A Love Letter to Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
Please note this article contains major spoilers for Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth.
With Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth arriving on PlayStation consoles, I wanted to extend to our readers a heartfelt apology that our review will be late. Instead of doing an impression on the game, I wanted to share something with readers that is a bit more personal — my relationship with the game and how important it has been in my development as an RPGamer.
Reviewing your all-time favourite game is challenging. Especially when it’s also a game you know inside-out, backwards and forwards, and all of it’s in between. Valkyrie Profile is a game I’ve completed more times than I can count, and it’s a game that I have a deep and emotional connection towards. Every vignette in the game focuses on trauma and tragedy, with even some hopefulness sprinkled in. Replaying the game has also allowed me to reflect on the feelings that it evokes in me, particularly because it reminded me of all the deep discussions I had with my mother about what was happening in the story, and how difficult the world is.
I was thirteen when the original game was released. I was prepping to go to high school, and I was in this messy phase in my life where we were moving from one place to another and I knew how different I was. I was moving from an area that was often joked about by the affluent as being “the ghetto” and going to a place where people had more money than my parents did. My parents were amazing at fitting in, but I was awkward and struggling with the fact that connecting with my peers was going to be difficult. Valkyrie Profile saved my life in that transitional year.
I took comfort in Valkyrie Profile. My mother gave it to me as a gift after I had rented the game from a local video store. I remember how genuinely surprised she was to see a video game with a female protagonist displayed on the cover. She was the one who found the game, and she was the one who suggested I bring it home. I was in love with the game from the first vignette. Watching the story unfold with Arngrim’s reckless pride and then learning everything he does for his brother, who has a disability — it was strange to see in a video game. Seeing his fight with Princess Jelanda, how he acknowledges the harm he did to her and her father, the king, by smashing the war trophy in front of her, and how he understands that she just loves her father, emotionally resonated with me in such a way that I knew if I kept going, there was something special to be found here.
As the game goes on, you meet Janus, a man who is stripped of his ranking knighthood because he cowardly left his post. You also learn that all he wanted, more than anything, was to make his father proud. He was murdered in cold blood by the Crell Monferaigne court who feared being exposed for their internal political crimes. His story is one I felt truly connected with, as Janus’ inner strength and loyalty are ultimately what leads to his death and why he was saved by the Valkyrie.
Every story in this game is powerful in its own way. Many of these characters are offered second chances in death as a means to serve Valhalla. Lenneth, our heroine, has had all her memories taken from her, and yet she is a character who through her duty, also extends moments of sympathy to each of her recruits, the fallen Einherjar. As the game progresses, particularly when going for the best ending of the game, Lenneth begins to break free from the magical bonds that bind her, beginning with the meeting of Lucian, her lover from a previous life.
Lenneth and Lucian’s story is perhaps one of my favourite romances to ever grace an RPG. It’s handled with a surprising amount of delicacy and honesty that isn’t seen in a lot of games. When Lucian is recruited by the Valkyrie, he recognizes that she looks like the love of his life whom he lost years ago. He called her “Platina,” and while Lenneth doesn’t fully know what that means, something inside of her changes. Being with Lucian begins to change her. There’s a scene in the Weeping Lily Meadows that always gets to me, and it’s when Lenneth removes her helmet and Lucian confesses that he’s still in love with Platina — that Lenneth may in fact be, Platina.
As the game progresses towards the best ending, the game also does something unique — Lucian is the one who needs saving. It’s Lenneth who must save Lucian from being destroyed by Loki and the void; it’s Lenneth who has regained her memories and remembers that he is the man she once loved and no one was going to take him from her. That defiance of breaking control from the gods is such a powerful moment and it’s one that has stuck with me throughout my life. Seeing this all unfold left me in tears the first time I played the game. When you’ve had the love of your life brought back to you, and then taken again, and the cycle continues, it’s heartbreaking to watch unfold. I cried because I wanted them to be together, I cried because I didn’t want Lenneth to lose all hope after regaining her memories. Even as I’ve aged there is so much of their story that leaves me emotional, and that hasn’t changed replaying the game even now.
Valkyrie Profile has allowed me to have so many amazing and difficult conversations in my life. Every time I play it, I learn something new or find myself thinking about the different stories in a new way. It has connected me to so many people whom I’m still friends with today. It has allowed me to connect in so many ways I never felt imaginable. Being able to discuss tough subject matters such as self-sacrifice, suicide, loss, and grief broadened my understanding of what a video game could be. Anyone who is playing it for the first time is in for a dramatic rollercoaster ride full of heartbreak, tragedy, and hope. It’s just so easy to fall in love with each and every single character because their short stories have so much power and value. Valkyrie Profile has a narrative that shows flawed human beings who wish to right wrongs or who sacrifice themselves so nobly for those who feel trapped or alone.
To each and every person playing it for the first time and having an emotional response: I see you, and all of your feelings are valid. There aren’t too many games out there that do what Valkyrie Profile does on an emotional level, and it’s amazing how well the story has held up twenty-three years later. Valkyrie Profile is still my favourite game, and while working through it for review has brought up a wealth of feelings, it continues to validate why it’s never left the top spot for me, and why it will likely never be unseated.
Amazing game, well written (English localization home run) one of the best out there on PS1. It has been engraved upon our souls.
Such a lovely tribute. Pieces like this are what video games are really about. Thanks for sharing.