Having originally released early last summer, Zengeon is a flashy and pretty to look at Dungeon Crawling Roguelike RPG with some heavy anime inspiration. Coming out soon for consoles, I had the pleasure of running through its gauntlet of enemies and boss fights in an old school style of completing the game in one run. With the seal of the Blessed Land being broken, and the Demon God’s return imminent, it’s up to the students of the Celestial Academy to take up their weapons and fight their way to restore the seal.
Starting things off you’ll have the choice of two characters in order to get this dungeon crawling started with others unlocked by achieving certain conditions. Single player or coop, each character has both a guardian spirit allowing them elemental abilities alongside their own combat styles from double swords to massive umbrellas. Combined with the ability to dodge, that’s about everything needed in order to get the action rolling.
Things are pretty straight forward from here. Once you’ve selected your character you are treated to a short cutscene of the student you picked talking with their master telling you that the patch he was able to make on the broken seal won’t last more than a few days. Being given the reason for the fighting, you are then brought into gameplay and you’ll have to be quick on your toes if you’re going to survive.
Zengeon isn’t easy but nor is it brutally hard like your typical Roguelike. Starting off every time at level 1, you will be running through a series of randomly generated stages through three diverse environments each containing their own epic boss fights. With each stage basically laid out in a series of rooms that need to be moved through to make it to the exit, there are tons of enemies to kill for experience points and for money that you’ll need to unlock ability shrines that give you two options in order to better customize your character.
The abilities that can be obtained through the shrines, and also from enemies if you’re lucky enough for them to drop, can be game changing and like the environments are different every time that you play. These abilities range from anything like dropping rocks on your enemies to leeching life or summoning minions to help you fend off the waves of enemies that charge at you once you’ve moved into a room. Having the choice when opening shrines is nice as it gives you a bit more control but while sometimes these can feel useless to your current build, they can be used at certain shrines as a bartering tool for others as long as you also have money for those trades.
Now while the stage layouts and secondary abilities are random every time, I’m not exactly sure Zengeon counts as a Roguelike because there isn’t much that you’ll be unlocking for your characters or your “account”. Completing the game with a character will unlock a new skin, completing it on hard will unlock skins for others, but short of that? There’s nothing that is unlocked for your next run other than the personal knowledge of knowing what kind of enemies you’re going to face and what kind of tactics work.
That said, where Zengeon really shows its teeth is in the fact that there is no saving, there are no checkpoints and there are zero second chances. You have to make due with what you pick up when you pick it up. On average? I would say that a full run if you’re not killing every enemy in sight could go for about thirty plus minutes as I could see on the leaderboards, however if you are going to kill everything in sight for the experience and a greater chance of winning will run you about an hour to an hour of fifteen minutes. It’s not that long in the grand scheme of things, but, since you can’t pause and you can’t save? You’ll want to make the time for it.
Side to all of the above is the secondary Guard Mode which can better be described as a Tower Defense. Playing out similarly to the story in terms of features, the difference here is that instead of going through stages, you’ll be defending a central point from the waves of enemies that will keep on coming at you until the object you are defending has been destroyed. If you die however, you’ll be put onto a respawn timer so the only way for this to end is for the object to be destroyed so having someone else along for the ride really helps if you fall in battle.
The adventure isn’t without its issues however. For some reason there wasn’t an option for Vsync so I did get some lines running across the screen now and then but it was never enough to be distracting. It would be nice if it could be added in though. What was an issue, especially when plugged into a TV for example with no mouse close by, is that trading abilities within the shrines couldn’t be done with a controller, I had to switch over to a mouse or a trackpad in order to get that done. Even when you were defeated, you had to click on the option to move back to the main menu so if this is releasing on the consoles, figure these will be resolved soon for the PC.