Back at the turn of the millennium the original Valkyrie Profile was a popular PlayStation RPG title. Recently it was ported over to the PSP, where it enjoyed further success as Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. Its sequel, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria has managed to retain many of its predecessor’s innovative features which set it apart from other RPGs, whilst introducing some new elements to explore.
Set 200 years prior to the events in Valykrie Profile, the story behind Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria draws heavily on Norse mythology, and centres around the soul of an exiled valkyrie trapped in young Princess Alicia’s body (talk about having a split personality!), and her quest to avenge herself on Odin, who was responsible for Silmeria’s predicament. There’s nearly ten minutes of introductory cinematics to sit through before you even need to pick up the controller, but it makes for interesting viewing.
The learning curve is one of the steepest I have encountered in a long while, and it took a good hour to feel comfortable with the game mechanics. Handy tips can be found along your travels and there is an onboard tutorial to which you’d be well advised to pay full attention – particularly when it comes to the battle system, which is both complicated and rewarding in equal measures.
Like its predecessor, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is essentially a side-scrolling RPG with some platform/puzzle elements. The format takes a bit of getting used to – but on the other hand there are no tricky camera angles to worry about and
moving from A to B is a straightforward affair. Maps are simple to read, with nearby enemies, exits and save points clearly labelled. They can even be employed to track the trajectory of Silmeria’s photons; projectiles of magical light used to temporarily freeze enemies and use them as springboards/teleport points to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. This aspect is sometimes very frustrating, requiring many attempts before you are successful.
Combat bears a striking resemblance to certain 2-D fighting games where the prime requisite for victory is relentless, frenzied button mashing. First impressions aside, you’ll quickly realise this is in fact an action/turn-based game and the button mashing technique is merely a fast track to an early grave.
The battle system is an intricate blend of action points, attack range, special items and moves – including splitting the party in order to attack on two separate fronts… To go into it in detail would probably confuse and discourage you from trying the game, which is not the purpose of this review. Suffice it to say, if you’ve put what you’ve learned in the tutorial to good use in earlier encounters, you’ll be well qualified to engage in the more challenging ‘boss’ fights.
While battle strategies can be quite involved, attacking an opponent is a simple matter of pushing the button corresponding to each character. Your party can field four members at any one time – either living, breathing ones or the summoned warrior spirits known as Einherjar. Combat flows smoothly and the visual effects are particularly well executed. It is extremely satisfying to watch a foe fly through the air and smash into smithereens on the ground.
Enemies respawn every time you exit and re-enter a screen; very handy for honing those combat skills and gaining experience. You’ll usually encounter groups of enemies rather than a single opponent, and if you’d rather not fight the whole lot you can score an instant victory by taking out the enemy leader.
Other aspects of the game, such as party management, are overly complicated and not always laid out in a logical manner. This can prove a major source of frustration if you prefer RPGs of the slash-n-bash variety.
The in-game and cinematic graphics are nothing short of stunning. A high level of detail in both the characters and environments ensures you won’t be disappointed by what you see – even if most of the scenery is purely for show. The in-game music and sound effects are superb and some noteworthy voice talent brings the characters to life.
If you have the patience to sit through the lengthy cut scenes and learn the ropes – a challenge for even the most dedicated RP gamer – I guarantee you will find yourself well and truly ensnared by Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria‘s charms.