Review: Valklyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
Developer: Tri-Ace
Publisher: Sqaure-Enix
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date: 9/27/2006

I’m going to start off this review with a big warning. This game is Valkyrie Profile in NAME ONLY. Except for a few bits of fan service and about 5% of the battle engine, this game has almost nothing in common with the original. IF you were looking for a straight up sequel in feel, design, and gameplay, you are going to be disappointed. This does not mean VP2 is an awful or bad game. It’s just so different from the first it almost impossible to compare the two.

The original Valkyrie Profile is the only game to ever receive a 10 from me. It is the only game that I could argue is perfection for its genre and for what was available at the time. It also garnered the coveted #1 spot in my “Top 30 RPG Countdown.” It has by far the deepest story and best characterization out of any video game ever made and it just did everything in such a brilliant manner that it’s no wonder the game goes for a c-note nowadays.

The funny thing is that Valkyrie Profile wrapped up perfectly. Every last plot thread was resolved and there was nothing to indicate that a sequel was needed, much less planned by Tri-Ace. Cut to six years later. How do you make a sequel for a game where the Ragnarok is the climax of the game? You don’t. You make a prequel.

So does VP2 manager to do the impossible and step out of the shadow of its older sister? Is the game a disappointment compared to the original? Or is the unthinkable possible, and does VP2 simply not deserve to share a title with the best RPG ever made?

Let’s Review

1. Story

VP2 is set centuries before the original Valkyrie Profile. Your main character is actually two in one. There is the Valkyrie Silmeria and Princess Alicia. Both inhabit the same body, and indeed both were supposed to be one person, with Silmeria being reincarnated as Alicia but…something happened on the way to the forum.

The game opens with Alicia/Silmeria making their way back home to the Kingdom of Dipan, from which Alicia was exiled due to her father, King Barbossa (who is NOT an undead pirate by the way), realizing that a Valkyrie was inhabited his daughter. At the same time, Silmeria has rebelled against the Aesir, aka the Norse God Pantheon. So as you can imagine, things are not looking good for either lady, and it just gets worse as a potential war between Dipan and the Aesir seems imminent and more importantly, is set to destroy all of Midgard (the world). That’s not a good thing, especially because if it happens, it means VP1 never happens and that my friends, is a shame.

The game opens with great promise story wise but after the first two hours it fizzles out so quickly. None of the characters are likeable on any of the three sides. Alicia’s team is made up of double-crossing malcontents. The Aesir are made to look like pompous bastards, and the Kingdom of Dipan has no redeeming qualities at all. There are no heroes or brave true warriors in this game. Just a lot of dickery on all sides. This of course is the exact opposite of the original game which is about taking flawed beings and turning them into heroes of legend. Heroes that save not only the world, but reality itself.

No character is ever really defined in terms of background or personality and the game is even more shallow when it comes to the Einherjar. Einherjar are the chosen warriors of the Aesir from the human world, who are called into service to fight alongside the Gods when Ragnarok comes. In the original game each Einharjar had more personality and back story thrown into them than entire RPG casts get throughout their entire game. Not here baby. Here the Einherjar receive no story save for 3-4 paragraphs in their character profile. You also just happen to find them haphazardly with their souls inhabiting weapons just left in ruins and caves and the like. It’s almost a slap in the face to the original game. But remember, I said if you were expecting this to be like the original, you will be disappointed. Instead this game revolves around main characters that are mortals. Your Einherjar are worthless in terms of story and even more so, are only in the game for the times when your main characters leave for a bit so Alicia doesn’t get killed in certain key areas of the game.

What little substance the game has story wise is pretty awful thanks to two big problems. The first is lousy writing and localization. Even the most ardent Square fanboys I’ve talked to about this game admits that the script at times is laughable and often poor. And that’s being nice. The second is that the game smashes you over the head with everything. There is no subtle foreshadowing or slight hints. There is just out and out “THIS IS IMPORTANT. THIS IS A BIG REVEAL LATE ON. THIS MAIN CHARACTER IS ACTUALLY ****************!” There’s no surprises or shocks and then you’re left underwhelmed when the big reveals over certain characters like Rufus occur.

Then there’s the fan service bits. Certain characters, like Arngrim and Lezard appear in this game. You know, centuries before their first appearance. Even though they’re both mortal. I promise you, they do try to justify this and make it make sense in terms of VP continuity. Like everything else here story wise, it’s poor, but at least they try. Of course, VP1 fans will be raising an eyebrow at first about a certain big bad that’s a good guy in this game, but when he turns on your team, you won’t be surprised. Of course, even if you haven’t played the original, you’re not surprised either.

