Velocity 2X Review

Oh, man I missed this game.

So, Velocity 2x is a follow-up to 2012's Velocity, and if you've played that, it keeps the same core setup. This is a vertical shoot-em-up with a series of unique little schticks built in to make the gameplay loop more interesting. But 2x comes in with an entirely new gameplay style added on, more plot and character beats, and a refinement to the formula to make for a game that stands above its predecessor in just about every way.

The actual story is pretty solid: After the events of the first game, one Lt. Kai Tana finds herself on the far side of a wormhole with vicious injuries. Her ship's repair systems attempt to keep her alive, integrating mechanical components into the very core of her being, and Kai eventually awakens to find herself with new abilities, and the would-be prisoner of an alien empire...

This leads to the major twist of the gameplay. While the classic shmup gameplay is still here in spades, with the usual Velocity twists, 2x introduces a new element into the mix; sidescrolling platformer sections. At various points in stages, Kai can, and often must, exit her ship to go into a base and hunt down controls or resources.

These little diversions are never so long that they get old, and present a fun shift from the usual vertical shooter loop. Kai's not stuck on a forward path nearly as much on foot as in her ship, but that also leaves her a lot less maneuverable, and more vulnerable to those enemies she does encounter.

Of course, even without this, if you've never played a Velocity game (and with it only now coming to the Switch, that's far from impossible) I should probably explain the big twists that the series brings to the shmup side.

If you've ever played a vertical shmup before in your entire life, you know the basic idea. Autoscroll forward, move your ship around, fire at the enemies. Pretty standard stuff. The big twists here are in puzzle, exploration, and speedrunning elements.

First up, every level (with a ship section, at least) has prisoners in stasis pods, often sealed up in destructable space-glass barriers that you have to shoot through. These provide a major exploratory element, encouraging you to find every last hidden pod.

Then, you're timed. Every level has a time limit, plus medals you can get for getting under increasingly strict records.

And finally, the levels all have hidden objects in them, including those pods, and they're often stashed in little places you have to use your teleport to reach.

All of this makes each and every one of the game's many levels this perfect little mini speedrun challenge. Getting a true perfect, where you get maximum points, all the prisoners, all the collectable gems, and do it all under time, is not easy. But getting to there is really, really fun.

It all creates a rather different pace from your typical shmup, especially if you're just aiming to top up one thing on your score chart, but it still feels undeniably arcade-like. With 50 mainline missions, but each mission often being as short as 3 minutes, you could theoretically blitz through the game with "good enough" scores and be done in just a few hours.

But of course, that's not the point. The point is in the mastery, in coming back to the levels. That's why the game splits up your ranking into the realms of speed, rescues, gems and points. To give you four very solid, very distinct avenues to track down in your actual true goal of getting the Perfect mark on every stage.

And this isn't even touching on the Extra Stages, which demand utter and absolute mastery of particular elements and tricks of the game.

Now, given that this is a port, before we go into the rough spots, I should talk about the porting job. It's pretty damn solid. Sure, I imagine that a 2D game like this probably wasn't the most hardware-demanding to begin with, but it's still worth noting. I never saw a framerate hitch or stutter in my time with the game, and everything played perfectly.

So where are the awkward spots?

Well...Real talk, the big one is the controls. This is kind of unavoidable with the nature of the game, but Joycons simply aren't well suited to playing Velocity 2x. I made it work, but the split d-pad isn't nearly as good as a singular solid one, and the analog stick's got too long of a throw to really work as a Neo Geo Pocket style thing.

But that said...I mean, it's not like you don't have options. Grab a Pro controller or one of the wired ones. Get that Hori Joycon with the dpad on it. Any of these will work, and if you're playing a lot of these 2D arcadey style games on your Switch, it's probably worth doing so anyways. I love the Joycons, but they've always been a bit of a compromise.

And that's not the fault of the devs, either. The actual core game, the actual piece of software in front of me, is superb. The original versions were some of my absolute favorite games on the Vita, and one of the reasons I still had the damn thing in the first place. This flawless port is something that a game like this deserves, to help it get in front of the kind of audience it should have had from the start.

So go and buy this right now. You won't regret it.