you break these Poise spheres. Once done, it allows you to go for a variety of amazing juggles and combos. This is when you really want to hammer in the damage. You can also use charged hits to knock them into other enemies, potentially breaking multiple foes at once.
The gameplay is incredible, and this combat seriously does not disappoint. You also unlock a wide variety of attack spells, from waves of magical bullets to creating spheres to defend yourself, as well as special sword attacks.
You also have the Pulse attacks, which are built more around your sword attacks. They are named after the Pulse Edge weapon, after all. You can use these to do exceptional rising strike moves, dive attacks, and more. Other than that, Vernal’s attacks are pretty simple. She has a ground combo, slide attack, air combo, and a wealth of movement tech.
It is so satisfying to knock out a few enemies at once, juggling them across the screen, and end with a particular Pulse Attack. The final move can deal repeated hits to an enemy, which also restores a great deal of health to you. You can tell when this is viable with the white Pulse meter near your health bar.
This is all to say that Vernal Edge has incredible combat. It’s one of the biggest parts of the game, after all. Some bosses can be incredibly difficult or frustrating, but once you learn patterns and techniques, you can easily overcome them.
Exploration and movement are some of the best parts of Vernal Edge
The movement tech goes hand-in-hand with the combat in Vernal Edge. Both are sharp and excellent. At first, you just have your jump and a dash, but as time goes on, you’ll unlock more ways to get around these mysterious floating islands.
Each area you explore in the game will have puzzles that require knowledge of the various movement abilities that you unlock. As with all Metroidvanias, you need to backtrack, so as you gain new abilities like the wall bounce, it will behoove you to go back to previous areas. If you recall something you couldn’t reach before, it's time to head back.
You’ll have to make some pretty tricky moves sometimes, though. I had a few moments where I had to run across platforms that open up under you, and right before I hit the spikes, dash, and wall-jumped upwards. This is key to know because if you hit spikes, you will take damage and be teleported back to the beginning of the current movement puzzle you’re on.
This was an enjoyable addition to the game, though. It offers a challenge that is far from impossible, while also feeling incredibly satisfying to complete.
The visuals and music are fantastic in Vernal Edge
While the characters do not speak, their pixel images speak for them. They convey a variety of emotions through their stance, or via the image of them next to the text box. The pixel art is incredible, and each of the islands offers a unique visual experience.
Vernal Edge’s music is excellent at setting a tone, as well. When in the Fungal Mines, I heard a quiet, mysterious background track. This game is amazing in setting a tone through the visuals and the background tracks.
Vernal Edge is a genuine treat for fans of classic 2D-platforming, Metroidvanias, and Soulslike difficulty. The bosses, in particular, can feel really unforgiving until you learn exactly when and how you’re meant to deal with them. However, I didn’t get angry or frustrated. I would just come back and try again!
Vernal Edge is also home to the least-relaxing fishing mini-game of all time. That’s a feat on its own. This title is a testament to how much you can do with the concept of a Metroidvania.
Platforming and combat offer deep, flexible experiences, and each island feels like a joy to explore. There is plenty of side content to explore as well. While Vernal herself might be the most unlikable protagonist I’ve seen in some time, her adventure is one I can’t stop playing.
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5 (Key provided by PID)
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC, MacOS, Linux
Developer: Hello Penguin Team LLC
Publisher: PID Games, Red Art Games
Release Date: March 14, 2023 (Initial release: August 23, 2022)
Abu Amjad Khan