Saturday, June 9, 2007
Valkyrie Profile: The Chance to Experience Ragnarok and Rebirth
(Valkyrie Profile: Freya with Odin in Valhalla)
One of the very best games I ever have played is 'Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth'. Like many fabulous games, it has its basis in an old game for the original Playstation system. When they remade it for the new portable PSP system, they improved upon it. The result is one of the greatest games available for players who like both RPGs and action games.
Actually, there are two new Valkyrie Profile games, and this review will touch upon the PS2 game, 'Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria' although the main focus is on the PSP game, 'Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth'.
What is unique about this game is that it occurs on two separate levels. Lenneth, a Valkyrie, fights against the forces of evil on Earth while in Asgard or heaven, the Gods organise their forces to fight against the forces of evil. The interesting twist to this game is that all the heroes are dead. They are known as einherjar, the 'chosen slain'.
The game is organised in Chapters. At the beginning of a Chapter, Lenneth has the option to gain more einherjar for her army. By the end of the Chapter, she must decide who among her warriors she will send to Valhalla to fight with the gods.
This creates an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, a player would like to keep his/her best einherjar for the active battles that determine the course of the game. The einherjar sent to Asgard, however, bring rewards according to their virtues and their value as warriors. Points won in gameplay can be assigned either to combat skills or to improve the character of one or more einherjar. This game is quite complex really.
Although you cannot participate actively in the battles fought in heaven, the battles will change according to the warriors you send. At the end of every Chapter, the Goddess Freya will speak to you to give a report of your own progress and that of the warriors you previously sent to Valhalla. You actually can access the individual records of each of the einherjar sent to Asgard to read about and witness their performance in the war in heaven. This makes the game multi-dimensional in every sense of the word.
Both Valkyrie Profile games include a number of films that are unlocked at specific points in the game. The graphics are stunning and the plot is compelling.
If this were all that there was to 'Valkyrie Profile', it would be a richer game than most, but there's far more to the game than this. Throughout the game, there is a question as to the true identity of Lenneth. By making the right choices, you can unlock and experience her personal story, help her regain her memory and ultimately reunite her with her true love.
I am not going to go into the complex equations that determine the ending of the game, but there are three different possible endings. The first is the 'best' ending, where Lenneth and her true love reunite after the last battle to restore the earth. The second allows the player to experience Ragnarok in a different way. You can fight to victory, but Lenneth's own destiny will be lost in this version.
The third ending only is experienced if the player is truly indifferent to the game and refuses to perform any of the 'transfers' to Asgard of the warriors needed by the gods to fight at the last Battle. In this scenario, Freya ultimately becomes thoroughly disgusted with you... and you will lose the game.
What this means, in fact, is that there are three different games here. A player who loves this game can experience all three by playing the game differently each time. Moreover, even within the confines of a single ending, there are a multitude of permutations. By choosing different warriors to send to Asgard, you will be able to witness or read about different events in Heaven's war.
In terms of gameplay, Valkyrie Profile is extremely satisfying to any one who enjoys role-playing games and is attracted to games that allow one to improve one's fighters by increasing their experience and purchasing the best armour and weapons for them. Strategy is very much a consideration and most players require a good guide in order to fully enjoy the game.
The graphics are fabulous. It always amazes me when a game created for a small handheld system like the PSP has graphics that can be compared positively with anything made for PC or the larger consoles.
The 'dungeons' are well-designed and encompass every possible landscape, from forest to classical castle dungeons and levels in Heaven or Asgard.
For the impatient player, the beginning of the game, characteristic of many of the great RPGs, may appear long and slow. Believe me, it is worthwhile to persist. Once you are familiar with the characters, you probably will find the beginning intensely interesting. The first time round, though, it may be a little irksome to the impatient.
There is an aspect to the game that I found rather perplexing in terms of its divergence from the original Norse myths, but which will appeal to many gamers. On the side of 'evil', you will find vampires with a vampire lord named 'Lord Brahms'. True to the Norse cycle of myths, Loki is the leader of the forces of destruction, but Lord Brahms is an important character. The inclusion of forces of the 'undead' in the game must appeal to fans of such games as 'Castlevania'. For a purist like myself, the entire 'undead' component took a little time to accept, but there is no doubt that the castle of Lord Brahms is a fabulous addition to the game. Like many castles in Northern myth, it can be found only at certain times and once entered, the player has a limited time to explore it. It is in 'Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria', however, where Lord Brahms becomes a central character.
In point of fact, as previously stated, there are two new 'Valkyrie Profile' games: 'Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth' and 'Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria'. Lenneth and Silmeria are two of the three Valkyrie (swan maidens) chosen by Odin to choose the worthy slain. The third, Hrist, is an adversary in the first two games. One hopes her story will be told in the next Valkyrie Profile game. 'Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria' was made for a different platform: the PS2 or Playstation 2. It is by no means inferior to its PSP 'sister' game, and different enough to encourage players to explore both. Your first choice simply may depend upon the system that you own. I personally prefer 'Lenneth' partly because I favour small handheld systems and partly because I find her tale more romantically fulfilling.
In classical RPG fashion, you can choose between a wide assortment of warriors and mages in forming a company of four. Each einherjar has his/her own distinct style of combat and weapon type. Some weapons can be wielded only by one particular character. The battles are turn-based, but the equations are far more complex than most games. By planning the attacks of members of your party, you can generate special powerful attacks either by one or all members of the group. Magic attacks are elemental in nature and you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents in order to prevail. As in most games of this nature, enemies 'drop' war trophies. Treasures can be found in dungeons and some are more critical to the plot than others. In the case of Lenneth, you can use her either as a sword maiden or as an archer, and you can create an active party that comprises either one member or any number up to four. The range of any attack can be influenced by the attacker's position in the active party, so strategy is an element here as in other areas. Valkyrie Profile is both truly engrossing and unique.
Whichever 'Valkyrie Profile' game you choose, you cannot be disappointed. It is a game of beauty, depth and complexity that has something for every one.