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Valkyrie Profile - Review

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By: Jake Alley


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 7
   Plot 9
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Adjustable
   Time to Complete

3-40 hours

 
Overall
9
Criteria

Valkyrie Profile
 

   Nearly all RPGs feature fantasy settings. The stylings of fantasy, first assembled in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit are inspired by Norse mythology. In a move long overdue, tri-Ace has finally cut out the middle man to create Valkyrie Profile.

   The story of Valkyrie Profile stems from the Nordic myth of Ragnarok. Odin foresees a war between the gods, and therefore sends a Valkyrie to earth in order to gather and train the souls of heroes to lend a hand. Depending on how much the player chooses to carry out these divine orders, and how much effort is put into uncovering Valkyrie's past, the game culminates in one of three very different endings.

   The world from which you collect your holy warriors is a very tragic place. Over the course of the game, its scattered cities are beplagued and destroyed by demons and warlords. This brings about the senseless deaths of dozens of innocent and heroic people, who then join your party. As each character is introduced, a scene unfolds depicting the last moments of their life, along with some insight into their motivations. The end result is for each character to start out completely developed.


Boing
I love anime intros  

   Valkyrie Profile is divided into eight chapters, each of which is comprised of roughly twenty-four periods. After the full half hour of plot at the beginning of the game, these periods may be passed however you see fit until the end of the eighth chapter, at which point you must proceed to the final dungeon. Two periods are consumed when searching for new characters and dungeons, or when exploring dungeons. Entering towns consumes only one. New things become available to search for each chapter, but only enough to consume roughly half the available time, leaving the rest to character build, or explore towns. This system makes the vast majority of the game completely optional, giving it a minimum time of three hours, although winning under such circumstances would require unbelievable luck. It also leaves more obsessive players time to do everything that can be done with time to spare.

   While the world map is 3D, with controls similar to the airships of the Final Fantasy Series, towns and dungeons are, oddly enough, side scrolling. Controls are exactly like any 16-bit platform game, right down to the difficult jumps. However, unlike some games, these are all guarding optional treasures, rather than impeding one's progress through the game. Monsters appear on screen, and, with few exceptions, don't come back after being defeated. This makes experience points a fairly valuable resource. Fortunately, the last dungeon is one of the few places where defeated monsters return, allowing for some last minute character building.


It's a bird! It's a plane!
Divinity has its advantages  

   Combat is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Valkyrie Profile. Pressing select brings up a menu to use items, cast spells, and so forth, but attacking is simplified to a single button push for each character. Each character has their own attack button, and begins attacking the exact moment it's pressed. While each character may only attack one to three times each round, this system allows these attacks to be timed, resulting in combos that can earn extra experience. Additionally, if a combo is significantly long, each participating character may use a special move which can do as much as twenty times their regular damage. Such special moves, and also spells, fill up a meter which fades over time and must be empty to use another. This system allows players to dish out unbelievably high amounts of damage, but healing is rather difficult, and defenses don't balance out. While even later bosses can therefore be defeated in as little as a single round, they can often wipe out your entire party just as easily.

   Battles, as well as most plot points, are permeated with voice acting. Strangely enough however, unlike nearly every other RPG with voice acting, it's quite good for the most part. Text is also translated well, giving more insight into the backgrounds of the characters.


Fighting
Swords can't be too big  

   Over the course of the game, it is necessary to send warriors away to the great war of the gods. Between chapters, a list of desired traits is given. While these occasionally specify certain types of characters, such as archers, more often certain skills and traits are asked for. When a character gains a level, they receive a certain amount of points to spent on these. Skills are acquired over the course of the game which allow characters to perform special actions such as countering, improve stats, and simply affect their wartime performance. Each character also has a unique list of traits, such as elegance or a sacrificing nature, which solely effect characters at war.

When characters are sent to war, they are removed from your party until the final dungeon. However, between chapters, it is possible to read up on the actions of each character you've sent away, adding more personality to the characters than they would have if left in your party. This feature makes the difference between a flow of faceless characters coming and going and a growing cast of interesting personalities, adding a nice bit of color to the game.

Speaking of color, Valkyrie Profile features breathtakingly gorgeous graphics. Both the highly detailed sprites and the rich backgrounds convey an interesting visual style, blending Nordic myth with flare. The music also blends these two themes, using mostly somber flutes and electric guitars.

On top of everything else, Valkyrie Profile offers three difficulty levels, each with different available characters and dungeons. With three levels of difficulty, three endings, and some very open ended gameplay, Valkyrie Profile can keep players busy for quite some time. All in all, it's one of the best games of the year.





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