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Tristan Kalogeropoulos
31 Oct, 2007

Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria Review

PS2 Review | The Valkyries take flight again.
A game’s genre can define your expectations of the experience you’re about to receive; take for instance the JRPG. The ‘J’ in JRPG stands for a great deal more than simply the word Japanese. It may be a single letter, but it carries with it a lot of baggage. Beyond denoting that these Role Playing Games have their birthplace in the land of the rising sun, the character that sounds the acronym's first syllable announces a genre which is steeped in tradition and conventions established early on its lifespan, resulting in it being very different from its Western cousins. Turn based battles, often effeminate heroes and outlandish costumes punctuate the gameplay of the JRPG landscape. So when a title that’s lumped into this category comes around there’s almost always the expectation that it will hold a similar style of play to previous titles. However every now and again a game appears, challenging the boundaries set by those that paved the path it walks upon. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria manages to be one of these games, bringing a refreshing gust to gameplay that has been quickly becoming a ‘stuck in its way’ genre.

The original Valkyrie Profile did the same on the original PlayStation, pushing the JRPG to new levels, and its offspring continues this on the PS2. Drawing its thematic inspiration from the pantheon of Norse mythology, Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria puts you at the centre of a Valkyrie named Silmeria’s quest to reap revenge upon Odin himself for casting her out of the halls of the gods.

There are some great characters in Valkyrie Profile. Some are a little melodramatic, but they’re all sensibly modeled with enough flourish to make you feel as though you are interacting with people from a different time and place. Silmeria is trapped inside the main character Princess Alicia’s body and is able to take control of her, causing a multiple personality-like shift. There’s also Rufus, a roguish archer, some adventurers you pick up as you travel across the land, along with a host of Einherjar (the dead revived for battle by the Valkyrie) who’ll journey alongside your two main characters who inhabit the same body.

Many JRPG’s stick to the tired old battle system of being able to choose between attack, defend, use item or fleeing the fight. Thankfully Valkyrie Profile flips this on its head, re-imagining the way in which these sorts of tasks can be completed and incorporating new ones. In a way it manages to blend action based RPG’s and more turn based affairs.

The morning run is rendered in a manner fit for a princess.

The morning run is rendered in a manner fit for a princess.
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Battles take place over a small 3D area. To truly appreciate the inventiveness and complexity of the combat system you really need to practice with it, skipping tutorials would be foolish. The party is gifted with a certain amount of Action Points. Movement is a fluid process, your characters are able to run freely around the battlefield, but the enemy is also able to move. Party members can reposition as a group or be split off separately in order to outflank opponents. Attacking is similar to that of the original game with each character being assigned one of the four ‘shape’ buttons. Pressing these will trigger the relevant party member to attack, using up some of your action points. Mixing and matching magic, ranged, heavy and light fighters within your party is an important part of the battle strategy.

Where you position your characters for their strikes also makes a difference. For example getting behind some of the more lumbering behemoths in the game will mean that they are unable to attack you until they turn to face your party. Coupled with this, certain parts of enemies will break off when attacked, beginning what the game 'not so creatively' calls ‘Break Mode’, which will trigger an event where button mashing will unleash a flurry of attacks on your foe without causing you to lose any Action Points.

Traveling through environments and exploring dungeons throws up more than just distance as a challenge. One of the skills dispensed upon the player early on is the use of photons, which are used to freeze enemies in a crystalline like structure. Housed briefly in this impenetrable material they will not be able to attack you, meaning it’s a great way to avoid fights. These frozen beasts are often used as means of solving spatial puzzles. A second shot will cause Alicia to swap places with them meaning you can transport to areas unable to be jumped to. They can also be used as temporary platforms to reach high places, all this causing the title’s dungeon exploration to be comparable to 2D platforming.

Sealstones are something that also add a layer of complexity to dungeon exploration. Picked up as you travel through locations, these provide certain modifiers to your party. Only one can be carried at a time and they can be set upon daises in order to affect areas, resulting an extra level of strategy being involved in crawling through enemy infested settings. All of these complexities can take a bit of figuring out, but once you’ve got your head around them the game feels a lot more fleshed out than many of its peers.

Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria's battle system is a complex yet well put together affair.

Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria's battle system is a complex yet well put together affair.
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One of the few issues that we had with the game was the sudden spikes in difficulty. The first few battles are reasonably simple affairs, with enemies that are not too thick-skinned or overly skilled. However there are a couple of times throughout the game when a extremely firm grasp of the battle system is required. This can be overcome by a bit of slightly irritating level grinding, but also by learning some of the more nuanced strategies for tackling your enemies. Thankfully there are plenty of save points scattered throughout the game, especially before the more difficult battles, so if you’re not ready for your foe you won’t be punished by being sent back too far.

The game’s visuals are a sight to behold. Even the sections that are essentially 2D/2.5D sidescrolling affairs offer up some gorgeous environments, complete with lighting that draws you into the game. Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria features little of the ridiculous gaudiness that is often generously smattered about in games of the same genre. Everything fits together to beautifully create a well fleshed out world. Towns, forests, plains and dungeons are all areas that can be traversed, each as beautifully crafted as the last.

The music is also an area that draws you into the game. Atmospheric orchestral arrangements colour each occasion, creating a mood that merges with the game’s visual elements.

Its predecessor was incredibly well received and Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria offers up a similarly fantastic RPG experience, J in front of its genre or not. Holding some great fresh feeling gameplay wrapped up in a beautiful looking and sounding package, the game is definitely recommendable to those craving a new take on a style of game that too often is overly set in its ways.
The Score
Too often RPG's, both Japanese and Western, fall into a rut, offering almost the same experience as those that came before them. Valkyrie Profile 2 instead features some fresh feeling gameplay wrapped up in a beautiful looking and sounding package. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 Comments
6 years ago
Nice write up, enjoyed the game but was a bit too much of grinding in it for me.
6 years ago
W00t! Already bought the game at launch icon_biggrin.gif, pity I don't have the time to play it yet (about 10 other JRPGs are in line before it icon_wink.gif )
6 years ago
just a note that this is part of EBs 2 for $50 sale. ------ Way to rasie a dead thread no.......
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| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  6/09/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  UBI Soft
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2006

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