After playing games such as Sifu and Sekiro, I've come to the realization I'm a glutton for punishment. What these two games share along with the upcoming Slave Zero X is a skill curve that, once conquered, results in some of the most fulfilling action gameplay on the market. Slave Zero X is an upcoming, side-scrolling beat 'em up with hard-as-nails combat and plenty of stylish action. At PAX West 2022, we got our hands on this prequel to the original Slave Zero on the Dreamcast, so read on for our full thoughts.
Slave Zero X Slaps Hard
Slave Zero X is likely to be a very intimidating game for some. Even looking at the controls causes some anxiety in knowing there's a lot of button prompts to learn and master. I definitely felt that skill curve hard my first several tries with Slave Zero X, but I did eventually find myself get better and better. The demo throws me headfirst onto a moving train, and soon I'm surrounded on both sides by armored assailants. With a super cool red suit and an exceedingly long sword, slashing away at foes is a simple task. It's easier said than done to return from a fight the victor, however, as the only way to survive is to combo enemies by stringing together attacks as well as correctly timing to parry attacks.
The first few rounds with Slave Zero X gave me a beating to remember, but I soon found myself getting the timing for combos correctly and learning new attacks. It plays a lot like a fighting game combined with Devil May Cry elements, so I can already tell I only saw the very beginning of what players are capable of in terms of combat. If you're a sucker for juggling around enemies as much as you can before their bodies disappear, you'll find this to be a satisfying game. Slave Zero X developer Poppy Works know exactly what makes beat em' up fans tick, what with all the combos, juggling, and flashy moves.
I fought two mini bosses during my demo, and I was the fifth person from PAX West 2022 to make it as far as I did -- that tells you just how tough this game can be. To succeed as I did, you'll need to use everything you've learned and channel that knowledge towards countering these bosses. Learning their timing and attack patterns may take more than a few tries, but parrying the mini-bosses bullets and sword lead to a satisfying, if hard-earned, victory. Throwing disposable items and going in for a chain of combos made short work of my foes.
Other than being a gratifying game to learn, Slave Zero X is beautiful to look at. You'll notice enemies as well as the player character are 2D sprites with exceptional animation. However, in the background, you're treated to a fully-rendered 3D environment, creating an appealing contrast. You could easily take Slave Zero X as much older game, but I always find a lot of charm in games that emulate this retro style. Slave Zero X's Steam page touts the game having a "biopunk" world, which is a theme rarely explored. Cyberpunk and steampunk are definitely "in," but biopunk rarely has a time in the spotlight. This gritty, almost primal style of science fiction has me excited to see more of Slave Zero X.
It's tough to play a game as brutal as Slave Zero X when you're on the convention floor with everyone watching. I'm looking forward to taking more time to learn the combos and controls so I can appropriately master the game's complex combat, but what I've seen so far holds a lot of promise. I was told at PAX West there would be a dojo area to practice combat, so after a few training lessons, I'm sure I'll be ready to kick some ass when Slave Zero X launches in the future.
TechRaptor's Slave Zero X preview was conducted on a demo booth at PAX West 2022.