The ending is something you will either be quite happy with or amazingly disappointed with. And yes, unlike the original, there is only one ending here. The ending is a “tribute” to VP1, and I was not happy with it, but I can see how some people will be. It certainly doesn’t make sense when held up to the original, but what are you gonna do?

As amazing as the original game was in terms of plot, depth, characters, and pure unadulterated substance, this game’s story is shallow, trite, clichéd, and transparent. Everything that made the original great is simply not here and in its place is a game that’s almost an insult to the true VP. There was a lot of promise at the beginning of the game, but in the end, it makes you hope by Odin’s raven (Of which my wacky US localization team, there are TWO), that if they make a third it goes back to the original in terms of what the game is about.

Story Rating: 2/10

2. Graphics

It’s a game published by Square-Enix. This of course means for every bit of substance that is missing, the game more than makes up for it in style. You want your androgynous angst-ridden pouty males? They’re here. Rufus is your Cloud Strife in terms of who will be made into the main character of VP2 slash fan fic. I’m sure teenage girls are already pairing him up with Legolas. Even Dylan, your big main bad ass fighter type looks a little too much like Sephiroth on the roids for my liking. Why Tri-Ace, why? But I will say this, the character models are amazing. Alicia looks a little too young, but that’s very Japanese in the development.

The background models, especially the towns are incredible and the dungeons are a little less impressive, but they’re still well done, combining the 3-D look with 2-D interface ala the original VP.

The only real complaint I have with the graphics (besides redesigning a certain Necromancer to look like Harry f’n Potter) are the monsters themselves. They’re rather generic and boring. The boss monsters are all gigantic and yet oddly enough, have the least amount of detail in the game. They’re rather boring and uninspired. That being said, the more human boss characters you encounter are excellent.

If you’re looking for a good looking game, VP2 is for you. All the characters are beautiful and the world is lush and detailed. There’s some slow down issues in the battle mode that occur when all your characters are attacking at once and you have them equipped with three attack wielding weapons, but it’s the only time I encountered a problem there. The monsters aren’t as well done or interesting as the original game, but the game will still impressing people visually most of the time.

Graphics Rating: 8/10

3. Sound

The music of VP is sadly forgettable. It didn’t stick with me or leaving me impressed. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t gripping to my auditory senses. It was RPG background music. Nothing more, nothing less. I couldn’t even hum any of it for you and I beat the entire game and the Seraphic Gate once.

The voice acting is good, but not great. It’s a step down from the original, especially since the original had the wonderful “Voice Collection” extra. With characters that make a return in VP2, the voice actors are either different (and of a lower quality) or the originals have changed the voice they are using and also phoning it in. That’s not for all the characters though. Alicia is well done, but most characters just don’t have any range of vocal emotion or personality. It’s the same intonation for almost the entire game. Again, this isn’t bad. Indeed, it’s actually good for RPG voice acting, but the original game used a platoon of the best voice actors in the business like Veronica Taylor, Eric Stuart, Rachael Lillis, and Nurse f’n Joy! Anything’s going to pale compared to the original’s cast. “Freya, I choose you!”

Pika Pika.

What’s here in terms of your auditory experience is passable. It’s nothing that will blow you away or even impress you, but it livable for the playing through of the game. The voice actors could use a little more range and depth that would have helped to make up for the script problems, but what’s here is adequate and 1-2 actors will surprise you with the quality of their characters. Sadly, those are the same characters with no background or personality in the game.

Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Control and Gameplay

VP2 is an odd mix of 2D and 3D gaming that works rather well once you adjust to the idea.

As I said at the beginning, the battle engine here pays only the slightest lip service to the original. That aspect is that each of the PS2’s controller buttons corresponds to one of your four characters on the battlefield. Hitting a button makes a character attack. That’s really where the similarities end.

Battles take place on a 3-D map and are turned based similar to how Dungeon crawl games go. You take a step, so do your opponents, and so on. However, you can move your entire team as a party, in groups, or individuals. Although this sounds like it will give you a tactical advantage, it actually doesn’t because you’re effectively cutting your movement down from 75% of your max all the way down to 25%. You see if you only move 1-3 characters in an attempt to say, get behind your opponent for a double sided attack, the enemy still gets its full movement event though you’re only using a fraction of yours. Watch what happens when you try to get a character on each side of a boss. Just watch the horror. In almost all cases, you can plow through the computer with “direct assaults” and the tactical aspect of the game/being able to split up your party is often unnecessary and actually detrimental to your team.

