Analysis of Jotun Valhalla Edition for Nintendo Switch, an artistic review of Norse mythology through the eyes of Thora, a Viking war to which the gods grant a second chance to enter paradise, or Valhalla. An adventure that, above all, will draw your attention to its careful designs and animations, all drawn by hand.
Jotun Valhalla Edition for Nintendo Switch is the same game that Thunder Lotus Games released almost two years ago on PS4, Xbox One and PC, without any additions or extra new. An indie game that both then and now, stood out for two things: its beautiful hand-made visual section and its setting that, like the recent God of War, is based on characters and stories from Norse mythology.
His story turns us into Thora, a Viking warrior who dies without honour in a shipwreck, which closes the doors of paradise or Valhalla. But, luckily, the gods grant him a second chance, in the form of a new challenge: defeat a handful of giants of gigantic size, so that he can earn the glory and with it, the Valhalla.
That is, in broad strokes, the central plot of Jotun Valhalla Edition, a story that is also narrated as a story, with animated scenes and voice over in Icelandic, and that delves into the story of Thora. And, as it is one of the charms of the game, we will not delve further into its plot to not reveal the surprises to those who have not played it yet. But, broadly speaking, the way we tell the story is reminiscent of a story.
The only thing you should know is that, in order to access Valhalla, Thora must wander through the Void, a kind of nexus that connects with six worlds (or levels), in which he must defeat the giant of the area.
Each of these worlds or levels always has the same scheme or structure: a level, or a pair in some cases, focused on exploration, in which we must collect runes, favors from the gods (which are actually additional powers) or items that improve Thora, such as Idunn apples (which expand their vitality bar).
The exploration parts of Jotun Valhalla Edition can be somewhat flat and simple: they focus on advancing through varied environments, barely without action except in one of the levels, in which large waves of dwarves attack us, although all have their own mechanics that they manage not to fall into monotony. It is something present in previous versions, and also in this Nintendo Switch.
As soon as we see ourselves moving through the branches of a giant tree (breaking some branches to advance while avoiding the attacks of a giant eagle), like skating on a thin layer of ice of a huge lake with hostile creature included or avoiding icy winds after stone parapets. Or even by cropping constellations with electrical nodes to make our way.
Also, as we have said, we must locate the runes that open the door to face the giant, as well as the aforementioned favors, which give us powers with limited uses, such as, for example, Thor’s hammer to cause more damage temporarily in combat, or the lure of Loki to deceive the enemies with a replica of ours that ends up exploding (without forgetting other powers more oriented to healing, etc.).
Each of these powers has a limited use in combat, so we can not abuse them … although we can recharge them in special tanks while we explore, recognizable because they contain the head of Mimir (those who have played God of War they will know, although here it is less talkative … not to say mute).
Despite this playable simplicity, despite the apparent simplicity of the unique mechanics of each level, all the worlds of Jotun Valhalla Edition have “something” special, which goes beyond the staging. It is the conjunction of the narration and the story of Thora with the soundtrack and super wide and open planes, in which the camera moves away to show us the greatness and detail of the scenarios, backgrounds and Nordic myths that makes reference.
Part of this impact is because both graphics and animations of Jotun Valhalla Edition have been made by hand, with a craftsman result that little or nothing has to envy the seen in other playable jewels with great emphasis on animation as the great Cuphead ( although without the effect of noise, since here it does not pretend to emulate a time or style). The result is frankly good, and it is especially noticeable in the final bosses.
As we have said, to open the door that allows us to face them, we must first collect the runes of each level of exploration. These combats are, like almost all the game, an amalgam reminiscent of other important titles. In the case of the combats, it is clear that there are reminiscences of Shadow of the Colossus (because of the scale and size, although we do not climb) and, very glancingly, a reminder to Dark Souls, for how difficult some of these enemies can be .
We only have two attack buttons (one fast and one strong and slow), as well as a button to dodge and a last one to activate the selected power. Except for the powers, everything is available from the beginning. But, despite this simplicity, the game is demanding and forces us to calculate each elusive, to attack using certain moments and to study and learn the patterns of the enemies.
We’re not going to go into specific mechanics, but, like exploration levels, every boss has his own unique mechanics … and you can never trust him. Almost all change or introduce variations as they are losing their lives, and sometimes, it is not unusual to end up dying when it seemed that we had the battle on track.
If you are one of those who do not like challenges or repeats a fight several times because of its difficulty, maybe Jotun Valhalla Edition for Nintendo Switch is not for you. It does not reach, by any means, the levels of demand of Dark Souls or Bloodborne, but it is not a game that takes us by the hand and puts everything on a platter.
Luckily, if they kill us, we start at the beginning of the fight and with the powers recovered, which makes the process and repetition more bearable. Because, without any doubt, these bosses are the best of the game. And not only for the playable mechanics.
From the visual point of view, all the bosses look like a true fable, they are huge and the visual effects and animations that accompany them, often. As if that were not enough, on the Switch screen they look even better (it will be available in the Nintendo eShop starting on April 27 for 14.99 euros).
Uniting these two parts, the exploration and the combats with the bosses, Jotun Valhalla Edition is revealed as a faithful follower of the style of Shadow of the Colossus: a game that emphasizes the journey and the atmosphere, rather than the action , and in some duels against some giant creatures that, without a doubt, are the best of the game both by design and playable concept.
And if you wonder why the “Valhalla Edition” of this version, it is very simple: it is due to a game mode that was added when it was released on consoles in 2016 and that, broadly speaking, it is a “Boss” Rush “in which we face all the bosses, but with variations (like windows to attack them more reduced, that have more resources to attack us … etc.).
Not that it is a great addition, but it will allow you to remain hooked to your universe for a little while longer because that is, perhaps, the big problem of Jotun Valhalla Edition. A player moderately tanned will account for all the giants and complete the story in about 3-4 hours, a somewhat reduced time.
Other errors present in previous versions, such as slowdowns at specific times, have almost completely disappeared, and are only evident at specific moments in levels such as the one mentioned by the dwarves, in which they attack us in large groups (and are usually brief, and very, very punctual).
None of this manages to tarnish the final result of Jotun Valhalla Edition, which is remarkable. Your world is so unique, and its visual section so impressive, that you will surely play it again for the mere pleasure of enjoying it. That’s why, after you’ve been left with more desire for Nordic mythology after finishing God of War or simply enjoying an artistic game, Jotun Valhalla Edition, despite its playable limitations, has more than enough weapons to catch you.