I’m almost at a loss for words here. On one hand Valkyrie Profile has an amazing battle system and current generation graphics that make me want to sing from the rooftops and shout at the hillsides. Here we have a game that excels in every technical aspect. And save for a few glaring design flaws, this game is begging me for a higher score. I really want to give it that higher score but after all the time I’ve sunk in to this game I have to ask myself, does it really deserve it? The answer is no and I’ll tell you why. Balance is a key factor here, this game is maddeningly difficult. It also has a very unwieldy item creation system that will have you grinding unnecessarily in search of materials to have a shopkeeper potentially build you item provided you’ve spent enough money at his shop in the first place. Couple this with a relatively weak character development scheme amidst a very strong story and you’ve got a game that straddles the line between brilliance and mediocrity. You’ve probably reached this point and though, why the hell did I give this game such a high score? Because it’s damn fun that’s why.
This title is hands down the most beautiful game I have ever seen on a current generation console, and yes I will say that in the face of a number of XBox games that have come out in the past year. This game looks amazing, and I have yet to even look at it in progressive scan. If you’ve got an HDTV and a component cable then prepare yourself for a visual eyegasm. Of course some people will argue that this game cheats since it’s technically a 2-D game and doesn’t require nearly as much rendering as a typical 3-D title, but I don’t care. This game also abuses the latest trend in graphical tricks, depth of field manipulation. By blurring the areas around the characters you get a lot more detail out of the character models which helps this game look even more fantastic. So in short, best looking current-gen game EVER, and it’ll be a hard sell to convince me otherwise. The audio to this game isn’t too shabby either. The music is better than the first Valkyrie Profile and the voice acting is much improved. There are a few weak performances but for the most part it is very solid.
When this game isn’t doing its best to piss you off it’s an absolutely amazing game. The reason I verbally fellate it so is because it’s got one of the best turn-based battle systems I have ever had the joy to work with. With Final Fantasy XII right around the corner heralding the death knell for turn based RPGs it’s good to see developer Tri-Ace fighting the good fight with an excellent battle system. This game actually treads a fine line between being turn based and real time and I’d say it works quite well. Battles are an instance event, once you get in to a fight you’re brought to an area to do battle and you control a lead member of the party, and the other party members will follow. Enemies will only move when you move which is how this game still manages to be turn based. You can also split the party to have one team act as a diversionary unit to set up to get behind enemies. Once you get within range of an enemy you can initiate your attack, and that is where this game starts to play like the original Valkyrie Profile. Of course it’s not a simple matter of mowing down enemies, positioning is key; as you don’t want to suffer a counter-attack once you complete your attacks. To help alleviate this there is a Dash move that will get you around your opponents at the cost of some AP. Each attack has an AP cost, which can be restored by being struck by an enemy or by moving around the battlefield. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be running down enemies in no time flat. If you want to keep the fights short you can target a leader enemy. Doing so will cause the rest of the enemies to scatter and there is no experience penalty. Or you can savor the battles and try to go for some enemy drops by attacking one by one. Enemies can be broken down depending on where you strike and as a result will drop items from time to time. This aspect of the game is also one of the most frustrating as not all monsters have the same drops, so if you’re in need of something like say a Bone Receptacle you’ll have to huff it back to the first dungeon in the game, then you’ll have to find the exact point to strike in order to get that item to drop.
You’ll be spending a lot of time relying on enemy drops since that is how you craft a lot of the better items, weapons, and armor. And like I said before you’re at the mercy of a lot of these drops and their percentage rates can be frustratingly low, I spent about a good two hours trying to find enough items to craft accessories to make my party immune to poison. So when you’re playing this game you’re in it for the long haul. The battle system is so much fun that it almost makes up for this, but it just seems like a way to tack on hours to this game when there really wasn’t a need for that. Another way hours get tacked in is through a lot of pointless grinding. Around the third chapter the game goes from moderately difficult to almost ridiculously difficult. Those who are still getting used to the battle system are without a doubt going to find frustration in having to go back and level up for a bit.
There are a few ways to cut in to this time and most of them come in the form of Seal Stones. These things are found in the dungeons and can add stat bonuses to the party when they are carried or they can be placed on pedestals and the effect can spread through the dungeon. For example there is a stone that when you carry it, it will slowly chip away at your party’s health. But if you place it on the pedestal then all the enemies you fight in the area will slowly lose health. The placement of these Seal Stones is paramount to strategies in the dungeons as it’ll allow you to exploit enemy weaknesses by changing the elements of the area. Dungeon exploration is also going to eat a lot of your time, and it involves a lot of puzzle platforming, which is a welcome diversion from your typical dungeon crawling. In Valkyrie Profile you’ve for the ability to freeze enemies and their essence that they leave behind. You can also swap places with said enemies causing for some interesting platform puzzles. I really appreciate that this game always has you thinking and constantly keeps you on your toes. This game has an interesting paradox about it, on one hand it has you doing all this grinding and item hunting but on the other hand the battle system keeps it all from being boring. Though this isn’t going to be true for the typical user it has without a doubt affected the rating you will see below.
The story of this game managed to be incredibly strong and yet incredibly weak at the same time. There is a core party that you’ll be working with and they are all playing major parts in this story. You’ve got the princess of Dipan, Alicia, she’s not your typical human of Midgard, rather, she’s also got the soul of Silmeria residing in her. She is a Valkyrie under the service of Odin yet she’s willing to defy him. Reasons and allies will be discovered as you play through, though the allies are kind of the weak link here. You find members of your party by locating items throughout the world that contain their souls, and using Silmeria’s powers you can bring them back from the dead. The only problem with all of this is that it doesn’t really explore them as a character. In the first Valkyrie Profile game you were treated a bit of a cut scene showing the potential party member’s moments before their deaths and what they were trying to accomplish.
After spending a great deal with Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria I’m a little bit torn on how I feel about this title. This game excels on a technical level and I find the battle system to be a lot of fun. The game isn’t at all short but that’s because of all of the nonsense grinding and item searching. The main story is really interesting, but the background characters just seem to be filler. The difficulty is through the roof at times and then surprisingly easy at others. So I really don’t know what to say about this game other than this. I had a lot of fun playing this game, and I’m pleased with the time I spent playing it. Results may vary for everyone else, but you’ve got to check out this game, especially before that juggernaut Final Fantasy XII hits. I only wish I could give it a higher score, especially since I loved it so much.
Despite a few flaws (difficulty and character development), Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is a ton of fun.