"Valkyrie Profile has a strong background based in Norse mythology. The end of the world, the Ragnarök, is at hand. The Vanir and Aesir (gods) must battle the dark forces to keep the world from ending. In order to do this, they require the souls of slain warriors."
I bought this game during one of my random tours through Amazon.com. I didn't have a particular reason for buying it other than having money to spend and wanting a new game. I didn't have a particular interest in the game, either, although I'd been told it was good. It's always nice when something you buy for kicks turns out to be a good decision.
Valkyrie Profile has a strong background based in Norse mythology. The end of the world, the Ragnarök, is at hand. The Vanir and Aesir (gods) must battle the dark forces to keep the world from ending. In order to do this, they require the souls of slain warriors. It is the job of Valkyrie, a female warrior-goddess, to collect these souls, train them, and send them on to Asgard (Heaven) to help the gods fight.
The player controls Valkyrie, who has the ability to sense dying souls and take them from their bodies. Other characters join you on your journey. Nearly all must leave your party at some point or another; a very few will stay permanently. Each character has a backstory, and you are able to see how he or she dies. There are many characters in the game, too many to list here. All will be useful to you in some way or another.
There is not much plot to Valkyrie Profile. The game is divided into ''Chapters'' and ''Periods.'' There are eight chapters, each of which contains some set number of periods. It costs a certain number of periods to enter towns or dungeons, and a certain number to use Valkyrie's soul-searching ability (which also turns up dungeons ready for clearing-out.) However, the lack of plot is for once not a detriment to an RPG. There is enough going on in the game with all the characters without having to worry about keeping up with a plot. The main element of plot is discovering who Valkyrie really is.
Gameplay is relatively simple. In battle, a button (circle, square, triangle or X) is assigned to each character. Tapping that button will cause the character to attack. If the characters hit in the correct sequence and quickly enough, their attacks will fill up the gauge in the lower-left corner of the screen, at which point it will flash and a new type of attack, Special Attack, will become available. If you have the right character execute this attack, you can build up the Special Attack gauge again and have another character perform a Special Attack, enabling you to do some serious pounding of your foe. This is particularly helpful against bosses. Since each character has a different attack style, learning how each character attacks and how to combine them is important. If you want to do something else--like cast a magic spell or use an item--you can press the Select button to bring up an alternate menu for a character, provided s/he is ready to act.
Outside of battle, things work a little bit differently than one might expect. For the most part (except when on the world map), Valkyrie Profile is a side-scrolling game. That's right, side-scrolling, like old-school Mario Bros. You can jump, attack, and create ice crystals to help you move through the dungeons. Another thing that is unusual is the total lack of shops. There are towns aplenty, but no shops. All items must be found, or manufactured. Item manufacturing works much in the style of Star Ocean: the Second Story, as does the skills system. (This is unsurprising given that the games were made by the same company.) Characters must learn various skills and boost their heroic attributes to raise their Hero Values; characters with low Hero Values cannot be sent to Asgard.
Valkyrie Profile has three difficulty levels. Each difficulty level makes progressively more items and characters available, but progressivly fewer periods are available in which to obtain these things. I think the difficulty choice is great, as it allows the player to get used to the game in easy mode before tackling Normal and Hard.
The graphics resemble Final Fantasy Tactics: rounded anime-style characters. The dungeon graphics and monster graphics are somewhat 2d. Overall the graphics aren't anything to cheer about, but they get their job done. The music, too, is a little lackluster. It, and the sounds and voice acting, sound a very great deal like Star Ocean: The Second Story. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it makes the game's sound lack a little bit of dazzle.
Overall, Valkyrie Profile is a good, solid game. It's enjoyable and entertaining. Its real drawbacks are the lack of fabulous graphics and amazing music. I can live without the pretty pictures, but I'm a little less willing to accept sub-par music. Still, I'm glad I bought it and I'm sure I'll play it again.
Staff review by Lassarina Aoibhell (July 14, 2002)
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