Review by jlop985
"A great RPG, but not perfect"
Valkyrie Profile is a great RPG for the Playstation, often counted among the classics of the genre. In this game, the player controls Lenneth Valkyrie, a goddess tasked with gathering the souls of fallen warriors and sorcerers in order to send them to Valhalla and fight in Ragnarok, the final battle between the gods and the Vanir of the underworld. Although it has since been ported to the PSP, the Playstation version of the game remains relatively rare and expensive. The major question the average gamer would seek to ask about Valkyrie Profile is if it is worth the $90 or more to buy the game. I will seek to answer this question.
Valkyrie Profile is an RPG that focuses on the gameplay. Most of the game time is spent in dungeons. Fortunately, the gameplay is the best part about Valkyrie Profile. The battle system is one of the most fun I've ever encountered. Each character in the battle party is assigned a button on the controller. To make that character attack, press the corresponding button on the controller. With enough hits given in succession, the characters can go into special attack mode. The special attacks are powerful, multi-hit attacks that grow stronger the faster the player hits the button assigned to the character that is performing the special attack. There are many more details to the battle system, but that is for FAQs to cover. Each battle generates an adrenaline rush as the player seeks to execute the perfect combo on the enemy and go into special attack mode.
Dungeon exploration is another great facet of the gameplay. Dungeon exploration is essentially 2-d platforming with a few innovations. Valkyrie can shoot crystals which can create temporary platforms and even freeze foes for a short time. A battle results when Valkyrie makes contact with an enemy. Dungeons are not entirely 2-d, as there are entrances and exits into different rooms along the z-axis. Dungeons are full of traps, monsters, and treasure. Fortunately, there are no Mario-style death pits.
All this is tied together by the overworld. When in the overworld, Valkyrie can go to any marked town or dungeon. To provide some direction, Valkyrie can perform spiritual concentration, which alerts Valkyrie to the impending death of a recruitable character or to the presence of a great evil lurking within a particular dungeon.
The game in theory is open-ended, but time, which is measured in periods, runs with each action that Valkyrie takes. This constrains the player to play the game as efficiently as possible. In addition, Valkyrie must send up recruited characters periodically in order to help out with the war effort in Valhalla. The characters, thankfully, are not just forgotten about. During each "sacred phase," of which there are seven in the game, the player can check on the progress of the war in Valhalla and the exploits of the characters that have been sent up there.
The game suffers from the lack of interaction in towns. Towns have a few NPCs which usually have one line to say. There are no shops, and rarely is there treasure in towns. The towns each have their own story, and it would have been great for the towns to be more than just scenery.
The story in Valkyrie Profile is great, if a bit simplistic. Each time Valkyrie recruits a character, the player is treated to a tragic account of that character's death. There are truly some heartbreaking moments during these scenes. There is a major plot line involving Valkyrie herself, which can also get pretty emotional. The problems with the story, though, are the pacing and the focus. Most characters' stories stop with their recruitment into the party. Some characters' stories also are pretty undeveloped to begin with, standing in stark contrast to the stories of some of the more developed characters. It would have been better to have less playable characters and focus more on the stories of the remaining characters.
The main story concerning Valkyrie, with the exception of a few scenes, is either at the very beginning or at the end. Furthermore, it is very unlikely that a player will experience the major plot line without a FAQ. In order to be on track for the major plot line, the player must do a variety of things, some of which are counterintuitive, such as sending up one of the best characters to Valhalla. Almost all the plot twists can be seen coming from a mile away. While the story is indeed great, it is rather simple. Its strength lies mainly in the storytelling rather than in the raw plot. With the proper pacing and focus, the story in Valkyrie Profile could have been excellent. Even so, it is still quite good, and nearly devoid of common RPG cliches.
The music in Valkyrie Profile, which is composed by Motoi Sakuraba, can generally be divided in two categories- dungeon music and story music. The dungeon music is upbeat, yet not very different from anything else that Sakuraba had composed around that time. The story music, though, is actually very unique, and is tragic and emotional. More sensitive players will cry during some scenes because of the music. Some of the music is foreboding, and I remember one special boss theme that actually struck me with fear when I entered into battle against the boss. The music is very good in this game, but a lot of the tracks are not very original to those familiar with Sakuraba's work.
The sound in Valkyrie Profile, from a technical standpoint, is full of glitches. Random noises go off at times, which is particularly bothersome during emotionally charged story scenes. The voice acting is hit or miss. Generally, it is pretty good. Lenneth's voice suits her quite well, being deep, yet feminine, and portraying a hint of divine arrogance. Sometimes, however, the voice acting is really bad. The prologue contains some of the worst voice acting I have ever heard. Most of the problem, though lies in the long pauses between lines, and not in the voices themselves. Sometimes, a character's voice is so bad that it is good, playing on the camp factor. The voice acting is also uneven in the sense that, for no apparent reason, some scenes are voice acted, while others are not.
The graphics in this game are gorgeous. Though the technical limitations of the Playstation are apparent to modern eyes, the art style in Valkyrie Profile is one of the most outstanding I have ever seen. Each text box is accompanied by a detailed character portrait which takes up a good chunk of the screen. The portraits change in order to portray the characters' emotions, which was necessary to overcome the technical limitations of character sprites. Yes, the characters are shown as sprites, but these sprites are very detailed, and actually can portray quite a bit of the characters' emotions as well. I remember one scene when a character cried a single teardrop when his beloved died. This was all clearly visible, even though the sprites are, well, sprites. The artists did an amazing job of working through the technical limitations they had.
The art style is ... varied. Most characters are realistically designed, but there is some anime influence for a number of characters. The sprites are slightly deformed. All in all, the art style is certainly original, and not the same-old tired, generic anime style.
Valkyrie Profile is a great game, and I recommend it to anybody looking for a solid RPG. It certainly has its flaws, but there is no game out there like it. I advise those who have a PSP to purchase the newer version of Valkyrie Profile. For those without a PSP, the only options are to buy Valkyrie Profile for a high price or to buy an even more expensive PSP and the less expensive Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. If you can afford it, Valkyrie Profile will not disappoint you, just as long as you don't raise your expectations unrealistically high.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/07
Game Release: Valkyrie Profile (US, 08/29/00)
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