Valkyrie Profile - Review

Not your typical RPG.

By: Paul Beaudoin

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 8
   Plot 9
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Adjustable (Easy-Hard)
   Time to Complete

3-35 hours


Valkyrie Profile

   Many RPGs feature elements from Nordic myth, be they names of items, towns or spells. tri-Ace has taken this a step further, however, by basing an entire game on the Norse gods.

   Valkyrie Profile comes from the myths of Ragnarok, or the great war between the Gods. You play as Lenneth, a Valkyrie who has been sent to Midgard to gather and train the souls of suitable humans, or Einherjar, to assist Odin and the Aesir in their struggle against the Vanir. The accuracy of the game to the true Norse myths is questionable, but does not detract from the enjoyment.

   Unlike most RPGs, time in Valkyrie Profile is limited. The game is divided into 8 chapters, with each chapter being divided into 24 periods. Periods are used when entering towns or dungeons, or seeking out new characters. Once all 8 chapters are finished, you enter the final dungeon. At first, you may think that this would give the game a bit of a rushed feeling, but surprisingly this is not the case. Often, you will have sevral periods after you found all the characters and dungeons in a particular chapter, and spend the rest of the time exploring cities, leveling up, or resting. This system has negatives, however. Sometimes you waste chapters by entering cities or dungeons by accident. Fortunately, prompts are given before entering a location, helping you to avoid that mistake.

   This style of gameplay also lends itself to a fair amount of non-linearity. You don't have to explore a dungeon if you don't want, and if a character doesn't suit your fancy, you don't have to acquire him or her. In fact, except for the initial and final dungeons, everything in Valkyrie Profile is optional.

   Naturally, to gather souls, people must die. This happens quite a bit in Valkyrie Profile. Midgard is a chaotic place, filled with demons, the undead, and warring nations. Every character is introduced through a short scene depicting their tragic (and sometimes not-so-tragic) deaths. This leads to a fair amount of character development. Not only that, but the characters are an extremely varied bunch, ranging from Belenus the nobleman, to the bratty princess Jelanda, to Gandar, a wicked sorcerer.

Okay, not ALL the text is perfect.
Thank you, Sir Obvious.  
   Of course, what good are deceased humans to the Aesir if you keep them all to yourself? Transferring characters is a very important part of the game, and forgetting to do so is not reccomended. Between chapters, Freya will inform you of how Ragnarok is faring, fill you in on how the Einherjar who have already been transferred are doing, and most importantly, tell you what kind of Einherjar are needed. There are 3 major types of qualities that Freya will ask for in an Einherjar. The first is the character's class (such as Warrior or Archer). The second are skills that can be learned when leveling up (such as Leadership or Survival). The final ones are traits that they posses (such as bravery, or being nimble). How well you developed specific requirements will have a very important effect on how well the Einherjar fare, and how well Odin and Freya will be pleased with you.

   Dungeon exploration, unlike almost every RPG in existence, is a completely 2D affair, complete with tricky jumps, puzzles that test your reaction time as much as your mind, and enemies that must be avoided. This is one of the more interesting aspects of the game. Once contact is made with an enemy, a battle begins, and once defeated, they don't reappear (save for some specific locations). There are places where you can move in and out of the foreground, but for the most part it's completely 2D.

   Battles are another interesting aspect of Valkyrie Profile. Each of the four fighting characters is assigned one of the main buttons on the PSX controller. Once these buttons are pressed, characters attack immediately. Each character can attack between one and three times per round, depending on their equipment. To make the most of the attacks, a good deal of timing is required. In addition, if you can get a combo going long enough, a character's special attack can be used, which does significantly greater damage than their regular attacks. These attacks, in addition to spells, fill up a special "Charge Turn" gauge, which must be emptied to use a spell and/or special attack again. The CT gauge empties over time, and with the help of special items gotten in battle. This kind of battle is extremely offense-heavy, with enemies (even bosses) often being defeated in one turn (and vice-versa).

   Music in the game fits very well. If for nothing else, gamers should give respect to the soundtrack for the sheer variety in the music. The dungeons feature quick, driving tracks, while the cities are more of a somber tone. Almost all songs fit well into the scenes which they were placed. The sound is rather good too, with above-average voice acting within the battles and accentuating certain plot points.

A dude with a big sword, Goddesses, and a headbanging vampire to boot.
Obligatory Battle Screenshot  

   The plot is a bit of a mixed bag, but still great. Each character is introduced in a short scene depicting their death. Some of these relate to other characters' stories, while some have no relevance whatsoever. A few, however, relate to the main plot, which seeks to uncover Valkyrie's past. Depending on what you do and who you acquire, one of three endings are possible. The main plot is open ended during the B and C endings, but come to a grand conclusion in the A ending, the true ending.

   The localization has been done very well. As mentioned before, the voice acting is above average, and in some scenes rather good. The translation has been done very well also. Every line seems to be put exactly where it should have gone for maximum effect.

   There is a great amount of replay value here. The characters can be customized a great deal for a console RPG. There are three endings, depending on how well (or badly) you do. Oh, did I mention the three difficulty levels, which provide different dungeons and characters, each of which are availalbe from the start?

   The graphics are another place where the game shines extremely well. The 2D characters move rather fluidly, and manage to show a lot of expression and emotion. In addition, all the characters feature unique portraits which accompany their text in scenes, some having several for different emotions. FMVs also punctuate the game at certain points, but thankfully are neither extremely awful or very predominant. Plus, as a little bonus, there is an anime intro for you to enjoy. In fact, I can only give the graphics two extremely minor knocks. One, the spell FMVs for the "Great Magics" are kinda grainy. These are not seen often, though, and do not make a major negative impact. Second, I wish there was more anime footage than the intro and one ending. Yes, I'm greedy.

What do you think he's looking at?

   The difficulty is right on. Not difficult to the point of frustration, but not a cakewalk either. And for those of you who like an additional (or perhaps diminished) challenge, there is a difficulty option available from the start.

   The time to complete varies greatly. If you enjoy taking your time through RPGs, examining each dungeon to its fullest and leveling up your characters as much as possible, then the game can take you well over 30 hours to complete. However, if you rush through it, it can be finished in as little as 3 (or even less).

   Overall, Valkyrie Profile made me happy to be an RPG fan. It was mature, intelligent, and thought-provoking, yet at the same exciting, fun, and just an overall blast to play. Basically, I could find no major fault with it. Kudos to Enix and tri-Ace for another great game.

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