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SummaryBeautifully average? I should love this game, but don't.
The GoodLET'S TALK GAME-PLAY
- Side scrolling platformer with graceful moves.
- Old-school puzzle-solving action.
- Fast-paced button mashing meets strategy - a fun mix for battles.
- Good length of story.
- Good menu system, especially equipping attacks.
- No shortage of team-member options.
- Rewards completionists and back-trackers.
- Two Player option is a nice touch, but was likely more for the Japanese audience - the 2nd player only controls characters during the combat phase.
- The "After-game" dungeon is clever for re-play value... well, battle re-play value.
- Breathtaking light/particle effects.
- Great art style carried over from previous.
- Great environments and use of distance blurring.
- Good battle effects.
- Good working of Norse mythology, many characters are used. Of course (being from a Japanese publisher) there are a lot of mistakes made and liberties taken - but I say enjoy it as an alternate view.
- The main characters are written well, and the localization went off well for the most part.
- Map progression occurs naturally, allowing breaks for leveling or to save for particular items in the shops. Location to location travel is done instantaneously, with the over-map being rendered with weather and lighting conditions, very pretty.
- The voice acting is better than average, with (of course) some actors doing better than others. As usual we have a lop-sided female cast with a stereotypical 'anime female protagonist' voice for the princess. I initially thought Carrie Savage, but although she is here it's not as the lead role. being Michelle Ruff, you've likely heard her voice before.
- The music is good, atmospheric or dramatic when it needs to be.
The BadLET'S TALK GAME-PLAY
- The battle system can wear on you after time, fighting is always optional in the game - there are no random encounters and it is easy to avoid enemies - but you need to spend a lot of time fighting in order to be competent in the boss battles. If you decide to raise the Einherjar alongside the main story characters (which is how I played it) you will have 14-18 people to level at a time instead of 6. This takes a lot of time.
- The pay-off for the Einherjar is under-developed. These are often great people with terrific back-story, but the potential of their character and story is just pissed away. You pick them up, you level them up, you free them... And when you see them again they say 3 or 4 sentences of dialog and maybe give you an item. If you use two or more who know each other at once in your party they have one line of spoken dialog in the beginning of the battle. No cut scenes, no text boxes, very disappointing to me. I like to say "If you couldn't do better don't complain" - I could have done better here:
- Make a 'camp' feature on the main menu where you can talk to party members à la Dragon Quest VIII. All text and sprites, easy to do, would have brought great depth to the Einherjar side of the game and made them worth investing the time in.
- Include the Einherjar in cut scenes for boss monster encounters! These encounters often have no dialog anyway, just the party walking up to something. Why the heck can't they load the in-game models of the Einherjar in my party? Wouldn't the cut scenes in Final Fantasy 8 look a little weird if the wrong people were in them? I think they would.
- The difficulty curve of the game changes drastically at the Dragon dungeon. I had breezed through encounters, taken every optional dungeon, and spent at least 5-7 hours repeating fights to level up. This dungeon is five times as large of anything previously seen - it has 50 rooms. Even to a D&D player 50 rooms is pretty daunting. The rooms aren't really the problem, though, it's the enemies. Prior to this the average enemy will do 90-150 damage to 1-3 persons per turn and requires 1-2 turns to kill. Usually 4 enemies. Very feasible, casual. In this dungeon the average enemy does 300-450 damage to 2-4 persons per turn via area of effect spells. They take 2-4 turns to kill, especially if they are ghost types. Their range is longer than mine, meaning that if they are alive they hit every turn. I've only got 4 persons, there are an average of 5 enemies now. Average hit points on my characters is about 1,300. Now, this is a strategic battle and not a turn based, so not every enemy is hitting me at once, but they can kill me in 4 hits. The only healing spell I have restores 80% of one persons HP. Healing items can do better, but when I run out I've got to walk out of here and every room on the way back will have re-spawned enemies. So it's very hard unless I go back out and level each of my 14-18 guys up 10 levels.
- Some of the puzzles require new abilities/items to complete - but it is not always obvious which ones do, , meaning that I wasted a long time trying to trick jump to platforms. Maybe I should blame myself for these lost hours, but it was something I didn't like.
- The mini-map could have been better, with everything else so polished and beautiful the bland map is jarring.
- Edit: Before I blamed the script for feeling 'off' because of localization, that wasn't quite right - the script is perfect. It's the motion capture for the cut scenes that is 'off'. That may sound like a strange thing to complain about, but when the localized the script and voice acting to reflect a serious story the anime-esque humor moments come off terrible. One scene that comes to mind is Alicia (girl on the cover there) doing a full five second mouth gaping 'ahh-duhhh' face complete with vacant eyes at what (in english) was a mild joke. Japanese physical humor is very twitchy, with overly big facial expressions (largely due to Kyogen influence), and although I do want some levity in a long story it shouldn't be so jarring! Mildly alarming news does not cause a warrior character in a Norse tale to skid backwards three feet waving his arms in front of him - it really ruins the effort to make him badass.
- The element of Einherjar in the game is one of my favorite things about this game. It is central to idea of a Valkyrie, and it is a lot of fun to have almost 50 different characters to play with - they all look radically different and have their own choreography, back story, etc. So why the hell is this element almost completely ignored by the story? It was even blatantly DENIED in a cut scene! I'm 25 hours into the game, I have 9 Einherjar in my party, and one of the main characters says "I've never seen an Einherjar before". That really made me mad - who the hell wrote that line? How involved in the game was this guy? I know that battle development and story development are different jobs, but not only did I have the 9 Einherjar in my party, I'd freed 5 of them by that point, had tracked them down, and talked to them. Remember that "Ahh-duhh" moment mentioned earlier? This is the set-up for it. I had kind of an "Ahh-duhh" moment myself, maybe Alicia was rendered retarded by the sheer stupidity of that statement? I understand that the cut scene and motion capture was for the Japanese side of it, and that they had to set up a joke, but they did a terrible job.
- No complaints, but although I spent fifty hours with the game I can't hum a tune from it - nice music that doesn't leave an impression is less than perfect. Edit: Replayed the game and it's even more of a shame, the music is very beautiful but lacks what Uematsu or Mitsuda do so well: A simple melody as a backbone. That is why the music is forgettable to me. I played Parasite Eve for only 10 hours tops 5 years ago and I can hum you a tune, but other than the battle music, this game I played a week ago is a blur.
The Bottom LineValkyrie Profile was a rare kind of game in an age where things were going in a very different direction. The idea of doing a side-scrolling RPG in an age where isometric had long been the standard - and it was GOOD, with good voice acting to boot!
So #2 had some big boots to fill, and I think it did the job nicely. This should be a game that I celebrate and talk-up to others, but it isn't really that kind of experience for me. I enjoyed playing it, put it back on the shelf, and haven't really been tempted to pull it out since. I'm more likely to revisit Legend of Legaia or even Wild Arms 2 than this one.
EDIT: After writing that I didn't feel compelled to play it again I decided to do so - just for posterity. Well, my rating stays the same - for everything good I get out of playing it something pisses me off all over again.