Valkyrie Profile - Retroview

Creativity Knows No Boundaries
By: Phillipe Richer

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 8
   Music & Sound 9
   Originality 10
   Story & Plot 7
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Varies
   Completion Time 30-40 Hours  

Battles not only look cool, they ARE cool.
Battles not only look cool, they ARE cool.
Valkyrie Profile

   Tri-Ace became known for their work with Star Ocean 2 way back when at the end of the 20th century. The company's main ambition seems to be able to create a solid RPG experience while tossing aside the usual turn-based battle system for some more explosive action. Although Valkyrie Profile doesn't feature full real-time battles, the heart-gripping amount of action featured in Tri-Ace's first project still permeates in Valkyrie Profile. And unlike its brethren, it has a lot more than an entertaining battle system going for it.

   Ragnarok, the day of judgment in the kingdom of the Gods, Valhalla, lurks nearer and nearer. Odin's kingdom, Asgard, must wage war against its enemies. The task of recruiting viable souls of honorable warriors from the lowly earthly territory of Midgard is handed to Valkyrie, the Goddess of Death and chooser of the slain. While death may seem tragic at first, those worthy of redemption will unite under the just Odin to restore peace to Valhalla and prevent Ragnarok at all cost.

   Battles are completely turn-based in Valkyrie Profile (VP). In fact, much akin to a good number of TRPGs, your entire party will get to act first in most instances followed by the entire group of enemies until one side gets completely wiped out. You have four characters in battle at once, each of whom is assigned to a face button on the controller. By pressing that button, your ally will instantly launch an attack on the enemy, up to three times depending on the equipped weapon. This can be done for any character at any time, meaning that you can just bash buttons until everyone runs out of attack portions. However, timing is critical because you want to make sure to land as many attacks as you want in order to fill-up the special attack gauge. Once the enemy takes enough punishment, the special attack gauge will reach 100% allowing you to unleash your characters' special attacks. Your "attack sessions" will reset to maximum at every turn, but you'll have to be more careful with your Charge Turn (CT) gauge.

   Using magic spells (for mages only) and special attacks will cause your characters' individual CT gauges to increase depending on the power of their attacks. The CT gauge diminishes by one point every turn until it reaches 0 at which point special and magical attacks become once again usable. In order to have access to the power you want when you need it, you shouldn't go all-out whenever you get the opportunity. Completing battles reward your party solely with EXP, because there is simply no currency in Valkyrie Profile.

In VP, a visit by the Goddess of Death is a good thing.
In VP, a visit by the Goddess of Death is a good thing.

   The bulk of the gameplay actually occurs outside of the battles themselves. Characters have access to a wide variety of reaction, support, attack, and status skills which literally define a character. You gain Capacity Points (CP) at level-up which you can allocate at your leisure. The amount of different skills is quite amazing, allowing you to shape your characters the way you want it. Character "traits" on the other hand have no bearing on the normal battles, rather playing their part in the Holy War. Freya, another Goddess, will give you certain requirements for the Einherjar (I can't pronounce it either) best suited to help Odin's army in Valhalla at the beginning of each chapter. The better suited Einherjars you send, the better Asgard's army will fare and the more Materialize Points (MP) you'll be granted. MP is used to "purchase" armors, accessories, and weapons at the beginning of each chapter. This comes into play heavily in the plot, ultimately leading to one of three different endings for the game.

   VP is actually a breathtakingly beautiful side-scroller RPG, one of very few out there. Dungeon and town exploration alike takes place entirely on a single plane. Valkyrie can jump, swing her sword, interact with certain objects, and even create giant ice crystals in order to get through a dungeon complete with non-random monsters. Dungeons are totally optional, as is pretty much every character and event in Valkyrie Profile. You are given a certain number of "periods" for each of the eight chapters. Every event uses a certain number of periods, after which you'll be forced to move on to the next chapter. You could technically skip everything and go right to the final dungeon, but that would mean the end of Valhalla entirely.

