Sunday, October 14, 2007

Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria review

Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria takes place hundreds of years before the events of Valkyrie Profile, originally released on the PlayStation (but recently remade for the PSP as Lenneth - so make sure you pick that version up). It is based on the events surrounding Silmeria, one of the three Valkyrie sisters, banished by Odin because of her disloyalty to Midgard only to be reincarnated in the body of Alicia, the Princess of Dipan. Alicia exists two souls, herself and the awakened soul of an exiled Valkyrie Silmeria. When words reached Odin of the reawakening he immediately dispatch the Valkyrie Hrist to capture her back to Valhalla. As you will have no doubt guessed, Silmeria is based on Norse mythology, a popular source of material for many Japanese RPG developers.

The gameplay is divided into two sections, exploration and combat. The exploration bit is unique because while the world is rendered in polygons, the gameplay is essentially a 2D side-stroller which evokes the sensibility of the first game. 2.5D may initially feel restrictive as the lack of freedom can be frustrating, but in Simeria, the decision to reintroduce 2D plane into a RPG title happens to introduce platforming puzzles into it. Which is certainly unique for a RPG title.

Similar to the original Valkyrie Profile, there are no random battles in Silmeria. When the party dungeon crawls, all enemies are visible similar to what we had in Final Fantasy XII and many recent jRPGs like Rogue Galaxy and Digital Devil Saga 2. Alicia has a power known as Photons which has the ability to temporarily freeze an enemy. This can be used to the party's advantage by switching places with the frozen object by performing another Photon on it. This allows the player a wide variety of platforming strategies as they progress through tall dungeons.

The battle system is complex and utterly enjoyable (though it may be off putting to newcomers), and unlike exploration occurs in 3-dimensional, allowing a wide array of strategy to be employed. The four face buttons on the PS2 controller controls each party member's action with up to four in a party at a single time. Button mashing works but planning ahead with combats will yield bonuses and combo attacks. A must if you desire impressive attack forms. During an initiated battle 100 Attack Points will be given. This gives the player a tactical advantage as the AP can be used for a large variety of tactical gameplay such as casting spells or attacking from the back or side.

This is one of the most unique titles to have appeared from Square-Enix's label for quite a while, which isn't surprising considering the developer tri-Ace, the makers behind Star Ocean and Radiata Stories. The EU port seems to be pretty good too though I have no NTSC copy to compare it to but there are no visible squish around and frame rates are decent. It is easily one of the most beautiful games to have ever graced the PlayStation 2 format, a testaments to the console's staying power. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is a solid action RPG with gorgeous visuals, fantastic gameplay and exciting storyline which any jRPG fans should no miss.


Euro PS2 owners should purchase the game here. NTSC owners can import it from Play-Asia.

Update: A review of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, a faithful port to the original VP PS1 classic has just been posted.

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