Monday, April 11, 2016

Review #318: Valkyrie Profile - Lenneth

 It has seen better days.
 Valkyrie Profile was a fun little JRPG on the PSone, one that was produced in rather small quantities, so good luck finding it for cheap! Luckily, there's this PSP port of the same game available on the cheap. Valkyrie Profile has... it has certainly aged a bit, but it's still a relatively fun little adventure while it lasts.

  The story pits you as the Valkyrie named... Valkyrie. At least until you learn her real name later down the line(Not like you could easily figure it out...), and she is tasked with bringing Einherjar, souls of fallen men, to Nibleheim in order to fight the Vaenir and prevent Ragnarok, The game features about 20 different playable characters, all with their own backstory and.. and that's pretty much all the character development they'll ever get. Y'see, the game is divided in 8 chapters divided into 28 periods each, and during each chapter there's different dungeons to explore and different Einherjar to recruit, but before getting them, you are treated to their last moments. The game can get pretty depressing, seeing them die, betrayed, tortured or by sacrificing themselves... And the writing is pretty sharp, so it's easy to like these characters. As for the overall plot, it's easy to forget that it's actually there, as there's not a whole lot of story outside the end of the world and the different Einherjar. There's also three different ending, but only ending A gives you any kind of closure, and it delves into who and what Valkyrie is, as well as revealing more about the gods... basically, aim for Ending A.
 There's three difficulty settings: Easy, Normal and Hard. What changes the most are which dungeons are available, Easy has mostly straightforward dungeons, while Hard has the most complex ones. Easy is actually the hardest difficulty settings, enemies don't give much experience points, equipment isn't as good and you don't get the best characters, plus, you lose access to ending A. Besides dungeons and a few characters exclusive to Hard, the real difference between Normal and Hard is that on Hard, every character starts off at level 1... which can actually be a good thing, since there's a few items you can use to boosts their stats on leveling up, allowing you to have some pretty tough party members. There's also a bonus dungeon, unlockable on Normal and Hard, by using the last Save Spot in the game, but the only way to get the extra goodies, like bonus characters, is to use the 8 Flame Jewels, which are only found in Hard Mode, and hopefully you found them all, cause there's no going back to previous dungeons during this bonus dungeon.

 Where the game shined the most back in the day was with its combat system, you make a party of four, and each character is tied to a different face button. Depending on which weapon they have equipped, they can deliver up to three different attacks, and you want to create combos in order to fill a gauge that allows you characters to unleash powerful super moves. It bears mentioning that, while it's relatively fun, it's a bit more slower paced than it sounds. Until you get the really good weapons, battles can take a while, not due to their difficulty, but because of all the damage enemies soak, or them deciding to block and/or dodge your attacks.
 Dungeons are explored in 2D, and Valkyrie can create crystals as platforms, or even break them to boost herself, which in theory lends itself to some interesting puzzling and jumping. In theory. I played the game on hard, which means I got the most complex dungeons, and they can be downright terrible as level design goes. From labyrinthine roads, that you must go all the way back on foot upon defeating a boss, to the game demanding more precision on your jumping than the controls allow. Maybe the PSP isn't very comfortable when it comes to jumping from moving platforms or disappearing blocks or what have you, but at least on this console, dungeons can be a pain in the neck.

 The worst part about the game is getting the A ending, it's impossibly convoluted and has oh so many ways for the player to screw up. Basically, up to chapter 7 I advise you to get a FAQ and follow it to a tee. There're no hints whatsoever as to what you have to do. You have to learn about the Seal gauge, and somehow you must figure out which events trigger it to lower. And you also must avoid doing key scenes until a certain chapter unless you want to lock yourself out of the A ending. And there's absolutely no hints about it, but Lucian must be sent to Odin during chapter 5 or 6. Having to second guess myself why consulting a FAQ just to make sure I don't screw up is not my idea of fun, and Ending B is so boring and dull, that the only way to get a satisfactory ending is with Ending A.
 As for the PSP port, it's based on the Japanese release of VP, which means item sorting is out, not that I really needed it, but it would've been convenient. The Graphics can get relatively blurry as well, it didn't bother me too much, but it doesn't look as good as the original PSOne version. And lastly, this port introduced about 15 CG cutscenes. I was afraid they'd look terrible, but they are actually pretty alright. A bit out of place on an strictly 2D game, but they are not bad at all.

 Valkyrie Profile - Lenneth has certainly aged a bit. Dungeons can get pretty annoying, at least on hard mode, both due to the nature of some of the puzzles as well as to the precise jumping and reactions it demands, and locking the A Ending behind such convoluted means is downright mean. But even then, there's plenty of fun to be had if you don't mind its age and its rather slow pace.
 7.0 out of 10

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