It's funny how time can change your perspective on things. When Valkyrie Profile was originally released on the PlayStation way back in 2000, I liked it a lot but took it to task over certain issues and held back a few points on the score. Now that some time has passed and the current game environment is different than it was back then, I find that my affection for the title has only grown. It still has aspects that could have (or should have) been better, but it's such a unique and noteworthy title that its rough edges can be forgiven. In my eyes, this rerelease is a very positive thing.
The exact same game (along with some newly-added CG cutscenes) that became a highly sought-after rarity on the original PlayStation, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is a nontraditional RPG based on Norse mythology. However, instead of being turn-based like most Role-Players, Lenneth features side-scrolling 2D platform gameplay in dungeons and an extremely fast, combo-based battle system that happens in real-time.
The main character, Lenneth, is a young girl who dies a tragic death and is chosen to become a Valkyrie in the afterlife. Her mission is to gather warriors who have died in the physical realm and train them to become powerful fighters for the forces of good in Ragnarok, the battle to end the world.
Since the point of the game is to acquire, train, and deliver warriors who are powerful enough to help win this war, it's gratifying to play a game where "leveling-up" makes sense. There are a wide range of characters, each one introduced with a short vignette chronicling the events leading up to his or her death, and the roster of available party members constantly changes as you say goodbye to seasoned comrades and take on green newbies waiting to be molded in their place. It's tough to let a good character ascend to Asgard, but it's always important to keep the big picture in mind.
As if these things weren't unconventional enough, Lenneth keeps breaking the mold into itty bitty pieces by splitting the adventure up into chapters with a strong nonlinear vibe. There are a wide range of locations open for exploration from the beginning, most bosses don't need to be defeated, and most areas don't need to be cleared in order to progress through the game— though the overall outcome is heavily weighted by your actions. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the entire game has a time limit? No pressure, just hurry up and save creation.
By now, it should be clear that Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth was crafted by people who were thinking far outside the box, with no fear of breaking RPG standards. Most of the chances taken here are refreshing to the extreme, but the game does go astray in a few key areas.
For example, although it's a nearly-exact copy of the original game, I had hoped that the developers would include a better tutorial this time around. The learning curve is a very steep with a large number of menus, screens, and stats to manage in addition to an absurd number of items and the accompanying item creation system. There's not nearly enough guidance, and my feeling is that most players will stumble their way through the first few chapters before finally catching on— at which point, they may want to restart the game in order to make better use of the limited time before Ragnarok.
Other gripes were that many of the interesting events that occur while searching in towns are triggered by luck and guesswork, and that I often felt like I didn't know enough about the new characters. It's a real shame considering that this could have been used as a powerful opportunity to write wonderfully deep portraits instead of the quick snapshots the developers settle for. Last but certainly not least (not by a longshot!) getting the game's best ending is totally counterintuitive and virtually impossible to achieve without consulting an FAQ. You've been warned.
Despite these shortcomings, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is a singular RPG experience with much to offer those who are open to something very different from just about every other RPG out there. I'm extremely glad that Square-Enix gave the game a second chance because something as original as this deserves better than being limited to the collections of people who can afford eBay's big-ticket items.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
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