First Impressions: This is where your dead Final Fantasy characters go when you run out of Phoenix Downs.
It's interesting that Tri-Ace has waited until now to bring the much-desired sequel to Valkyrie Profile to the welcoming shores of the Americas. A quick refresher for those who missed out on this great series the first time around, Valkyrie Profile is an action based 2D RPG set in Norse mythology. As the newly ?resurrected? Valkyrie, Lenneth, players must scour the world of Midgard in search of fallen warriors to recruit them for the upcoming war to end all wars, Ragnarok. The game featured an innovative combo-driven battle system as well as an amazing narrative that changed with every play through. While Tri-Ace has re-released the title on the PSP featuring new cinemas, they have also taken the time to craft a pre-sequel to the game.
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is set several hundreds of years before the first Valkyrie Profile. In this game, players will assume the roll of Lenneth's ?sister?, Silmeria, as well as Silmeria's alter ego, a shy princess named Alicia. The story goes that Silmeria and the head god Odin had a disagreement, and as punishment, Silmeria was forced to inhabit Alicia's body. Not much else is known about the plot at this point, but it's safe to assume, Alicia will be joined by several fallen allies much like the original Valkyrie Profile- each with very distinct types such as archers, mages, and warriors. One thing to note is that since the Ragnarok isn't prevalent in this game, players won't be sending party members off to Valhalla this time around. Considering how great the original's character development was (even though most, if not all of it was done during the character's introduction) , it will be very difficult for Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria to top Valkyrie Profile in terms of story.
The visual scheme of the original Valkyrie Profile remains intact. The entire game is cast in a 2 dimensional 3D world. While all of the characters and backgrounds are in full 3D, players can still only move from left to right and top to bottom. For those of you who have played Tri-Ace's last RPG, Radiata Stories, imagine the way that game was set up, only even more limited to which directions the characters can move. Players can still move into the background/foreground if there is a doorway or passage, but otherwise expect the same old school platformer feel of the original Valkyrie Profile.
Of course, the meat of any RPG is its battle system. I've learned over my many years as a gamer that an RPG really is only as good as it's fights. Valkyrie Profile showcased a deceptively simple system where each party member's normal attack was mapped to an individual button, and with each attack, a combo meter builds until it fills up, letting players unleash super attacks. Well, this system is back in Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, only it has had some major changes. First of all, players are now allowed to move around the battle field in full 3D, much like Tri-Ace's other creations, of course, the party members will all follow in their close group. Each member is still mapped to an individual button, and the combo system is still in effect. Turns are much less clear cut this time around as players only stop attacking when they are fatigued, much like Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. One interesting addition to the system is the fact that teams can now be split into two separate groups mid-battle using the D-pad. This will allow for more strategic positioning in the battlefield such as pincer flanking maneuvers. Other changes in battle include the fact that players can target (and yes, ever sever) individual enemy limbs. Also, in multiple enemy battles, one enemy will always be designated as the leader of the battle. Take out the leader, and the battle will end.
Overall the main gameplay has had some tweaks from the original. The time system is pretty much gone. The story will still progress in chapters as the original did, but it won't cost players points to enter towns and dungeons. Also, as mentioned before, party members won't be sent off to Valhalla between chapters. It's unclear what happens to party members in the game- whether they all stay with you, or leave at some point. It seems necessary to have party members leave because if Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria has anywhere near the same amount of characters as the original had, there will need to be some serious character managing. Of course, games such as the Suikoden series have been giving people hundreds of party members for a while, but it will still be interesting to see how this issue is handled in the final game. Another thing missing from Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is the fact that players can now only buy weapons from shops- the old transmuting system from Valkyrie Profile is now gone, which makes since Silmeria and Odin really aren't on good speaking terms anyhow.
As far as presentation goes, the game is visually stunning, which really is no surprise for the veteran game development group Tri-Ace. Colors are rich, and characters are beautifully designed with great attention paid to detail. Tri-Ace has had this entire generation to figure out how to use the PS2 technology, and they have done a very nice job of it. The game is certainly leaps and bounds ahead of their other masterpiece, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time in the graphics department. Also, good news to those of us gamers who are fortunate enough to have HD setups, Valkyrie Profile features progressive scan- something most Square-Enix games don't. Or course, Tri-Ace has always been friendly to the HD scene as both Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and Radiata Stories featured progressive scan. It would really be nice to see the rest of Square-Enix's development teams jump on board the HD bandwagon, considering the company is bar-none the leader in graphical prowess when it comes to gaming. Audio is also on the right track with the game featuring Dolby Pro Logic 2 support as well as full voice acting. It will be interesting to see if the familiar voices from the anime series Slayers and Pokemon come back to voice roles in this sequel. I personally just couldn't get over the fact that the same voice actor who does ?Meowth? on the Pokemon series also does the voice of the infamous ?Leezard Valeth? from Valkyrie Profile (and what a great job he does, I might add).