7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Something a bit different,
This review is from: Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (PS2) (Video Game)There's certainly a lot to do in Valkyrie Profile 2. Although the meat of the gameplay is kept to quite a strict path (and not a very long one at that), the level of depth and customization is immense. It's quite a challenging game simply because there is so much to take in. But if you are the type who loves menus, equipment and stats, then you're going to go cross-eyed with excitment at this game, and I recommend you take the plunge immediately.
The story of VP2 is a little obscure. A young princess called Alicia seems to hold the personality of a Valkyrie goddess inside her body, one who is guiding her towards a destiny that will save/change/destroy the world (I forget which). The princess meets up with a few team-mates and together they explore the world, venturing into many dungeons in search of mystical treasure and sacred items which are required to defeat some all powerful evil, etc etc. Enough of that, although as plots go, the story is quite basic although the amount of characters you have to meet and get to grips with can be quite bewildering.
Anyway, lets get the basics out on the table. Firstly - be prepared for the rather unusual step this game has taken of making everything SIDE -SCROLLING! Yes that's right, in nearly every part of gameplay exploration, its strictly left-to-right action against a scrolling backdrop, with jumps and leaps across gaps or up and down the terrain. You know, the type of thing you would have done on a SNES or Megadrive 1o years ago? Of course the graphics look absolutely gorgeous but it's still quite a shock when you first try and make your character (Alicia) move about. So that will take some getting used to. But, despite the lack of 3 dimensional screen depth, the game has instead made it's other apects far more full of depth to make up for it. And once you are used to it, you'll soon forget that as a drawback anyway. But it's still very odd to see Alicia running through a town in constant left to right motion as the streets and houses peel past her.
Anyway, let's talk about the battles, because that's what we need to know. I like to explain the combat in all RPGs I review because for me it's often make-or-break in a game if the fighting is done well. And here it pretty much is. Fighting is done anytime you bump into an enemy on screen. You can run into them, or let them run into you...side-scrolling, of course! If you want to avoid one you have to make a well timed jump over it, or run back in the other direction. You can also slash at it to ensure you get the first move, but whatever happens, as soon as you touch it, the screen goes WOOSH (as they do) and you are in battle mode. The slash to get the first go reminded me a bit of Breath of Fire - Dragon Quarter, if that helps (but thats the only similarity).
Once you are on the battlefield, things change drastically. The arena is in full 3D (hooray!) with slopes and obstacles and everything! Enemies are dotted around semi-randomly, and you need to knock 'em out to survive. Now here are the main facts about fighting:
Fighting is real time. Characters have a button each - you get four to a team max, so each of the right hand side controller buttons is assigned to a team mate. Characters have up to three attacks, so what you do is rush up close to an enemy, and start pressing the buttons. Once you start, you can go mad, as each press makes a character attack with their own special moves and they might have up to three goes each...or as many as you can get in before you run out of attack bar. The attack bar starts at a maximum of 100 and runs out as each attack is carried out, and it takes around 10-30 points to do an attack, depending on its power. Points are re-gained for clever chaining, critical blows and bits of enemies breaking off. Once the whole bar is empty, it's kind of the "end of your turn" and you have to run around to build the bar back up again. You can only attack with sufficient attack points, and so attacking is always best when the bar is at full 100 points, because if you chain attacks well enough you can gain a special "limit break" move called a Soul Crush (great name!) which does mega damage. The enemy will attack you too of course...usually when you have zero attack bar left of course. But being hit also makes it go back up again so a nice balance is kept.
Now you could go through the whole game just doing that, but there is A LOT more to it than just that. Fighting can give you more rewards than just experience points and money if you are skillful. By attacking certain enemy body parts (how you aim is quite difficult to work out, but certain attacks seem to point at various levels, and you can also run around to the back or side of an enemy), you can break them off, and this gives two important bonuses - special item drops that can be traded to make rare equipment, and extra points in the form of crystals that can be spent later on in the complicated "Sealstone" system (more on that later).
Now to make these fights easier there is a HUGE array of equipment available in the game. Some can just be bought in shops, some can only be found, and some can only be made as a trade for rare found (or battle-drop) items. Each piece of weaponry, equipment, armour or clothing will affect your stats, strength, resistance and HP totals, and wearing certain combinations allows your characters to learn skills, which are only learned if the combination is kept in place for a fixed amount of battles (a bit like in Final Fantasy IX). After the skill is learned, you can swap all the accessories around and learn the next lot of skills...phew! There's all sorts of things like this, so menu navigation can get very time consuming. There's an absurd amount of customization, and because everything can potentially be traded to make something else, you will never sell anthing just for cash so your inventory will very quickly spiral out of control. As I said, this game is going to be heaven for stat-geeks but it can be quite a chore if that aspect's not particularly interesting for you. I just about managed it, despite the actual menu screens being very hard to navigate - check the screen closely to see where all the options are because several sub screens are within other sub screens and you do need to know them all to get the full benefit of all the stuff you are accumulating.
Anyway all that takes some getting used to and there's really no easy way to undertand it right away so you will just have to be patient if you want to play this game to the maximum.
So, now back to the dungeons, and the designers have put in several fiendish puzzles, a lot of which revolve around jumping. Alicia can fire "photons" which immobilize enemies. These can then be jumped on or pushed around, or switched places with. In such ways, Alicia can do very complicated jumps and mid air warps to hard-to reach places, which is of course where treasure chests often are. This photon warping/jumping can be teeth-grittingly hard and you may not have the patience to reach every secret place in the dungeons, but most of the time it's fun. The other thing about the dungeons is Sealstones. Put simply, all the main dungeons contain one or more Sealstones in them. They have either a positive or negative effect, and it's up to you to get the good ones and leave the bad ones alone. Let me try and put this simply...somewhere in a tough dungeon there may be a Sealstone that grants the holder double attack power. While you are not carrying it, all the enemies are attacking you with double power. Now, you may find another Sealstone early on in the dungeon that cuts the holders defence in half. Carrying it gives you a big negative effect in battles, but you need survive the dungeon with this impediment long enough to seek it out the good one, grab it and replace it with the bad one and turn the tables on the enemy, so that by the time you reach the boss, all the favourable effects are held by your party and all the bad ones are affecting the enemies. Sometimes a well planned set of Sealstones is the only way to beat a boss. Are you starting to see how much you have to do in this game yet? There's more...any Sealstone can be bought and owned permanently, so you can use the ones you like a lot in later dungeons, but they can only be bought with the special crystals that you get awarded after battles, and these crystals take a LOT of skill to earn. Phew!
Well that's a taster for you. There's loads to do, so chances are you could be wrapped up in this for weeks. I don't really have any big gripes except for the character system which rather cruelly takes characters out of the game and brings in new ones at most unexpected times, so you could level up your favourites only to lose them all of a sudden due to the plot. And there are a lot of them...for a game that lets you use a team of just four to fight with, there are an absurd amount of temporary characters to choose from...it's very hard to stick with a winning combination. Especially towards the end when new characters come at you thick and fast...!
Everything else is standard RPG fare. Lots of plot twists. Lots of mean status effects in battle. Side quests in the shape of optional dungeons that only appear after talking to the right people - actually you really need to do these as they have vital rewards that make the main game much easier, so make sure not to miss any.
I really liked this game. I spent a lot of time on it, and even though I got frustrated trying to do double and triple jumps onto secret platforms for treasure, or repeat fighting enemies in the hope of breaking the right body part for a rare item drop, I still had fun. Recommended, and even if you don't know what a Valkyrie is or what "Nibelung Valesti!" means, you will still find this one addictive and rewarding.