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Valis: The Fantasm Soldier (Genesis) artwork

Valis: The Fantasm Soldier (Genesis) review


"I didn't even really want to review Valis. Another reviewer (we'll call him ''Zigfried,'' a close personal friend of mine), showed me his 3/10 opinion on the game, but he pointed out that for the sake of justice, we have to offset the ridiculously high scores for the game seen around the net with our low scores, so here is my review. You could probably call this review: OUT FOR JUSTICE if it was a film, but it's not, so let's forget I mentioned it. "



I didn't even really want to review Valis. Another reviewer (we'll call him ''Zigfried,'' a close personal friend of mine), showed me his 3/10 opinion on the game, but he pointed out that for the sake of justice, we have to offset the ridiculously high scores for the game seen around the net with our low scores, so here is my review. You could probably call this review: OUT FOR JUSTICE if it was a film, but it's not, so let's forget I mentioned it.

Valis is a side-scrolling game series starring a girl named Yuko who goes to a private school that has her and her friends wearing short skirts and looking decidedly Sailor Moon-ish, which is a good thing for guys who like some spice with their hacking and slashing. This first game in the franchise starts off with a silly conversation between young Yuko and a mysterious classmate named Reiko. Valis III later tells us that Reiko is supposed to be Yuko's friend at this point, but the horrible interludes in this game makes us think they're rivals.

The story is a silly one. Yin and Yang have been upset by the forces of evil! A petty man named Rogles of the Dark World wants to take over the real world and the Dream World. Valia of the Dream World forces Yuko to become this sword swinging warrior in order to save everyone from Rogles and the fallout from his nasty plans, whatever they might be. The plotting as it plays out is sillier than I've described, but I refuse to get into it any further.

In any case, the story is immaterial because the cut scenes used to tell it are unbelievably nonsensical and tedious. That's a really bad one-two combination. First, you can't make heads or tails of what the hell people are trying to say to each other, and secondly, even if you could, you wouldn't want to pay attention to such a weak plot for that damn long. I can't emphasize enough how D R A W N - O U T the scenes are. Where are Ninja Gaiden's scene setters when you need them? At one point Yuko is carrying on for ages about how the sudden rain seems ''strange,'' and seems a portent of some impending doom. Rain? Rain! And evil of all evil, you can't advance these scenes no matter how you mash on all the buttons to do so.

If you can look past the storytelling scenes, and you must, then there's a decent enough side-scrolling game here. Yuko starts off with a normal sword, but can power it up three times over so that it fires projectiles. Further, more powerful swords can be found along the way, and with each new sword you find, the power up process will have to begin again. This keeps things interesting, this constant upgrading. Also, you'll have to keep an eye out when you're uncovering the power ups because quite often a weaker sword than the one you have will reveal itself and you won't want to mistakenly take it. The negative effect is two-fold: you'll have a crappier sword, and because it's new, you'll be at its lowest level of power as well.

Unfortunately, dodging weapons you don't want is the hardest part of the game. Valis may well be the easiest platformer I've ever played. Enemies are few and far between (ranging from the ugly - what look to be floating, spent condoms; to the cool - other Valis swordswomen!) making levels feel positively empty. It's as if you're playing a Beta version without enemies fully programmed in yet. This unfinished feeling extends to the backgrounds, which are often extremely flat and bland (witness the first level's cityscape).

The game isn't without its moments of quality however; there are some levels that look good. The second stage, of icy slopes and mountainous backdrop, looks quite pretty. The bosses too, while exceptionally easy to beat (kamikaze techniques always work, just keep hacking away), are well drawn and exude personality. There's a hooded mage who floats around in a bubble, a two-headed hydra, a boss who causes earthquakes, and a sort of jump-kicking cyborg, among others. Each boss leaves behind a magic power when defeated, Mega Man style. Regretfully, most of the magic powers are visually unimpressive, and there's not much call for them considering the already undemanding difficultly level of your mission.

Also, many of the tunes Valis has on offer are very short - and repetitive as a result - and the worst tune of all (which serves as the aural backdrop for the lava level) is repeated in a later, better level, despite its exceedingly depressive quality.

You'll only find a modicum of enjoyment from playing Valis if you absolutely love the series and have to own every installment; or if you just have to play every side-scrolling slasher out there, like myself. But be prepared: this is no The Legendary Axe, no Valis III, no Rastan Saga II even. Those games have much more personality than this bland, pedestrian offering; in fact, the only thing that sets Valis apart from any other similar game are its slow, stilted, poorly written cut scenes, and the general level of nothingness each level offers. Only hardcore fans should bother with this. And even then...

Time yourself.

Rating: 4/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 22, 2003)

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