Jeremy Jastrzab
07 Jun, 2007

Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth Review

PSP Review | Heaven sent.
While everyone loves a gaming bargain, there are a select few that throw themselves at the opposite end of the scale. There are those games out there that you’ll find on eBay for way in excess of the usual recommended retail price. Some are rare, some are considered valuable collectors items and some are actually good games. One of these titles was released in 2000 on the PS1 and with a very limited print from (at the time) Enix. So limited, that it never even made it to PAL shores. This game was Valkyrie Profile. Seven years later, the now combined Square Enix has re-released the game on the PSP, in the form of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth - and for the first time, it’s readily accessible to a PAL audience.

For a game that can be found on eBay for upwards of $US500, surely it would have to be one of the greatest masterpieces of all time? Well, that point might be debatable. However, the game certainly is a unique one, as there really haven’t been many (possibly any) games that approach the RPG genre quite like this one. This is also the kind of game that the “casual” audience would probably not be able to appreciate for its depth and intricacy, where as those hardcore JRPG players and gamers would probably go gaga over it.

Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is really a port of the old PS1 game, rather than a real remake. It tells a rather open and deep story centred on Norse Mythology. Following the opening prologue, you are placed in the shoes of Lenneth, who is a Valkyrie. A Valkyrie is essentially a battle-maiden who takes the role of “Goddess of Death”. That is, she has to escort recently deceased souls to the heavenly realm of Midgard. In this story, Lenneth is being sent to the lower realm of Asgrad to recruit heroic souls, as the “Ragnarok” or the end of world draws near and these souls are there to help fight off the impending doom.

Big lizards with swords... Right...

Big lizards with swords... Right...
That is your overall objective, but the game actually goes much deeper. As you recruit the souls of fallen warriors, you learn much more about those who you recruit, particularly about those warriors who can’t be sent to Midgard and about the world in the game. Every time you recruit, there is a back-story attached to each character. They’re actually quite meaningful and deeply intertwined with the other characters that you recruit. From this, the game does a good job of attaching players emotionally. You really start to get attached and feel for the characters in the game and even Lenneth herself. The recruiting sequences can start to drag later in the game, as you’ve got nothing to do but watch.

The structure in Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is unlike any other that is out there. Basically, there is a time limit, where the game is divided into eight chapters with 24 periods in each. It’s up to you to recruit, explore, train and then transfer recruits within each chapter. At the end of each chapter, you’re given a rating, which will eventually influence what ending you get (out of a possible three). You pass periods every time you enter a town or dungeon or whenever you “scan” the world to know which way to go next. You could stuff around and do whatever you want, as the game will end, regardless. The issue is that unless your characters are properly upgraded, there is no way that you’ll win the final battle.

So as you recruit souls, you then take them with you into battle as you look to “purify” a lot of the dark and evil beings that have infiltrated Asgard. Not only do you train them in strength, but you need to boost their “hero rating” as well, otherwise they can’t be sent over. As strange as this may sound, training characters only to send them away, you’ll get them back towards the end of the game. The battle system in the game is rather unique. Most of it occurs in dungeons that are built like side-scrolling platform levels.

Valkyrie Profile was one of the first games to employ monsters that can be seen on the screen, so that you have the choice whether you want to battle them, as opposed to random encounters. The battle system itself is unique as well - basically, each on the main PSP face buttons controls a character. By pressing that button the character will attack. However, there is also a battle gauge at the bottom that fills as you perform combos. If the gauge hits full you can do a special attack for some fancy effects and whole heap of damage. You can also do things like switch weapons in the middle of the battle and there is actually a need to think about what you’re doing.

Let the numbers fly!

Let the numbers fly!
The dungeons will require a bit of platforming as well. That is, if you want to get all of the items that are to be found in the game and get to the “end” of the dungeons as well. To do this, you have a tool that shoots crystals that can stop some enemies and be used to create makeshift platforms. You can explore towns as well, though there generally won’t be any platforming and while there are some items to discover, there really isn’t that much to do in the towns unless you were sent there specifically.

