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   Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth - Staff Review  

Portable Epic.
by Dallas "Scandallas" Richardson

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Variable
COMPLETION TIME
20-40 hours
OVERALL

3.5/5

Rating definitions 

   Over the course of its lifespan, the PSP seems to have acquired a new meaning to the word "portable." Not only is the system great for on-the-go gaming sessions, but it is also the choice system for ports of Playstation and even Dreamcast games. Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth follows this trend, delivering an exact port of the original Playstation RPG, released in 2000, and making no changes to the core gameplay. In spite of this, Lenneth is still a valuable title, since it gives many gamers the opportunity to finally play this once exceedingly-rare gem. The game retains its deep story, unique battle system, and interesting open-ended structure, easily making it one of the better RPG's available for the PSP.

   One thing that Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth has going for is its terrific story. In a genre replete with fantasy and fairy tale clichés, it is nice to see something different for a change. The story is deeply rooted in Norse mythology and uses that mythos to weave a unique tale. The plot follows the titular Lenneth, one of the three Valkyrie sisters who govern the fate of mortals. Odin, the king of the gods, assigns Lenneth the task of gathering and training Einherjar, the souls of fallen warriors, to help fight in the final battle for the fate of the cosmos. The story unfolds through eight chapters, each with twenty-four periods, in a countdown until Ragnarok, the end of the world. The game is open-ended, as the entire world of Midgard is open to Lenneth from the beginning. Using her Spiritual Concentration ability, Lenneth can hear a warrior on the verge of death. At that point, it is up to the player to fly to the given location, and basically watch that character die and join her party. What follows is a cutscene, often lengthy, illustrating the last moments of the character's life. One issue with the cutscenes is that they keep the game from being portable friendly, since the scenes are long and save points are scare. These sections comprise most of the story in the earlier sections of the game. Later on, things get much more interesting, as Lenneth begins to realize some things about her connections with certain Einherjar and the other two Valkyries. Overall, the story is excellent, and definitely refreshing to gamers tired of formulaic RPG's.

   Sadly, developers can not create an open-ended game without expecting some major logistical issues. The primary problem with Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is that, albeit the story is great, gamers can entirely miss important plot points. The game might be too open-ended, giving the player too much control and lacking direction. Three endings are possible in the game, and players will have to know exactly where to go and what to do to get the best one. Another problem with the open-ended structure is the countdown. Every time Lenneth enters a town or dungeon, a period or two passes toward Ragnarok. As a consequence, the game stifles exploration, since gamers have to make the best use of the allotted time. But, honestly, towns are far from interesting, because Lenneth isn't able to speak with all NPC's and there are no shops. The final problem is the way character interaction is handled. The death segments are usually long, and none are interactive. The story ends up feeling like several disparate tragedies instead of one tale. Also, opportunities are missed, as in their death segments characters know one another, but when they are all in Lenneth's party, they fail to interact, even though they had known each other for years. In fact, once characters join the party, they never speak again, save for a few characters essential to the story. The aforementioned plot issues are a bit annoying and must be taken into consideration when attempting to get the most out of the story.

Cutscene The CG cutscenes look great, but are few and far in-between.

   Where Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth truly shines is its unique battle system. Gameplay is a mix of turn-based and real-time battles. The party consists of four member, and each corresponds to a different PSP face button. When Lenneth's turn has come the player presses the face button to attack with a certain character. For instance, pressing the Square button may attack with one character and Triangle with another. Characters can attack the same enemy at the same time to create a combo and fill the gauge at the bottom of the screen. Once the gauge is filled, characters can use special finishing moves. Battles result in timing-based and strategic button presses. Just like many other RPG's, the battle system also includes magic and items, but basic attacks are what players will be using the most. The majority of battles occur in the game's vast dungeons. Enemies roam around the area, and contact with one begins battle. Lenneth can freeze enemies with her ice crystals to prevent contact or slash them with her sword to get the initiative in battle. The ice crystals are also necessary for the platforming segments of the dungeons. Sometimes Lenneth must reach high places by jumping and creating ledges with the ice. These segments do not work well, because of Lenneth's imprecise jumping. Luckily, these segments are uncommon. The only real problem with the battle system is the lack of any in-depth tutorial. Gamers will just have to figure everything out on their own. Once they do, what follows is an enjoyable battle system in which gamers will welcome each new enemy.

   What makes the battle system so great is the character customization options. When characters level up, they are given customization points to spend on upgrading attributes that increase performance in battle. An interesting twist is that players will have to periodically send Einherjar to help Odin fight. These characters will leave the party forever. So players must balance strengthening their party with leveling up party members, balancing their attributes, and sending them away. Such an interesting concept keeps the game feeling fresh, since new party members will come and go from time to time.

Text Dialogue Expect a lot of text dialogue.

    The original Valkyrie Profile was released in 2000, and the visuals and sound reflect that fact. The game is mostly 2D, featuring anime-style character sprites and pre-rendered backgrounds. The graphics still look decent, though many of the 3D effects do not hold up well. Unfortunately, the PSP version is actually worse than the Playstation version in the graphics department. The PSP's widescreen feature stretches the game out of its original aspect ratio, causing everything to look blurry when up-close. Also, load times have noticeably increased. Simple actions such as going to the main menu or entering a dungeon require about three seconds to load. It can be irritating since players will be going to the main menu quite often to customize characters. The one thing that Square Enix added to the game was new CG cutscenes during important story segments. These scenes are quite gorgeous but show the jarring difference with the actual gameplay visuals. The music is appropriately depressing during story segments and up-beat during exploration and battle. The score has a respectable number of good tracks, though few are memorable. Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth features voice acting, though it would have been better off without it. Some scenes that depend greatly on performance fall short due to dry voice acting. It fails to compel and actually detracts from the story. Ultimately, both the graphics and music were great during its time but now show their age.

    Valkyrie Profile was originally overshadowed by the upcoming release of the Playstation 2. Few gamers got their hands on the title, and it quickly became one of the rarest games available. Now gamers who missed out the first time will finally get the chance to play this classic. The game is not without its problems; the issues of the original were never fixed and the game's visuals and sound are now showing its age. But even with its problems, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is still one of the best RPG titles on the PSP, due to its unique setting and gameplay.

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