By Sarumarine 4 Comments
Past expiration is my little term for talking about a game way past its prime. In this case, we're going to talk about an RPG involving Norse Mythology that came out in 2006 on the PS2. Topical!
It's also one of the most complicated RPGs I've ever played. What this means to you may vary, but when people are beating this game at level 40 and I'm barely scraping by at,level 86, clearly something has gone wrong.
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (Complicated RPG Action starring Norse Mythology: The Game)By the time I heard about the original Valkyrie Profile for the Playstation, it was already an obscure hard-to-find game. Which is a shame because I liked the character design and the straight faced take on Norse legend involving Valkyries, fallen warriors, and the Ragnarok. The best I could do back in the day was get my hands on the sequel Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (used, of course, with no instruction booklet). It's an odd little game. And by odd, I mean completely bewildering sometimes. This has nothing to do with the story which is easy enough to follow, but more with the leveling up system and how you control battles. I can see why this game series is never at the forefront of RPG discussions. You really have to "get" this game or at the least be really into it. If someone was casually jumping into the pool of Valkyrie Profile head first- dude, the water is freezing. The concept sounds simple enough but once you get rolling this game does not let up.
Action, Adventure, GodsThe simplest part of this game? The story. You play as a princess named Alicia of an island bound kingdom named Dipan. They have some serious beef with the gods (that means the big boss of all creation, Odin) and are planning to start a war. Complicating matters is that Alicia contains the soul of Silmeria Valkyrie, one of Odin's battle maidens that collects fallen warriors for the Ragnarok. But she wants to help the mortals win because she's tired of Odin's dismissive attitude of humans and doesn't want to work for him anymore. You go on a grand adventure (meeting other characters on the way) in the pursuit of something called the Dragon Orb that can really screw over reality and disrupt the balance of power. And this is all well and good until the last quarter of the game where things go off the deep end. Until this point you could say that Valkyrie Profile 2 had gone the way of final fantasy including similar characters, similar worlds, and different stories. But nope, shit gets crazy and let's just spoil it, this game becomes a prequel and a sequel to Valkyrie Profile in a single bound.
| Mostly due in part to Lezard Valeth. He's this game's creepy raper guy who has one mean obsession for Lenneth Valkyrie (the main character of the first game). He's willing to screw over reality, the gods, time, space, and the game's plot just so he can screw her. Of course, you don't really know about this until the end. He's good at acting nice until things go his way.|
Good thing he's got some great voice acting to sell it. And one creepy laugh.
Oh, and you get to kill him. It's extremely hard to pull off, but great.
Level Grinding Can't Save You NowThe meat and potatoes of combat in Valkyrie Profile 2 involves a weird (but fun) system. This is an RPG, so you have plenty of stats, exp, and money to go around. But when it's time to cut stuff up... well... how can I explain this? Basically, you can have a party of four. Each member of your party is mapped to a different button on the PS2 controller. When you press the Circle, Square, Triangle, and X buttons that person will attack. The idea is to string together combos with your party of four jumping in at the right moment to stab, shoot, or cast magic. There are launchers, spikes and other tricks so it's entirely possible to flip an enemy into the air and have 3/4ths of your team completely whiff their attacks. Button mashing will get you nowhere. You really have to wait, coordinate your team, and have everyone attack when the enemy is in the right position.
The first game was turn based, but VP2 adds a little action gauge flavor. It's a 3D battlefield where you can move around and maneuver behind enemies and all that stuff. It's kind of like real time, except enemies only move when you move. The speed of the fight is entirely up to you. The map also shows helpful red zones to let you know the range of enemy attacks. There's a dash move to get around quickly and evade. How many times you can dash, use items, and attack depends on the action gauge I mentioned earlier. You only get that gauge back if enemies attack you, or you move around enough to charge it up. Remember, enemies move when you move so it's hard to get around without something targeting you.
Just in case this isn't making sense, check this video out for a visual demonstration.
Most battles can be won by finding the enemy leader and cutting him down. That's right. You really only need to kill a specific enemy to end the fight and the rest will run away. But as you attack, you can cut off limbs and body parts that sometimes become items. These items can be sold to shop keepers to unlock new equipment. But not every attack or victory will break off items. Sometimes you have to get lucky. And if you're one of those people who like to 100% games... God have mercy on your soul, dude. So, it's kind of a trade off of finishing a battle quick or hacking enemies to pieces hoping for items.
Wait, it Gets Trickier!Dungeons also have another system just in case you were getting a handle on things. There are these things called Sealstones that modify combat by slapping another rule set on top of the battle system. Rules like "No Blocking" or "Always Surprise Enemies" or "All Attacks are Fire Based" and stat based rules like "120% Attack Boost", "150% Magic Resist" etc. You can find most of these on podiums that broadcast these curve balls into the surrounding area. You can always grab them to remove the effect (like if you were sick of enemies always getting the drop on you) but you can't take them to other dungeons unless you cough up a crystal fee. Crystals are gained after killing enemies and they accumulate painfully slow. The "Turn Attacks into Fire" orb sounds like it could be useful, but if you want to take it to other dungeons you need a whopping 20000 crystals. After 10 hours through the game, you know how many crystals I had? 2000. Yeah. Fuck that.
The systems in this game are dense. Throughout the whole time I always had a feeling like I was missing something. There are boss battles where it was so one sided I thought I was supposed to lose. Then, after my party is quickly wiped out, I get the Game Over screen and realize "Holy Shit! I was supposed to win that one!" After the tutorial dungeon, this game starts kicking you in the ass hard. I haven't even mentioned the whole releasing warriors souls. You often find weapons that you can turn into party members (because of the whole Valkyrie leading the dead thing.) When these characters are a certain level, you can "release" them into the afterlife and they give you some cool items... usually. So you can wage that decision war whether or not you want cool items, or a party member to fight for you. And this is entirely your decision. The game never drops hints or tells you when you should pull this off. The possibilities to fuck up your game is endless. Endless.
I *AM* the World's Worst Valkyrie Profile 2 PlayerThe end result of this is the massive mountain I had to climb to beat this game. My party was about level 86 or so at the final boss. Getting through this game was like pulling teeth. And to make it worse, after I beat the game, I looked up some information and apparently you can finish the game at level 40. The super hard bonus dungeon that appears at the end of the game? Level 50. I don't understand it myself. I can't even get into the bonus dungeon because of the skill check boss at the entrance. And it sounds especially pitiful after hearing that some people beat this game with only one character through the entire game. One character!
Even still, this game was fun when I wasn't doing 7 damage to a boss with 10,000 HP. I wish I could have gotten the mechanics down better so fights weren't quite as headache inducing. Special attacks are pretty cool though. It also helps that the Norse angle pushes this game away from standard fantasy stories I have a lot of trouble getting into.
If anyone else has played this game I'd love to hear what you think of it. Tell me what you did. Maybe I'll find out where I went wrong. I don't know, maybe this game is just hard. Either way, it's tough to find a combat system like this anywhere else.