Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
Valkyrie Profile was a major cult classic. It had a unique blend of gameplay, a decent story and one of the best combat systems ever seen in an RPG. However, it was a royal pain in the ass to find copies of, commanding prices in the low to mid $100 range on Ebay at points for sealed editions. The re-release for the PSP added a bit to the game but made it more accessible. More importantly, though, it put the franchise in the minds of RPGers once more. That was a major step because Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria was on the horizon.
Valkyrie Profile 2 is more of a prequel to the original than a true sequel. Thereíll still be some familiar characters in the game Ė Arngrim is still a sword-wielding badass of a warrior while Lezard Valeth also makes a return as a powerful mage. Youíll also be reintroduced to some familiar areas from the first game. Youíll get to see Dipan before its fall and meet King Barbarossa among many other cities that were around in the first game.
That doesnít mean there is a lack of new stuff in Valkyrie Profile 2, however. One of the most drastic changes this time around is the combat system. In the first game, you didnít really move your characters around during battle. Each character had anywhere from 1-3 attacks and you used the face buttons to determine just who got to attack. Hitting enemies while in the air netted experience crystals while grounded enemies netted purple crystals that refreshed your CP gauge.
This time around, there are still blue experience crystals and purple crystals, but they donít quite do the same thing. Thatís because each characters ability to or not to attack is determined by an AP gauge. Youíll start off most battles with 100 AP (the only difference being when you are surprised by an enemy and start with 0) and each attack will cost a varying amount of AP. Each character has a wide variety of attacks to choose from with a ton of different effects Ė managing your AP during battle is vitally important. If you donít spend all of the AP, you can attack again immediately after if the enemy isnít ready to swing back.
Weapons also behave differently in Valkyrie Profile 2. While they will still determine if you can swing anywhere from 1-3 times during a combat turn, they also have one more important factor this time around. Some weapons will allow you to perform a special attack when you get the special gauge to 100. That weapon, however, may be weaker than another one that doesnít allow special attacks. It also may allow you to only swing once or twice during battle, making the building of the special attack gauge harder. Each of the selectable attacks also has an amount of points it will add to the special gauge when you hit. As if the system didnít already seem complicated enough, some attacks swing high while others may swing low Ė they may not hit a flying enemy or one that is really small. In other words, effectively organizing and determining your characters attacks before battle is vital.
Something else thatíll need to be planned as you play are the sealstones. See, the World Tree, Yggdrasil, crystallizes energy or some such and creates sealstones. When carrying these, theyíll have some sort of effect on your party, be it positive or negative. Where the fun really comes in, though, is in putting these on pedestals in dungeons. See, you can use these pedestals to pass a sealstoneís effect to all the enemies in a dungeon. You can only carry one at a time though Ė setting up positive ones in your inventory and negative ones on a pedastal is vital to optimizing your success. Youíll also eventually be able to pass these stones through dungeons via springs, but it will cost you blue magic crystals to make a stone retrievable anywhere in the world. Thisíll probably be most used when you want to powerlevel (which was also made easier by enemies that respawn when you leave and return to the screen). Sealstones, overall, made for an interesting addition to an already deceptively deep combat system.
Another major difference is the way youíll build your party. This time around, youíll have some human characters in your party and the Einherjar will compose the rest. Instead of flying around and collecting party members as you did in the first game, though, youíll find weapons scattered around the world that allow you to materialize Einherjar that are already ďinsideĒ you. You arenít out to release them for some sort of pre-Ragnarok or anything, either. Instead, youíll free them from their service at a certain level and turn them back into humans. In exchange for this, theyíll give you some nice stuff Ė weapons, armor or other items thatíll be useful on your quest. You can go and check up on them as they go about their lives, too.
The problem with all of this is that you donít feel the same attachment to characters as you did in the first game. Sure, there is some story available if you go and read some text on the characterís status page. The first game, though, made each of the characters feel much more important and alive Ė you got a nice story each time you went to get a new character and got to know them a bit. It may just be that Iím used to the way it was done the first time around, but I liked part 1ís character introduction better.
Where Valkyrie Profile 2 does succeed in the story department, however, is in the area of telling a story outside of the times when you meat the characters. While itíll feel like a typical RPG story throughout, that isnít necessarily a bad thing. The voice acting is well done and each of the characters are unique, fun and interesting. While you donít get to know them when you first meet them, you do get to know them through their dialog and in-game interaction. As I mentioned once already, it could just be that Iím used to the old way Ė in the end, it is only a minor nitpick that doesnít really hurt the overall story.
One thing, though, caused me to feel a wide array of emotions while playing the game Ė the movement system while in combat. In the original game, your characters were stationary. You didnít have to move around and things were pseudo turn based Ė your party took their turn then your enemies took a turn. It worked well with the combat system and gave you a bit of time to plan out your attack. This time around, the battlefield is generally wide open. Youíll run around it and regain AP for your attacks and try to stay out of an enemyís attack area (signified by a red grid of varying shapes and sizes). Your characters each have circles of varying width to determine their attack radius.
Once you are close enough to an enemy, hitting one of the face buttons will initiate an attack for the character that the button is assigned to. You can then continue to attack until your characters have used the maximum number of attacks per round or you run out of AP. If you have the capability, you can use a special attack if the special gauge reached 100 during the round. This all seems nice on the outside and sounds fun.
And it is, at least when you are fighting in a somewhat wide open area or have only a couple of enemies in the combat. However, if there are more than just a few enemies or youíre in a narrow hallway, the movement system that encourages dashing through weaker monstersí attack areas to avoid attack and get to the leader to take him falls apart. It is entirely too easy to get stuck while dashing around on either a weaker enemy or a wall. Thisíll either split up your party or spend entirely too much of your AP, giving the enemies a chance to attack you a few times. This alone made me want to break a controller Ė it annoyed me more than a few times. Iíve learned to work with it, though. It still really aggravates me, but it doesnít get in the way of my enjoyment anymore.
One area where Valkyrie Profile 2 really shines, though, is in the graphical department. Most would expect a late-gen game on a system to look excellent Ė Silmeria, however, looks more like a next-generation game than a late current-gen one. The graphics truly are out of the world here and make for a fun experience. The music is also pretty nice, but isnít extraordinary. It doesnít get in the way, though, and does have a few catchy tunes.
Overall, Iíve got mixed feelings about this game. While the story is presented in a different fashion this time around and is enjoyable, those used to the old way may end up not being happy with the new one. The revamps to the combat system can be both frustrating and enthralling. The graphics are the only area that is an undeniable success Ė they truly contribute to the feel of a live world.
I still can highly recommend this game to any RPG fan, though Ė after getting used to it, the combat system will be fun (though frustrating at times) and the game will provide an overall rewarding experience. I canít help but think that tri-ace messed with the formula a bit too much, though. Had they left the combat system alone, mostly, they would have had a surefire hit on their hands.