Valkyrie’s left leg looks broken…
Yet again, I’ve finally seen a game through to the end after starting and stopping it at least twice. If you’ve been following this blog for a little while you may recall my “10 Most Disappointing Games” list which featured this game. I mainly added it because it couldn’t keep my interest and often frustrated me. With the hype and price tag attached to this game, it was a big disappointment.
With Steve-O’s help, we were able to trudge through it. It’s hard explaining why I restarted this game over and over without understanding the game’s strange mechanics. Valkyrie Profile has a lot of hidden elements which can potentially make or break your experience with it. For starters, there are multiple endings. In order to get the best ending, known as the A ending, you must be playing on a certain difficulty level. That was one of my previous restarts.
**As a short aside, when the game says “Difficulty level” it really means “CONTENT PERCENTAGE.” The only way to explore ALL of the dungeons is to play on Hard mode. If you play on Easy or Normal mode you’ll blow off a lot of extra time because there’s literally nothing else to do.**
Anyway… I don’t remember exactly why I quit the other time, but I’m sure it had something to do with not fulfilling the arbitrary A ending requirements. When the game was re-released for the PSP I got a strategy guide and didn’t pick it back up again until now. I am happy to report Steve-O and I did get the A ending, but unfortunately the Brady Games guide is about as clear as the game when it comes to explaining what is going in.
Which is to say, not very clear at all.
Valkyrie Profile is a different bird, so to speak. The player controls Valkyrie Lenneth; a Death Goddess who recruits the souls of the dead to become soldiers to fight on Asgard, known as Einherjar. After the prologue and until the conclusion, VP follows a pretty basic formula with random elements thrown in: Start Chapter, recruit soldiers, level soldiers, send 1 or 2 to Valhalla. Rinse and repeat. The soldiers available for recruitment is based on a random game pattern (1-4) that you have no control over or way of knowing without consulting a guide.
There’s an interesting sort of time restriction in place. There’s a war going on, after all. Valkyrie can’t be blowing time partying it up with her new undead friends. Each Chapter (There are 8 in total) has 24 periods. When 24 periods are up, the chapter automatically ends and Valkyrie must endure a performance review from Freya and you get the opportunity to see how the Einherjar you sent up are faring in the war.
On the world map Valkyrie flies around, searching for areas with abominations to destroy and towns to recruit soldiers in. With the press of a button she will detect either a village or a dungeon. For a character recruitment event, you’re treated to some dialogue (which you’ll see in a cut-scene when you recruit the person) and a white dot pops up on the map. When you go to the village Valkyrie’s search directs you to, you are treated to the recruitment event for a new playable character!
One or two exemptions aside, recruiting new characters is as simple as watching someone die! That’s right. You get a splash of the person’s background and personality, then they get killed, then Valkyrie shows up and the dead person goes, “Of course I’ll fight for Odin, its not like I have much of a choice!” Like I said, its different and kind of weird. The plus side is that through leveling soldiers and sending them to Valhalla, the game encourages you to experiment and use different people. I’m guilty of sticking with the same core group in RPGs. This is nearly impossible in VP. I like it. The game makes it super easy to catch up characters you haven’t been actively using. No, they don’t get EXP when they aren’t with you. Instead, you’re rewarded Event Experience for traversing obstacles and completing dungeons. Which is a whole other can of worms.
VP is one of those games that tries (rather unsuccessfully) to meld RPG and action elements. Dungeon layouts are non-traditional as well. Instead of having an overhead or behind view of the character, it is done laterally. Valkyrie moves left and right. When prompted, you can also move up or down to go to a new room or section. The concept is simple, but the larger areas are very easy to get lost in and the map is nearly impossible to interpret in any helpful or meaningful way. There are obstacles to jump over and sometimes scenery to interact with. More annoying is this strange crystal-creating nonsense. Looks something like this:
These crystals serve many functions. They can freeze enemies, be used as jumping platforms, create temporary floating platforms, and be broken down into small building blocks. Unfortunately, the game does little to really explain how to use them. We were probably about halfway through the game when we accidentally realized we could make temporary (almost invisible) shimmery platforms to climb to new areas. Incredibly precise maneuvering with frustrating and poorly responsive controls is required in some of the latter dungeons. The jump delay is a particular nuisance. And for a loot ho like myself who can’t stand the chance of missing out on a good weapon or spell book, the combination of poor platforming and nonnegotiable maps made for many annoying moments. To find out I spent 20 minutes trying to reach a treasure chest that ended up being a low level spell I already had 3 tomes for… I can’t put the fury into words.
