Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria - PS2 Review
Valkyrie Profile 2 is the prequel (set over a century before) to Square-Enixís cult classic title on the original Playstation One (which was later ported to the PSP), surprisingly enough, Valkyrie Profile. As a gamer, Square-Enix are a company your likely to have only not heard of if you were a squirrel, living in a small spacecraft that has been launched to another galaxy, many years ago, then swallowed up by fictional beast and transported to a separate plain of existence. Or maybe youíve been living under a rock your entire life. Either way, if you havenít heard of them, there's no hope for you. Unless you drop everything youíre doing and go buy this game now. Hell, even if you have heard of them, we still insist you go buy it now. But if you need more justification, read on.
|Now that's a nice interior.|
Basically, Valkyrie Profile 2 is the game that you get when a Japanese traditional RPG company decides to go out on a limb, completely change up the turn-based nature they are used to, and base it on Viking folklore. Silmeria is a Valkyrie, whose soul has become trapped inside the body of Princess Alicia. So rather than playing one main character, there are two, though they play as a singular character. We learn early on that they are making efforts to take on Odin (the Viking god of everything) for one reason or another, but in order to do that, they need to return to Aliciaís homeland (who believe her to be dead) and prepare the armies for war on the gods. To make matters worse, Odin has sent his most powerful Valkyrie, Hrist, to take them out and put an end to it. Luckily, Alicia and Silmeria find a Jack Sparrow wannabe early on who agrees to help them out. Between him, and the spirits of dead warriors that Silmeria can summon, maybe they have a chance. I donít really want to go into the story too much more because, frankly, this game deserves to be played, not talked about. So letís move on to the actual gameplay.
|Yet another varied location.|
Taking a very different approach to most normal Jap-RPGs, the actual main part of game (exploring, character interactions, etc.) is played on a 2D side-scrolling screen, while combat is played in a full 3D environment. It sounds weird, and it certainly is a nice twist, but honestly, I think it works better than most other games. As I mentioned earlier, Square-Enix have done away with the traditional turn-based RPG battle system here. Having never played either incarnations of the original Valkyrie Profile game, I canít say if it carries on exactly from there, but I can say it is hands-down one of the best RPG systems Iíve ever played outside of full real-time combat. Somewhere between Disgaea-type strategy RPG and traditional turn-based, itís fairly hard to explain... but here I go.
Upon running into an enemy, the battle screen will load up in the 3D arena. Depending on how you approached the enemies will alter who is facing what direction, etc. when the battle starts. There is a yellow bar that represents Action Points (AP) that govern how many attacks you can do in a certain time. You move your party around, either as a whole, as individual characters, or as smaller groups of characters (up to four characters can participate in battles) and position them around the enemies. When you have them as you want, you attack, by pressing either the X, O, Square or Triangle buttons as desired. Each button is assigned to an attack for each character. But itís not that easy, as enemies can also attack you while you are positioning your troops. Itís about as close as weíve ever seen to a perfect mix of real-time and turn-based combat and there was never a point in this game where we wanted to avoid battles. It really does promote thinking ahead, but also thinking reasonably quickly.
|In the heat of battle.|
Once you have completed the battle, the game will return to its 2D portion and you are free to continue exploring. Another great thing is that there are no random encounters in this game. You see all your enemies before attacking them, and can avoid them and even freeze them temporarily on the 2D screen to get away from them if you are low on health. Likewise, in the games many 2D platforming sections, you will often have to freeze enemies, or their remnants (left after defeating them) in order to reach particular platforms. Thatís right... 2D side scrolling platforming action in a RPG!
There are of course all the usual gameplay devices present in RPG titles, such as chests, townships, stores, and so on. Valkyrie Profile 2 basically has the best of everything and very few of the problems. However, there are some issues that hurt the game a little. In particular, we found that the difficulty of the game would often jump all of a sudden, leading to some fairly frustrating sections of the game. Beyond that, the story can become a bit disjointed from the game at times, but itís never for very long. If youíre willing to put yourself up for a challenge, thereís not much wrong with this release.
|Graphics are extremely impressive.|
Graphically, and I know we keep saying it with each further PS2 release; itís hard to believe this is running on the old-gen hardware! Granted, coming down from PS3 to Valkyrie Profile 2 was a bit of a reality check, but after the initial shock, this game truly is beautiful. At every point of the game I found myself admiring the visuals and the CG is, as always, Square-Enixís speciality. Character models look amazing and the animation is up there with the very best on the console. Added support for widescreen and progressive scan makes this a truly beautiful PS2 release.
Unfortunately, while all elements of the sound are recorded at first-rate quality, it seems we are unlikely to get a RPG with English audio that actually fits the characters and I was unable to find an option to change to Japanese with subtitles. Some characters, such as Silmeria and, to a lesser extent, Alicia, seem fine, but other characters simply seem out of place. Itís not a massive issue but it does hurt the immersive factor of the game. However, the music is some of the best dungeon-crawling stuff weíve heard in years!
|Naturally we have English text!|
No real RPG fan should be without this title. Valkyrie Profile 2 shows why the PS2 is still worth firing up. Beautiful visuals, great sound (excluding the voice), innovative gameplay, and just amazing fun. There is no reason for anyone to not at least hire this game, if not run out right now and purchase it. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is the best RPG experience Iíve had in quite some time and I can only dream of a next-gen version somewhere down the line!
Review By: Michael Hutchesson
Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
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|GRAPHICS||Thereís life in the old PS2 yet. In one word: Beautiful.||95%|
|SOUND||Excellent quality, great music, but some questionable voice acting.||83%|
|GAMEPLAY||This is one of those games that shouldnít be allowed in the hands of people with addictive personalities... but if you have enough will power to eat during amazing experiences, then do yourself a favour and get it.||92%|
|VALUE||The usual lengthy RPG with a very deep combat system. Not much incentive to replay though.||84%|
|OVERALL||One of the best RPGs to hit PS2. Donít miss this one! ||89%|