What is it?
- Valkyrie Profile (Alternate title: Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth)
- Platform: Playstation/PSP
- Developer(s): Tri-Ace
- Release Date: (JPN) Dec 22, 1999 / (US) Aug 29, 2000; PSP had a 2006 release
- Genre: RPG
With Lab Zero Games’ upcoming Indivisible turning heads with its breathtaking art-style and interesting gameplay mechanics, I thought I’d share with the newer generation of gamers something from a similar vein. Travel back in time with me to the early 2000’s, when big game companies were just starting to discover the formulas and standards that we can expect to see in the games of today.
Valkyrie Profile is the first installment of a trifecta taking place in fictional Midgard, the artistic interpretation of Norway. The game plays as a turn-based strategy RPG with action elements to the combat in the form of controlling each of four party members with a different singular button. There are also nuggets of interesting 2D world-exploring and sometimes frustrating puzzles to solve. You play as a mid-level goddess, the Valkyrie Lenneth, who handpicks heroes from Midgard to help fight a supernatural war after their untimely deaths… which you get the privilege of witnessing firsthand. Your job is to train up these fallen fighters into Einherjar and use their unique talents to eradicate the undead that seem to crop up every time you leave and return to a dungeon. Einherjar that are deemed worthy can enter into the land of the gods, Valhalla, and help wage a war to stop the end of the world.
The gameplay for VP can be divided into two portions; the 2D dungeon-explorer sections and a strategic action RPG.
2D Gameplay: At a base level, the controls themselves are fairly unresponsive and heavy. When you jump from a moderate height, you’ll take seconds to recover from the landing. While not perfect, you aren’t being asked to do ridiculous things like leaping across disappearing platforms or battling a challenging boss, so in context the controls aren’t a complete hindrance to the experience. The 2D format also has a very interesting platforming mechanic in the form of an exclusive crystal attack, a short-range projectile that can be used to freeze enemy encounters, and thus, easily avoid them. At harder difficulties, you’ll need to be able to master the crystal attack’s many secondary traits to make it through the more complex dungeons, including (but not limited to) making platforms on walls, launching yourself, and making floating platforms. While exploring the labyrinthine 2D dungeons, you’ll often run into shadowy figures that you can either avoid or engage, which leads us into the next portion of the game.
RPG gameplay: The main feature of any Valkyrie Profile title is the signature way they handle fights. In combat, each of your four fighters is assigned to a face button on your controller. This gives you the option to mash buttons like a madman and rush a single enemy, or to more strategically time each press to gain access to different combo rewards. On top of that, every non-mage character has a completely unique fighting style, along with three interchangeable attacks that allow you to customize your combos in a way that suits you best. With a roster of 24 characters, there’s a lot you can do. While some characters are definitely better than others, it’s possible to make just about any team work out.
The visuals in the game were not only great for the time they came out, but they hold up pretty well by today’s standards. VP blends beautifully-painted backgrounds with characters drawn in pixel art. Each party member has nicely-animated attack moves as well as flashy special moves. The artists put extra attention to small details, like the way the Valkyrie’s braid sways when she moves, that it really does deserve praise.
Sound: (Music: 9, Gen. Sound: 7.5)
The music is done by composer Motoi Sakuraba, whose work has appeared in, for example, the Golden Sun and Dark Souls series. For videogame audiophiles, this game is certainly worth a listen. The music often takes on a very distinct style with memorable melodies and a range of different instruments. The dungeons in general have a more electronic vibe to them, with the more dramatic parts of the game often having softer instrumentation.
As for every other sound in the game, it’s a bit hit-or-miss really. The battle sounds are pretty quality, but have the potential to be grating on the ears after several-hundred battles. The voice-acting, however, can sometimes border on cheesy. The line delivery is generally very serious and it’s hard to fault that, but even for an RPG the lines themselves, putting it nicely, can be quite dated. The game sounds won’t ruin your experience but they may get an unintended chuckle out of some people.
Setting: (Story: 8.5, Characters: 8.5)
Unlike most typical RPGs, there isn’t really a quest involved in the game. As the main protagonist is a mid-level goddess, she has the ability to fly virtually anywhere in the world on-the-spot. This is particularly convenient for nabbing souls of strong warriors the second they kick the bucket. Most of the game’s actual story is played out by the lives of your many party members. The world of the game is revealed through these sequences, along with sneak peeks at future characters.
Overall Score: 8.5 (85%)
Summary: Valkyrie Profile truly is a gem from the past. For those looking for a great classic RPG with lots of experimental elements and some delightful art assets, you should definitely pick up this game. Copies of the original PlayStation release are incredibly rare and a tad pricey, but the PSP remake is significantly discounted and it updates several cut scenes. Just be wary that you might be looking for a walkthrough.
- Large roster (24 playable characters)
- Complex strategy elements
- Multiple difficulty levels
- Creative platforming mechanics
- Multiple endings and post-game content
- Great soundtrack
- Great pixel art
- Sometimes frustrating dungeon design
- Unresponsive 2D controls