Review by holyknight14

"Slightly dissapointing but still enjoyable"

Valhalla Knights (VK) is a new RPG brought to the PSP by Xseed Games, for a while before it's release, VK was thought to be an interesting game that caught the eye of many PSP owners who felt the system had mostly lack luster releases in the RPG department thus far. I for one looked forward to VK with a great deal of excitement as I have always been a fan of the dungeon crawler type of RPG. While VK was in many ways what I was looking for, it falls short in a lot of aspects that heavily detract from the game's fun factor and playability.

Story: 5.3/10
The story of VK is standard RPG fare, you take on the role of a human youth named Escart who has lost his/her memory, guided by the mysterious voice of Noir, it becomes your responsibility to discover your lost memories and eventually bring peace to the cursed land together with your allies. There is nothing special about the story in this game and story sequences are few and far between. A twist or two is present towards the end of the game, but nothing you probably haven't already seen coming. Gamers tend to argue that dungeon crawlers don't have great stories because they focus on gameplay instead, but when a game's story has absolutely nothing unique about it (the game's villain is named "Dark Lord" for 99% of the journey for crying out loud), it doesn't get points in my book. The fact that the NPCs in town offer almost no viable conversation at any point in the game doesn't help things either. Quest conversations, however, can be interesting at times, but more often then not, either the NPC will be some kind of hyperactive teenager or make absolutely no sense, with your hero responding with "..." thirty times.

Graphics: 9.0/10
One of the better aspects of VK are the pleasantly appearing visuals of the environments, effects and characters. VK is a fully 3-d polygonal based game with rather vivid environments. The dungeon of the game features several different settings, most of which are highly attractive. Monsters are detailed and well done, sporting appropriately drawn features and movements. The character models of VK are the true graphical gem of the game, in my opinion. Your character's appearance is based on what they have equipped, gear up with various weapons and armor to truly customize and personalize character appearance, an aspect that is highly lacking from many old school and modern RPGs alike. The only thing that really detracts from the game's graphics is that often times you aren't able to appreciate the full beauty of the game due to limited line of sight and a horrible camera that makes it hard to see anything in general.

Gameplay: 7.3/10
For a game that was intended to be mostly gameplay, VK falls disappointingly short in this category. To start off, the player creates the main character, for some reason the developers decided you can only make a human as your main character, choose the gender, allocate bonus points based on the job that was chosen and then begin, from this point on, VK "flows" based on quests and small story progression when entering a new are of the dungeon. Exploration is done within the many levels of the dungeon, each having it's own unique appearance, dangers and treasures. The town of Paladi has a few key places that you will be in and out of several times, the inn for resting and saving, the shop for buying all sorts of gear and spells and the guild for obtaining party members and questing. VK allows the player to have up to 5 party members plus the hero at any given time, the added party members can be a variety of races, including elves, dwarves, halflings, humans and machines.

Individual characters are made up of several status parameters such as strength and vitality as well as job classes such as Fighter and Priest. By gaining experience through battles, characters level up and are given additional bonus points for the player to allocate in whatever way they want. The player is encouraged to switch job classes throughout the game as there is rarely a penalty for doing so as most stats can only go up. Each character also has several slots for various pieces of equipment, most of which change the appearance of the character appropriately.

The battle engine of VK is similar to action RPG type games such as the Tales of series and Star Ocean, but with less depth. Monsters are visible on the field via sight and the mini map, contact between a monster avatar and the player will initiate a battle scene. Battles are fought in a circular arena of sorts that pits the players on one side and the enemies on the other. In battle, characters have several actions at their disposal, they can attack, cast spells, swap spare equipment, use items, etc. The worst thing about the battle system is that is feels as if you have very little control over what is going on. The AI is downright atrocious and rarely acts according to the behavior that has been pre-set from the camp menu, melee fighters tend to do more walking around enemies then actual fighting, offensive spell casters will drain their MP in nearly one fight and restorative spell casters often cast their healing spells far too late. It degenerates to the point where the player feels they have to control all of the party, made difficult by the way in which control of party members is switched around.

Music/Sound Effects: 6.8/10
While the music of VK isn't bad at all, it is far from memorable, most of the musical scores are either low pitch or fairly bland for the particular moment at hand. VK actually sports quite a number of different musical selections as generally speaking, every area has it's own field music and there are several battle themes throughout the game as well, the issue is that none of it is really that great, but I recognized the effort of having multiple songs in the game. The sound effects on the other hand are quite terrible, ranging from the ever so annoying player detection sound to the horrible sting of sound that is ushered forth from using a multiple target healing spell.

Challenge: 6.9/10
I grade challenge based on whether or not the game is too easy or too hard, extremes get low scores while games that have balance get the higher scores.
VK's challenge is what I like to call the "bumpy road", at certain points of the game, the difficulty will rise and drop exponentially with little rhyme or reason attached to it. For the most part, however, the game will be relatively challenging with some boss fights requiring several attempts to beat them. The game feels a bit too unbalanced often, though and this detracts from the game's fun factor a lot.

Replayability: 7.0/10
While VK is a straightforward and mostly linear game, there is optional content and no real specific way to develop characters, so players looking for a second playthrough should be able to satisfy themselves with the game twice. Having the knowledge of the game acquired from a first playthrough generally makes the quests much easier to complete and the battle system easier to master, reducing a large amount of the tedium present in the first playthrough of the game.

Final Words
VK was the game I wanted to love, and while I was disappointed to say the least, I was at least happy I got to play a dungeon crawler that kept me going for a good amount of time, the game is at least aesthetically pleasing and fun with the customization, I'd recommend playing with a guide to finish the quests if you have difficulty, getting hung up on them can really kill the fun factor of the game.

Average Play Time : 25-30 hours
Overall Score: 7

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/30/07

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