Apart from the pace and unique traits of the game, what separates Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth from being geared towards casuals is the stat heavy nature, depth, difficulty and the fact that quite a few things aren’t explained that well. The first three we can accept. Unfortunately though, the port is based on the Japanese version of the original game as opposed to the US version, which had some better menu management. As a result, you’ll be doing a lot of flipping back and forth a bit more than you should, but seasoned players should get around this. The worst part is that you’ll sometimes struggle to find what you’re looking for. The depth certainly takes the game to another level and the difficulty is merely what you’d expect from a JRPG. Again, seasoned players are likely to prefer this.

Unless you’ve played the original, there are a few aspects of the game that aren’t explained well and are easy to miss. What’s more, they tend to be crucial aspects of the game, such as the character's hero rating. It could have been something for the developers to reconsider when they were porting this game, as it’s disappointing to see that the game hasn’t really been improved. Still, while the game is likely to be shunned by casuals, the fact is that there is an audience out there for these kinds of endearing experiences. Experienced JRPG players who haven’t taken the expensive plunge will no doubt find a unique experience in Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. However, if you’ve played the original, you really won’t find anything new here or a real reason to go again.

While the game was released in 2000, back when 3-D graphics were coming off the PS1/N64 generation, and starting to actually look good, Valkyrie Profile instead opted for a primarily 2-D look and it comes off very nicely. While very anime inspired, the game manages to hold its own with a very sharp and characteristic look. The characters are all very well animated and the backgrounds are beautifully hand drawn. The graphics manage to convey the sombre mood that the story looks to achieve. The main difference is that the original game had anime cut-scenes and now these have been replaced with some well-directed CG scenes. However, the conversion to the PSP hasn’t been faultless, as the game doesn’t run as smooth as it could (or should) and the 3-D overworld really looks aged. It ran better in 2000.

Lenneth never looked so good.

Lenneth never looked so good.
In terms of sound, despite being seven years old, the music in the game is still phenomenal. It manages to convey the mood of the game perfectly in each instance, while taking the player into the emotions of the game. In battle, the music is more upbeat, but still manages to retain a sense of sombre emotion. There are a couple of tracks that are hauntingly confronting, as you’ll feel yourself being dragged into this world that is nearing its end. Good music is not affected by age, but the sound effects do have a distinct 16-bit feel about them. The dialogue in the game is quite reasonable and the voicing overall is good, though there are a few that borderline on being weenie and implausible.

With the surge in popularity of casual games, it’s good to see that there are still some games for the hardcore. Yes, its true that Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is not one for the casuals, but given that it’s a great and unique experience, that shouldn’t detract from it either. It would’ve been nice for a bit of clean-up after seven years and listening to a few of the characters rants can drag, but there aren’t many games out there that manage to put in such a confronting premise and manage to pull off a good mix of JRPG conventions and unique traits - not to mention, Norse mythology makes for something that a lot of people can relate to. For those willing to go out, learn and put up with the game, a highly rewarding experience awaits. Overall, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is a great RPG for the PSP that manages to be just as good now, as it was back in its day. And now it's readily available to PAL gamers and at a reasonable price.
The Score
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth provides two things for the PSP that have been largely missing: a great RPG and a unique gaming experience. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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6 years ago
Looks good and ive always wanted to play it. I shall obtain it and have something else more lengthy for the good, and underused, PSP.

any word on price? standard $80 affair?
6 years ago
I believe it's $69.95 RRP although I remember seeing a few places had it on special for $45.
6 years ago
Chrono trigger had vsisible monsters way befoe this.

Err....sorry for starting on a negative foot.It does look very good though, the ps1 was perfect for top quality 2d gfx.
6 years ago
this was a good review for a good addition to the psp, its not alot of games that i enjoy for the sheer CG scenes.
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