Author’s Note: This review was originally published on October 20th, 2006.
It’s still hard for me to believe that Tri-Ace created another Valkyrie Profile, this time for the Playstation 2. After greatly enjoying the first one on both the PSX and the PSP, I was so thrilled and hyped up for the next edition called Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria. For once in my gamer life, the hype was worth it. VP2 is one of the best RPGs out there for any system.
Valkyrie Profile 2 is actually a prequel to the original game. The game stars young Alicia, the princess of Dipan. Those who played the first Valkyrie Profile will recognize this city as the one where King Barborossa was beheaded. As a child, Alicia’s body was been fused with the soul of the youngest of the three Valkyrie sisters, Silmeria. Thinking his daughter mad when he sees her talking back and forth to Silmeria, he banishes her to a far away tower. Now at 17 years old, Alicia and Silmeria are on the run from the eldest of the three Valkyrie sisters, Hrist. Silmeria has vowed to restore her body, exact divine revenge on all-father Odin for his ways, and to free Alicia from her spirit and ill-fate.
The story handles this concept of two bodies in one in an amazing way. The narration in the countless story sequences is genius. You’ll see Alicia talking in a meager tone of voice, and then immediately Silmeria will take over and talk with more force and purpose. One key difference in this game from the first is the Einherjar recruitment. VP2 is a traditional RPG in terms of progression, where as Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth was a more unique quest. Einherjar are found in dungeons without a tragic back story in which you witness their final moments. You’ll see a glowing weapon, you examine it, and then the game asks if whether or not you wish to materialize it into a warrior. While there is a history of each warrior that can be checked in the status screen and there are various possibilities of Einherjar you may recruit, this new system may come as a downer for those who really enjoyed the first VP. On the other hand, the story characters such as Alicia, Rufus, Dylan and the returning Arngrim and Lezard Valeth more than make up for this change. The story and the colorful characters are both excellent with the many twists and turns, and a dark setting. From start to finish, the entertainment never stopped. While most of this game is serious, there are a few light-hearted moments that are a welcoming change of pace, especially considering how bleak and convoluted things become near the end.
As expected with Tri-Ace’s history, Valkyrie Profile 2 features an exciting battle system. Those who have played the original VP will have a slight advantage to grasping all of the mechanics when compared to those who haven’t played it. You begin a battle when you slash a foe with your sword or a foe runs into you. At the bottom of the screen are portraits of your battle characters, one of the four buttons through which their actions are commanded, and their current HP. Below those portraits is the AP meter. Moving your character party restores AP, as does pressing the L3 button. However, moving requires strategy because enemies will move whenever you do, and some have a very wide attack range which is indicated by a red area. This is where the dash comes in. Dashing requires AP, but when you use it, you are able to move to your opponent’s side or rear, which allows you to be safe from their attacking range and deal more damage. The dash feature is a key part of the battle system, but it is also a sensitive one. Depending on how hard you press the dash button, and the direction in which you push the analogue stick, the dash feature can become difficult to grasp at first. Furthermore, since many of the battle environments have multiple floors, walls, and pillars, some of your party may get hung up by these objects. With practice, the dash eventually becomes second nature and this ultimately makes battles more enjoyable.
When your foe is in target range, pressing any button will initiate an attack. This is when the battles are the exact same as they were in the first VP. You have to time your attacks accordingly to build up your combo meter. When your AP reaches zero, your battle turn is over and this is when your foe attacks you. After their turn, your AP is restored and the fighting and dashing continue. However, if you are clever you can run around the enemy to build up AP without getting damaged. When that combo meter I recently mentioned reaches 100, you can perform the Soul Crush techniques if your weapon permits it. That’s right; unlike the first game certain weapons may not allow you to perform a special attack. On the other hand, none of the weapons have a chance of breaking. A fair trade-off if you ask me, especially considering that near the end of the game the majority of the weapons allows a Soul Crush. Magic in this game can now be cast by the majority of your team and not just limited to “mage” classified characters. Unfortunately, having a mage in your party is useless, especially considering how potent they were in the first game.