The game’s complete disregard for transparency goes well beyond game layout and dungeon crawling into the equipment and inventory management process as well. I’m not completely against figuring stuff out as I go along, but this game is ridiculous. In VP you can turn items into other items, or you can turn them into MP (Materialize Points) and make your own healing items and equipment. We were able to figure that part out. But God help you if you’re trying to make sense of half the stats or descriptions on weapons, equipment and consumable items. Weapons had “Attack Trust” and “Hit Trust” numbers attached to them. Being something I’d never heard of before, I did a quick Google search to find that, according to the gaming community, they didn’t mean anything at all. Nothing noticeable, anyway. Even the skills characters learned in battle had ambiguous descriptions. Figuring out how to execute the abilities in battle didn’t clear our confusion up half the time.
I’m going to take this opportunity to mention that this game either has really bad translations or the writers at Enix have some pretty messed up ideas about what heroic personality traits are. Going along with character skills, there are personality traits you can level or de-level to increase your Einherjar’s Hero Value. Many of the personality traits were downright hilarious. There were many character-specific ones, such as the noteworthy “Hates Men” and “Voluptuous” traits. I’ll let you try to figure out which one is considered a positive or negative hero trait.
Sadly, the mismanagement runs into the battle system as well. There are a couple different types of melee characters (Good luck figuring out who can wear what type of sword and armor after you spend the MP to make them, by the way), archers, and also mages. Each character is assigned a button on the Playstation controller. When you press their corresponding button, they attack with their weapon. Each weapon has a different amount of hits for a total of 3 possible attacks. You can interchange who attacks when. So one character can waste their three attacks breaking the enemy’s Guard, which is an annoyance I won’t get into, and the other three can take turns pummeling the enemy. Certain weapons can launch enemies into the air or put them on the ground. Hitting enemies while they’re in the air yields extra experience.
Mages will cast the corresponding spell you’ve assigned to their “attack” slot. You’ll hardly ever want mages to do that. Why? Well, because if you spend extra time accessing the battle menu to cast the same spell, it will be an AoE spell instead of a single target spell (not all of them, you get the pleasure of figuring it out yourself) and chances are the mage will one-shot or nearly one-shot everything. Yeah, the game wants you using mages, in case you couldn’t tell. Steve-O found that little tidbit out by browsing online. No in-game tutorials told us that life-saving fact. I can’t imagine completing some of the late-game dungeons without abusing this feature.
If your mage doesn’t happen to end the battle in one stroke, they then get to sit on their thumbs for about 6 turns because their wait time is super long. This means you don’t get to use them as item dispensers or anything… they just get to waste space. Wait-time reducing skills notwithstanding, that is. By the end of the game we still couldn’t understand why certain characters couldn’t take their turns when we thought they could, and vice versa. About halfway through the game we stopped trying to figure out the minor details. Coincidentally, this was also when dungeons started featuring random encounter enemies with no weaknesses, mountains of hit points, and AoE attacks that can do more damage than your characters have for hit points. Or, God forbid, the only weapon they can actually be touched with (Beast Slayer, Dragon Slayer, etc.) broke and you have NO other options for whittling down their HP for more than 1 point at a time. I am NOT exaggerating.
This is an original Playstation game. I won’t comment on the graphics except to say they’re about standard for the generation and there are a handful of anime-style cut-scenes. The character designs aren’t particularly good. In fact, the character images displayed when they speak are laughable. Half of the time they’re cross-eyed and the colors don’t match what their sprites look like. It is almost as hilariously awful as the voice acting and dialogue! Most of the music isn’t outstanding, but I do like the battle theme. And you’ll be sick to death of the character recruitment music by the end of the game.
The end of the game… Yeah. As I said, we got the “best ending” which, of course, was a nonsensical, contrived happy ending. I almost feel obliged to say the extra precautions we took to ensure we got the best ending were worth it, but I don’t. I don’t want my happy ending if it is uninspired and predictable. However, I did like the Norse Mythology the story relied very heavily on. I think Norse lore is severely under utilized compared to Greek Mythology. While I don’t feel that the writing, or actually the entire game, was uninspired, I do think it doesn’t quite accomplish what it hoped to. VP is one of those games that suffers an identity crisis. In this case it happens to be “Am I an RPG or am I an action game?” Yes, there are examples of excellent games that manage to merge two different genres together splendidly. This is not one of those examples.
Complete and utter randomness; from what characters you will be able to recruit to dungeons you can access, compiled with terrible descriptions for items and equipment, topped with bizarre enemy weaknesses and difficulty, lent to a pretty bad taste in my mouth when all was said and done. For the price my husband paid to bag a copy of this somewhat rare game at the time, I’d say it isn’t really worth it. You’d have to be a complete RPG enthusiast or video game collector to shell out more than $20 to play this. Besides, it got a PSP port only a handful of people bothered to play. Of all the classic over-hyped RPGs to try scrounging up and playing, I wouldn’t put this one on the top of my list. Which is a shame, because I found the concept and Norse Mythology base unique and interesting. From a game play standpoint, I found it tiresome and annoying more often than I’d hoped.