|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: tri-Ace||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Patrick||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
By Patrick Evans
You really have to hand it to Square-Enix. It seems like every year they are bringing back another old-school RPG from the past for the latest handheld system on the market. The Final Fantasies that were redone in the past couple years got facelifts and additional content, but that would be expected for games as old as they were. Square has reached into its vast library once again, this time plucking a cult classic from their PSOne roster. Serving as a lead-in to the new title of the series, Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria, coming out in a couple months, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth ports the original title faithfully, preserving everything that made the original one of the most unique, if not flawed, RPGs on the original PlayStation.
The original Valkyrie Profile, when compared to other Square titles of the era, had a modest but rabid fan following in its initial run. Demand for the game versus the supply today has driven the price for an original copy between 150 and 200 dollars on Ebay.
For those of us that hadn't played the title the first time around, let me bring you up to pace. Valkyrie Lenneth has been summoned by the ruler of Asgard to recruit worthy souls for the Ragnorok, or battle at the end of the world. As Odin's personal talent scout, Lenneth can use her heavenly powers to scour the mortal realm for people near death to recruit for the heavenly army.
If the storyline above sounds odd for a Square release, it's because it is actually lifted from Norse mythology. According to legend, the valkyries were minor female deities that were also personal servants to Odin when not scouring the mortal realm for foot soldiers. When a chosen soul is freed of its mortal chains and placed into service of a valkyrie, it becomes an einherjar. Some also believe that these valkyries played an active part in the conflicts of humans as well.
Now that the mythology lesson is over, we can dive into the gameplay. Valkyrie Profile was ahead of its day in that it offered very non-linear gameplay, but forced a timetable on players to accomplish their goals. Players can choose to simply sit around and wait for the end of the world, but the battle would be an easy win for the forces of evil if they did. Instead, Lenneth can use her Soul Concentration power to detect souls ripe for plucking and battlegrounds for which to whip these souls into shape. As your soldiers train and gain level, they also achieve a higher Hero level and other attributes to make them more suitable for service in Asgard. Not all souls are suitable for the undead army, and some of them must be trained for an extended period in order get them ready.
The timeframe that is imposed on Lenneth takes the form of periods and chapters. Each action that you perform, be it raiding a dungeon, collecting another soldier, or simply resting in preparation for a future conflict, takes a certain number of periods to perform. At the end of each chapter, or every 24 periods, Odin's liaison Freya will report on the dealings above and grade your performance. At the same time, she may also request more soldiers of a specific type to be sent up.
Each dungeon is crawling with monsters, the undead, and treasure. When entering a dungeon, the game shifts into a 2-D platformer that requires you to climb ladders and make timed jumps. In a pinch, Lenneth can also shoot ice crystals that stick to the wall, allowing her to climb up the walls when she would be otherwise helpless. Of course, there is a bit of a logic gap here; why would a deity be required to use crystals as a stepping stool? Shouldn't she be able to fly? Regardless of this, platforming is still weak when compared to other action games. Jumping is too limited and the timing required can be difficult to achieve. Puzzles that must be solved for a few of the dungeons are also much too cryptic at times, causing headaches for anyone that simply wants to build up their guys and move on.
If the platforming sounded unconventional, then the combat will sound outright crazy. Instead of keeping things in a menu-based format in combat, each of the party members is mapped to the face buttons. When battling, players can perform complicated combinations with spectacular effect depending on the party composition. Experience bonuses are awarded for strikes made on juggled enemies, so timing is critical. While this system may feel restrictive at first with only one attack available per character, which attack is mapped can be changed before a battle. In battle, players can also change the equipped weapons of their party as well. The combo dynamic can be drastically affected by a simple weapon or skill change, so the inclusion of a training mode is a godsend for players that are picking this title up for the first time. Combat this dynamic is rarely seen in today's RPG's on console or handheld, making the fact that its nearly seven years old all the more impressive.
As this is a direct port of the original, nothing has been changed. For players that expect a little more, they will be sorely disappointed. The variable difficulty, multiple endings, and bonus dungeon are all included, but the only addition from the original is a handful of CG cut-scenes. Players that have already completed the title when it originally released will find no reason to pick this title up as there is nothing new to experience. The least that developers could have done was include a few bonus characters to collect or something, but instead fans are left in the lurch. As bad as it is to include nothing new, the technical problems of the past are present here as well. Slowdown during heated combat plagues an otherwise fast-paced experience while loading times are no better now than they were before.
Valkyrie Profile is a gorgeous 2-D RPG that didn't get enough recognition when it first released, so its re-release is a great opportunity for gamers that weren't into RPGs at that time to discover one of the genre's hidden gems. The combat engine and gameplay structure is unconventional but allows for ample opportunity to become lost in the faux-Nordic lore provided. Fans of the original that are still clutching to their original copies will find nothing new here, however, which is a huge letdown for anyone looking to revisit one of Playstation's greatest on the little screen.
- Relive a classic RPG faithfully converted to the PSP system and enhanced with all-new CG cut scenes not present in the original PlayStation game console version.
- New event cut scenes contain links to the story of Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria the upcoming prequel for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system, and are collected in a movie gallery.
- While unraveling the story as Valkyrie in Midgard, time marches on in the Sacred War. Every action in Midgard is reflected in battle reports from above.
- An exciting battle system allows the player to control their party of four heroes simultaneously. Land successive attacks to build combos, and unleash spectacular special moves and magic to devastate the enemy.
unique playable characters weave together an epic
tale inspired by Norse mythology. Collect and cultivate
characters by developing their individual traits
and skills. Ultimately, it is for the player to
decide whether to keep party members in Midgard,
or send them to Asgard to aid the war effort above.
CCC Staff Writer