There are other new additions to the battle mechanics. All of the enemies you encounter have a leader in their party. Killing the leader will make the other monsters run away, and this will end the battle. This may sound like a downer, but it is quite the opposite. Offing the leader first grants you greater rewards. Furthermore, all of the enemies are composed of parts. By attacking their parts continuously, they will break off and sometimes grant you special items. Not only is this useful, it’s downright entertaining to see an enemy literally fall apart into pieces. Continuously attacking an enemy part will allow you enter the awesome Break Mode. Break Mode allows you to attack constantly until a meter runs out. Attacks cost no AP, so you’re basically required to go gung-ho on the poor enemy until it dies or your time meter runs out. Another trick in the battle system is splitting your party into separate units. While I rarely used this feature, it is good for attacking enemies from both sides. Finally, some of the battle-fields have destructible objects that allow you to get to enemies easier. All of these battle mechanics will keep you playing until the very end. Battles were as fun as ever, and while there were a few annoying times with the dashing, they are very easy to over-look. My one complaint comes with the boss battles. The bosses aren’t necessarily hard; they have an insane amount of HP. This offers little strategy other than try to use as many Soul Crush techniques as possible. Still, that is something hardly worth mentioning. Valkyrie Profile 2 has an amazing battle system.
One of the things that the first game was lacking was town exploration, shopping, and other things most RPGs offer when you’re not saving the world and killing the goons. VP2 makes up for that. You can travel to towns to talk with the villagers, do some shopping, and even open up an optional dungeon by talking to the right people. A fun gimmick added to the shopping is the custom item creation. Remember those items from monsters I talked about earlier? Well, many of those are used to make new weapons, armor, and items. However, not all of them are available from the get-go. You have to buy enough of the shop owner’s normal items first to unlock the option of creating a more powerful one. Finding all of the parts may take some time, but usually it’s well worth it.
A similarity to the first game is setting your Einherjar free. Instead of venturing to Valhalla, they’ll end up living their life as humans once again. You will then encounter your old friends in towns and dungeons. Most of the time, they’ll give you an item or two as a way of saying thanks for giving them new life. Needless to say, there is always something to do in Valkyrie Profile 2. The game is linear, but thanks to the optional dungeons that get unlocked throughout the story, the game consistently has good pacing.
Like the first game, VP2 has gorgeous visuals. The VP2 world can best be described as 2D in 3D. Where the first game had you walking only in 2D and was hand-painted water color areas with 2D sprites, this game’s environments and characters are amazing 3D models. These are some of the most gorgeous, colorful, detailed, and crisp graphics I have seen. Next generation consoles what? In battle, which is the only time where your characters move in 3D, your characters really come to life. Their skills are executed flawlessly and flow from one attack to another with incredible ease. Soul Crush attacks look goddamn awesome. Some of the monsters are unique looking, but others are not so much. Unfortunately, like in most Tri-Ace games, the designs are used time and time again with the exception of their color palette being different. Still, this small downer is nothing when you look at the big picture as whole. The gorgeous FMVs, the beautiful battles fought in highly detailed environments, and the amazing character designs will not make you worry about recycled monsters.
Accompanying the graphics, in more ways than one, is a stellar selection of music. Fitting for a Norse mythological setting, you can expect to hear songs ranging from orchestrated epic to a serene serenade. The story has been entirely done with voice acting. The good thing about this is that the voice actors did a great job of sounding like their characters. The bad thing about this is that the dubbing is off the majority of the time. It’s not as bad as it was in FFX, but it still could use some work.
Needless to say, it has been a wild-ride for this precursor to Lenneth’s adventures. The way this game ties into the story of the first game was done exceptionally well. In actuality, there are many things left to talk about that Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria has to offer such as the rune skill system, the Seal Stones, the photon crystals and their uses, and so much more. However, I think I covered the most important parts of the game. When you finally finish the game, you have a bonus dungeon waiting for you containing the most difficult bosses and the best equipment. Furthermore, you unlock a hard mode in which the enemies are a bit tougher to take down. My first trial took me about 50 hours to complete, but that was with the side dungeons that were unlocked during the story. The unfortunate thing about the bonus material is that the main game takes you a while and you might be Valkyrie Profiled out to move onto the optional stuff. The first Valkyrie Profile was short, thus the bonus dungeon was a welcome addition. Since Alicia’s and Silmeria’s quest lasts a much longer time, it will be a question of endurance about whether or not you decide to proceed. I myself plan on hitting up the bonus dungeon, but only after I get some other games finished. Overall, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is one of the greatest RPGs out there, not just for the PS2, but for any system in general. Despite some minor flaws and an often-times unforgiving learning curve, you will not be disappointed by this game. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to pray to the goddess Freya once again. Even after six years, that goddess STILL has it going on!