   Motoi Sakuraba-san was once again chosen to flesh-out a Tri-Ace project with his musical talent, and the result here is something to behold. Towns are accompanied by very suitable music, perfectly matching the very dismal atmosphere of the game (it is focused on fallen warriors). But the real meat of the melodies occurs in the plethora of dungeons. I don't think any other composer (aside from Michiko Naruke maybe) could've succeeded in producing such enticing and provocative music. There are perhaps 40 different dungeons songs, each one more captivating than the other. You won't find any piano, violin, or flute arrangements here. Sakuraba-san relied heavily on synthesizer music instead, which perfectly represents the game's mood.

   Not only is the music sublime, the sound effects are also of the same vein. In battle, your attacks sound as devastating as they ought to, while the extremely competent English voice-acting puts a heart in every character. Inside and outside of battle, the 25 or so characters sound great with very few exceptions. Every sound piece can be retrieved in the option menu, and once you've heard every single battle comment from a character a little gift will be offered to you, which adds a good incentive to using different combatants.

Breathtaking visuals are always a good thing, and they're plentiful here.
Breathtaking visuals are always a good thing, and they're plentiful here.

   The main storyline behind Valkyrie's purpose is somewhat scarce and lacking in development. Unless you strive to achieve the A-level ending, the main story won't be exposed as much as you'd wish. Even with the best ending, developments in the plot are minimal and certainly aren't strong enough to make you understand Lenneth's (Valkyrie) profile. Furthermore, the war on Valhalla isn't illustrated at all aside from battle reports your Einherjars will put at your disposal for review. The opportunity to perhaps wander in Valhalla and participate more closely with the war could have created much more conflict and intriguing situations with Valkyrie. It seems only Suikoden I & II (III doesn't cut it) have succeeded at that game.

   Instead of that, the core of VP's plot is rather very reminiscent to Legend of Mana's. You'll be able to witness each character's story before his or her death, representing in many ways the only opportunities for character development. But since those meetings are all (almost) optional, the characters' stories have absolutely no relevance with the big picture. However, you could look at VP as being first and foremost a story about individual characters' redemptions rather than the war of the Gods, making it very real and emotional in many ways. You'll have the chance to follow your Einherjars' progress closely in Valhalla. In spite of all this, a stronger representation of the main storyline would've been fantastic.

   Not only were the actors far up to the task, but so were the translators. The dialogues fit perfectly with the game's elements, never sounding too casual or too uptight. While most characters don't stay in the spotlight long, their convictions are always well depicted and heartfelt. The localization doesn't quite attain the ecstatic stylishness and richness of Vagrant Story, but the script still deserves respect as one of the best ever.

   The game sports three totally different difficulty levels, each varying in terms of dungeons, characters, and enemy capabilities. Since the game can be played as scarcely or as thoroughly as the player wants with three unique endings to witness, everyone will find their own in VP. The whole slew of unique characters and environments create even more depth to the gameplay, and the extremely long secret dungeon will satisfy even the most hardcore gamers. In fact, just writing this review makes me want to take the plunge a third time.

   VP also stands as a flagship among 2D visuals in RPGs. The backgrounds are absolutely awe-inspiring and vividly colored. The amount of detail present makes every single background shot a work of art. The characters sprites, be them for foes or allies, are exceptional as well. In combat, the fluidity of every single movement is dazzling, while the special effects will truly knock your socks off. And to top it all off, the dialogs are accompanied by huge masterful drawings of your characters, incredibly detailed and filled with emotion. I'm really running out of superlatives to describe the visual euphoria going on in VP; you'll have to see it for yourself to understand it.

   Valkyrie Profile totally radiates with creativity, flair, and great production values. Proving that Tri-Ace has learned from its mishaps with Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile offers a unique mesmerizing experience from start to finish. The only improvement I could wish for would be to have the opportunity to follow the Holy War more closely and to see it depicted more richly. Nevertheless, VP has so much going for it that it would take an idiot not to acknowledge it. I am a full review short of being speechless Tri-Ace. Kudos.

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