The original Valkyrie Profile was, for a time, the poster child for good, rare, and probably overpriced PSX RPGs. In a surprising move a few years ago, Square Enix announced (to the joy of JRPG fans) not only a sequel, but a remake of the original. At the time I was interested, but had played through the original a couple of years earlier – not so long that I would want to replay it, but long enough that I had forgotten all the subplot related to the principal character of the sequel – the Valkyrie Silmeria. Not that there is a whole lot of it or anything, but it was important to me at the time. Despite the fact it is a prequel I’m glad I waited until I replayed the original – although it isn’t necessary, it clarifies much of the ending.
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is, as its name implies, a game that deals heavily with Norse mythology. In Silmeria, you play a valkyrie on the run from the gods – having been brought into existence by mistake. This valkyrie is also an incredibly timid princess – sort of – as two personalities inhabit the same body. You spend a lot of the time figuring how best to escape Odin’s wrath, and as you progress find ways to get revenge upon him for the wrongs he has done you. Meanwhile you assemble a motley crew consisting partly of long-dead heroes and partly of humans who sympathize with your goals.
In a stunningly innovative feature, Valkyrie Profile 2 allows you to talk to people and animals who have no relevance to the game whatsoever.
In comparison to the first game, since retitled Lenneth, Silmeria may seem a little bit boring. In the original, you are performing a valkyrie’s duty – culling the greatest warrior souls from humanity in an effort to win the battles of Ragnarok for the gods. Compared to Ragnarok, a rogue half-valkyrie running loose on Midgard just doesn’t sound that exciting. Silmeria starts off with more excitement, however, while Lenneth is fairly bland for the first 10 hours or so. The “Einherjar” system of the first game is reflected in its sequel, though it’s not quite as interesting.
Pacing is amongst Silmeria’s unfortunate flaws. While there is a good deal of plot in the beginning, you spend at least 10 hours hunting the same item all over the world with no other story to speak of. While there is build-up towards a couple of eventual plot twists, they’re incredibly obvious and telegraphed so far ahead of time that it becomes ridiculous. A suggestion for Tri-Ace: whenever the party has a conversation, don’t pan in on a random character’s scowling face at the end for no good reason. Particularly when it’s the same character every time. Makes things a little too obvious.
Where Silmeria does beat Lenneth is the battle system. It takes the original system – a fast paced timing-based affair with rewards for combo attacks – and straps a location-based battle area on top of it. It makes things much more interesting and involves considerably more planning without bogging things down much. It is not without its flaws: certain enemies can summon more of their kind at seemingly any time, and the new arrival can immediately act. You might see a wolf call for a wolf, which calls for another, which bites you in the face. This seems a little unfair in a game where your party could potentially die in four or five hits, although it was only a major problem for me once. Most of the time, it is a fun and reasonably quick system which rewards strategy.
Blue, though perhaps not as blue as Persona 3.
One tragic flaw of JRPGs and, perhaps, video games in general, is that they are not tragic enough. So many of the most famous classic books – Dickens, much of Shakespeare, Hemingway, et cetera – are sad if not downright depressing. I’m not sure why, but very few games – even amongst the JRPG genre which you’d think would put effort into making good stories – have followed similar routes. Instead, you usually have a party of youngsters who save the world, plant a blanket of flowers in their wake, and live happily ever after. I can think of only a few JRPGs which even feature a sacrifice to defeat the final enemy, much less any that end with a heartbreaking fate for the entire party. Silmeria is among the better games in this regard, but it spends a good hour twisting the plot around near the ending. As a result, you spend a hell of a lot more time wondering why anyone thought the final plot twist was a good idea than you do noticing that the ending is depressing.
Despite the bizarre plot twists at the end, Silmeria is a solid RPG – with a reasonably involved storyline and a bit of the “divine tragedy” flavor to it. It has a couple of minor annoyances, but they don’t get in the way of what is otherwise a good experience. Silmeria is yet another decent PS2 RPG – while it may not be a particular standout, it has an enjoyable story and a pretty fun battle system.