So, my last review was more of a rant concerning the issues I had with Dark Souls 2, and that just doesn't sit well with me. This time around I decided to cover a cult classic that every RPG lover should play at least once. What I have here is Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. This $100+ gem here received very little attention when it debuted on the PS1. I assume that everyone was too busy dealing with their raging hard-on for Final Fantasy 7, and it's probably a correct assumption. I feel bad for those people since the original game is now expensive as holy fuck, and they missed out one the chance to own it when it was reasonably priced... or did they?
You see, what I played was the remake for the PSP. I am not made of money, contrary to popular belief (backed by a 100% legit scientific study). I could only afford the PSP remake of the game, and that's entirely fine. I haven't really missed out on much. There's only a few differences and the only standout difference is that the anime cutscenes have been replaced by inferior CGI cutscenes (I only assume they're inferior, I hate CGI). Oh, and the other main difference is that whenever Lenneth switches between her two equippable weapon types, all of her skills unequip... yeah, it gets pretty annoying having to re-equip every skill after every switch, but I got used to it. My initial desire to smother the team that ported the game has been reduced to a much lesser urge to backhand them, but enough idle threats. Let's get to the meat of the thread, the actual review.
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is the first in its trilogy. It's a RPG game with platformer gameplay mixed in. Enemies are encountered in dungeons and are entirely avoidable. Why? Because there are no random encounters. Enemies appear as a sprite that moves around the dungeon. Touching the enemy throws Lenneth and her party into an encounter. Lenneth can attack the enemy with a sword before the encounter, and if her sword connects, Lenneth's party will be able to take the first turn. If the enemy touches Lenneth, Lenneth's party will receive a CT (Charge Time) penalty and may end up having to attack on the second turn.
Up to 4 enemies can be fought at once and the game operates with a row mechanic. The player can only attack enemies in the front row, but melee enemies cannot attack if they are in the back row. The simple way around this is a ranged attack. Enemy mages in the back row can still attack, and the ranged members of Lenneth's party are capable of attacking the enemies' back row.
Each character in the party is assigned to a button on the controller. Pressing that button causes the character to move in and perform their attack. The number of attacks a character can make in one turn is determined by their weapon. weapons can allow up to 3 attacks per turn, but the 1 attack weapons are better at breaking the opponent's guard. These multi attack weapons are best for building combos which fill a combo meter with every hit landed. After filling the combo meter, all characters that had a hand in filling that meter can perform an ultimate attack at the cost of filling the CT meter a bit. After the initial Ultimate, you can chain other character's Ultimates as well, but the combo meter drains a bit with each Ultimate performed. To get a 4 chain Ultimate, each character (except the last) would have to refill the combo meter so that the next character can join in.
I mentioned CT before, so I should probably take the chance to explain it a bit. CT (or Charge Time) is a meter found below each character's health bar. Using Ultimate attacks and magic fills the CT bar. The CT bar depletes each turn, but the player has a chance to knock magic crystals out of enemies by air juggling them or knocking them back. Crystals gained from air juggling increase experience gained from the encounter, but crystals gained from knocking an enemy back have a chance to lower the CT for a random character.
Characters with any sort of CT cannot do 3 things. They can't perform ultimates, magic, or use items (the former 2 only applies to mages. There are items in the game that deplete CT and there are equipable items that can reduce CT gained.
I've explained a lot of the actual combat mechanics for a good reason. Simply put, the combat is the absolute best part of the game. Valkyrie Profile lacks a bit on the narrative side, but it certainly doesn't disappoint on the game mechanics. As a person who enjoys games primarily for gameplay, this is a huge plus for the game.
It's not all about the encounters though. As I mentioned before, there are actually platformer elements to the game. If you're playing the game on Hard mode, there's even dungeons focused solely on difficult puzzles. Puzzles are present in the lower difficulties, but they're a cakewalk compared to the hard dungeons.
A big part of Valkyrie Profile is the challenge of training party members you pick up to send to Valhalla. The game is separated into 8 Chapters with limited time called periods. Entering towns, entering dungeons, and scanning for potential party members or dungeons consumes the amount of periods you have left in the chapter. After chapter 1 the Goddess Freya will actually give you goals to meet with the characters you send to Valhalla. These goals are in the form of a specified Hero rating and Skills. Skills can be found in dungeons and you can then buy these found skills for each individual character with points you earn from leveling up. Hero Value can be improved by spending points to improve a character's personality by increasing their Heroic traits and decreasing their unheroic traits.
Only 2 characters can be sent each chapter. After the characters are assessed, you are granted money and items as a reward. The amount of money and items you receive are dependant on how well you filled the criteria set by Freya. At this point, you also get to see a cool little rundown of the characters' achievements in Valhalla. As long as they have adequate equipment, Hero Value, and skills they should do well. Don't be surprised if they died though. It's pretty obvious that the level 1 character you sent in chapter 6 would get wrecked.
So, how about that presentation? Well, Valkyrie Profile certainly meets the usual tropes of games from its era. The voice acting is pretty terrible, and the facial sprites are pretty dated in quality. That isn't to say that the visual style is terrible, it's just as dated as the rest of the games from that time were. Only the facial sprites are ugly though. The character sprites and enemy sprites are good, and the environments are pretty well detailed.
The music may be the best part of the game's presentation by the theme in Lezard's tower is awesome. Battle themes and environment themes are well made and the rest of the sound design doesn't disappoint.
Now for the part of Valkyrie Profile that is a bit lacking, the story. Valkyrie Profile suffers from what is a rather generic and predictable story. Hell, you have to actually work to get any bit of the major storyline. That's right, the main storyline is actually a hidden ending. To get to this hidden ending, you have to do a certain series of events to lower what is called your "Seal Value".
It's not a bad main plot, but anyone with an obsession for storylines in video games is going to be a bit disappointed.
If you're going the way of the normal ending, the only sort of story you'll get are the brief backstories of each character you recruit. Some are sad and moving, like Yumei's, while others are rather uninteresting, like Llewelyn's. They're all rather tragic since Lenneth is just claiming the souls of those who've died, afterall.
My personal favorite characters are Shiho, a beautiful blind songstress who comes with some really nice buff spells, and Guts- er, I mean, Arngrim, a heavy knight and starting character who hits like a truck.
The game is definitely replayable. There are 2 different endings (Not counting the failure ending), which means that most people will at least play the game twice. The large variety of characters are really incentive enough to play the game again, and the fact that the Hard difficulty has extra content will push most into replaying the game if they started on Easy or Normal.
There is no New Game+, sadly. Instead, there's an after game section called the Seraphic gate. You just load a completed save file up with the Seraphic Gate option and you can play through some extra dungeons with all your characters and items intact. You even get to unlock some special characters if you completed the Hard mode dungeons.
The Final Verdict:
Overall, I was very pleased with Valkyrie Profile. I was never a big fan of games that focus on story. Rather, I love and appreciate games with great gameplay and just enough story to give me a good drive to complete it. Valkyrie Profile does not disappoint in this way. If you favor story based RPG games, you probably won't like Valkyrie Profile much, but if you're into games the way I am, this game will be an absolute must play.
Valkyrie Profile makes for a very good Cult Classic, and I can see why this game sells for $100+. It was worth my time and certainly worth my money (even if I bought the cheaper priced port.) Valkyrie Profile / Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth gets a:
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