Attacking involves an attack point gauge. It goes up to 100. When it goes out, you’re out of attacks. Each attack or spell or whatever has its own AP cost and so on. You recover AP by walking or killing things. This can create a nice combo chain if your enemies are close enough as you wipe out a monster and then can move directly onto another one in your range without it having a chance to attack.

There’s also a special attack gauge like the original VP. As with the original, if you get the gauge maxed out, you can using finishing strikes. The problem is that here finishing strikes are powered only by certain weapons and not inherent to your characters. So for the first three chapters of the game, it’s just Alicia getting to do her version on Lenneth’s finisher. There’s only six chapters BTW.

There’re some other new things like “Break Mode.” Break Mode is a reward for attacking a specific body part in which you can attack for a limited time period without burning any AP. The problem is this only counts towards one enemy, and more than half the time it’s dead the second before you earn the Break Mode.

You can send up Einherjar here to, but instead of getting XP or increased story for the characters, you get some stat bonuses and well, that’s it. You might run into them in different chapters in the game as they’re human again now (WTF?) and they’ll give you items. Unlike the original, training these guys is not a major part of the game and nothing bad happens if you don’t send anyone up. EVER.

Finally, skills are completely different in VP2 as well. In the original, you earned experience and could spend it how you wanted. Here, you gain skills by equipping certain item combinations and using those combinations repeatedly. You also have a limited amount of skill points to use. I find that skills in VP2 are not as rewarding as in the original (Auto item use and heal anyone), but I must admit I do loves me the maxed out Force Field skill.

Although I find a lot of the would be extras in the engine like the team splitting, to be fluff and lacking a lot of real application, the battle engine is actually quite nice once you get used to it. It’s a very original twist on turn based gaming.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 7/10

5. Replayability

The original VP had multiple endings. VP2 does not. The Original VP was not very linear and you had one of 8 different playable combinations for events to be unlocked. But as long as there was time left in the chapter clock, you could play them out however you want, or not at all. VP2 is exceptionally linear. VP1 had multiple difficulty levels, each of which determined what characters you could recruit and what battles you would play. VP2 does not.

In fact the only thing VP2 really has in terms of randomization is what Enharjar you get. And it appears there’s only 2-3 set patterns for them.

The game does give you a familiar post game bonus dungeon complete with uber Tri-Ace end end end boss supreme. There’s also a battle that will give you a different character to fight if you use or do not use Valkyrie. That’s really about it.

VP2: Silmeria is pretty much a linear one hit wonder. You play through the game once and there’s no point to play through it again. The Einherjar you missed the first time through still won’t have any personality, and the game still won’t have any substance to the plot. Thankfully the Seraphic Gate is there for you to get your combat fix, and maybe a little something extra the first ten times you beat it. ;-)

Replayability Rating: 3/10

6. Balance

Unlike the original game, which features one of the hardest bosses in all of gaming in Bloodbane, VP2 is pretty tame in terms of computer AI and difficulty. It’s quite easy to ensure you won’t get hit at ALL in most fights, with boss battles being the exception. The way the AP gauge is set up in the game allows for a smart play to easily manipulate it to their advantage constantly. The game also telegraphs the CPU’s attacks range and so again, the game is FAR easier than the original VP. The Seraphic Gate is an exception to this, and it gets harder each time you play through it, although said difficulty is really just how much damage they give and how much you take rather than any AI raising.

A really big difference between the two games is the fact than in VP2 you can munchkin. If you’re not familiar with the term, you just go to dungeon after dungeon and spend dozens of hours leveling your characters up into beefcakes. In fact, the game actually encourages you to do this and occasionally gives you bonuses for not advancing the plot and just leveling up your characters far above what is needed. This pisses me off to no end, as no game should reward that, especially a VP game, of which the original went out of its way to make sure you couldn’t do that. Again, this manages to make an already easy game even easier. This is probably my second biggest disappointment with VP after the plot. I will say the game will screw those munchkins over at the very very end of the game. Here’s a hint: Don’t bother leveling up Alicia past 55. Hee hee hee.

VP2: Silmeria is just too easy, and there wasn’t a single time in the game I lost more than one of my four characters in any battle. That includes the Seraphic gate. And VP2 makes it a lot harder to heal your characters than the original. That should tell you something. You’ll have more trouble with various jumping puzzles than you will with monster slaying. Thankfully the battle engine gives you some level of enjoyment while you’re cakewalking through the game.

Balance Rating: 3/10

7. Originality
On one hand, you have a highly original engine, and a nice blending of 3-D battles and 2-D exploration. You’ve got a new way to learn skills, and a form of combat that I don’t believe has ever been done in an RPG before. A lot of VP2, as hard as I’ve been on it is some very new ground for Tri-Ace, or any developer to be treading on, and what’s here engine wise is very nice indeed. With some more AI and fixing some tactical issues, this engine could be quite intense on its second or third incarnation.

On the other hand, you’ve got some pretty generic characters (in some cases literally) and a very transparent plot. But as there’s very little plot and 85% of the game is dungeon crawling, it’s almost not worth mentioning.

Good engine ideas that just need a little more polish. It’s nice to play an RPG that doesn’t feel like every other one that came before it. Although it would be nice to have a true VP sequel too…

Originality Rating: 7/10

8. Addictiveness

I had a lot of fun with the battle engine. There were often times when I wondered why the hell there weren’t more save spots in a dungeon. There were times when I wondered when the game would get hard. There were times when I longed for a plot. But the battles and the dungeon exploring was fun. I enjoyed seeing what new attacks and skills would do. I’d keep playing as it would only be a few more XP before I could send up another warrior to Valhalla. I’d be at 92% with a skill and say “Just a few more battles.” The game sure can’t hook you with story depth or make you care about characters, but with new towns and dungeons to explore, you end up finding reasons to keep playing. All while rolling your eyes at awful dialogue and mediocre voice acting. I will admit there were times other games were calling to me though, and had I not needed to churn out a review, some of that VP2 time would have been spent with the original Shadow Hearts or some Ikaruga goodness.

Addictiveness Rating: 6/10

9. Appeal Factor

Valkyrie Profile is one of the biggest cult titles ever. It’s also now got Square’s logo on the box, which will only help to inflate sales. Compared to Square’s usual FF games, VP has about the same amount, and sometimes more plot, so the Square fanatics will think it’s a masterpiece. The VP community will be split with the fanatics loving the game simply because of the name and the rest going “Yeah, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a decent game but it pales compared to the original.” In the end, people look for a short (I beat the game in under 30 hours) RPG that requires little thought or skill and yet still manages to be fairly enjoyable and fun will get a real kick out of VP. For some people, the depth and complexity of the original VP may be a turnoff. VP2 is stripped down to a highly simplified plot and two-dimensional characters. This might be bad for the snootier RPG-aholic, but for a casual gamer, VP2 might be just what they’re looking for.

Regardless of its inferiority to the original, VP2 is going to kill the original in terms of sales.

Appeal Factor: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous

VP2 isn’t a bad game. Not at all. It’s an above average game that is hindered by three big flaws: a lack of plot, a lack of difficulty, and a lack of any reason to play through the game more than once. There’s no bonuses aside from the typical Tri-Ace post game dungeon, which has been done so much, it’s not even worth calling a bonus. The engine is solid and I hope to see better things done with it.

In months from now, people will let the hype die down and they’ll see the game for what it is: a deeply flawed but enjoyable game that still remains inferior to the original in every way. It’s going to be a game more for renting due to its shortness and lack of anything to make you keep it after you beat it the first time. With a little more care to the story and a few tweaks to the engine, VP2 could have been good or even great. Instead it’s only above average. VP2 has more in common with Pokemon Mysterious Dungeon than the original Valkyrie Profile. This isn’t a bad thing. I actually commend Tri-Ace for taking a huge risk here in making a game so inherently different from the original. It didn’t fail in my eyes, but it didn’t live up to the original. One can only hope that if they make a third, it will take the best from both games.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

The Scores
Story: 2/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 6/10
Control & Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance: 3/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal Factor: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 5/10
Total Score 54/100
Final Score:5.5 (DECENT GAME)

Short Attention Span Summary
Adequate sums up this game perfectly. Most RPG’s live and die on their story. Sadly VP2 doesn’t have much if any story at all. The engine is a wonderful idea, but has some bugs to work out and the battles are far too easy for my liking. If you have a PSP, I have to strongly recommend getting the remake of the original VP game. VP2 is a rental or a game you buy one weekend and then trade it in the next. There’s nothing to take a second look at once you’ve beaten it. Sorry Tri-Ace, but some things are better left without a sequel.