“For those who have embraced the arms of death! Now, get ready for a true fight!” -Lenneth Valkyrie
IGN’s Rating: 9.1/10
In this game, everybody dies… but don’t worry, that’s kind of the point. In Valkyrie Profile, you play as Lenneth, a valkyrie instructed to gather the souls of warriors (otherwise known as Einherjar) and bring them back to Odin so they may assist him in fighting a war against the Vanir (yes, this game is heavily influenced by Norse mythology). To put it simply, you get to see the backstory behind various worthy warriors and then wait for them to die so you may send them to Valhalla to fight your war.
IGN wasn’t kidding when they rated this a 9.1 out of 10. This game is phenomenal. There are 24 playable characters (some of which you can’t attain unless you’re in hard mode) and once you have their souls in your possession, you are given the option to either send them to Valhalla to fight while you continue to search for more, or keep them in your party to fight alongsideyou. Here’s a little piece of advice: make sure the character is a decent level before sending them up to your boss, because at the end of every section, you are given a progress report on the warrior you sent up. If they are too under-leveled when you send them, they might get slain in battle; and then you’re in trouble. The progress report not only informs you how the character is doing, but how the war in general is going. The amount of properly-trained warriors you give to Odin greatly affects the outcome of the war, which in turn will affect how your game might end, so make your decisions wisely.
The battle system falls under the category of turn-based, but it’s a new-and-improved badass version. Basically, when it’s your turn, your entire party attacks simultaneously to create some crazy combo attacks that render your enemy helpless. Enemies are kind enough to refrain from combining attacks themselves, which makes it all the more fun to sit back and watch as your party takes no prisoners. As a bonus, characters also get special attacks when they fill the Hit Gauge, and the fun just continues.
The one and only aspect of this game that I do not like is the process it takes to find the next Einherjar. You aren’t exactly given a step-by-step guide on where to go, which makes a strategy guide almost necessary. Eventually, you get the hang of things and make your way around just fine, but there is a time limit you have to be aware of. If you have absolutely no clue where to go next and choose to level up an absurd amount to pass the time, there is the possibility you could miss out on recruiting many warriors, which, in turn, has the potential to frustrate you to no end. But, like I said, if you spend a decent amount of time familiarizing yourself with the gameplay, you won’t have too many issues. Just divide your time between grinding and advancing the plot wisely, for almost everything you do will draw you closer to the final battle, and you don’t want to get there too soon.
When it comes to the plotline itself, Valkyrie Profile doesn’t disappoint. Despite the fact that you are fully aware everyone you run into is probably going to die, the events always unfold in such a way that the situation leading up to the death practically moves you to tears. The personalities given to each character are so finely-tuned that you can’t help but feel sympathy for the poor souls when they do die. This game has a way of pulling at your heartstrings, but that’s not to say there aren’t hilarious moments of dialogue. Whenever you send your warriors to Valhalla and are given your progress report, the goddess Freya is the one telling you how everything is going; and almost everything she says is hilarious.
The voice acting varies between absolutely brilliant and borderline ridiculous, but in this case, I don’t mind. Usually, if the voice acting doesn’t cut it for me, I’ll just mute the dialogue altogether. This is probably the only game where the story is able to draw me in to the point where I don’t even care if the acting is bad; the only thing I’m focusing on is what’s about to happen next.
The soundtrack is fitting for every situation, but nothing is quite catchy enough to get stuck inside your head. I have seen people rave about how amazing the music in this game is, but for me, the music was overshadowed by the aesthetics. The scenery is easy to marvel at but never too distracting, the character sprites are incredibly diverse in both battles and everyday situations, and the close-up expressions of every character are (dare I say?) perfect. I can’t decide whether it’s the character designs that I am in love with, or the way their facial expressions so accurately define the emotion they are trying to portray.
Either way, it is hard to deny Valkyrie Profile the praise it so rightfully deserves for being able to convey so much with so little.
I could go on and on about how much I want you to play this game, but I think I’ve said enough for now. Even if you don’t care much for RPGs, you should try it out just to see how well they tell the story of Norse mythology — that alone was compelling enough for me to pick it up the first time. There were a few other Valkyrie Profile games released in later years, but take it from me, none of them hold a candle to this beauty.
Pick this game up (insert link here), don your Valkyrie armor, and go collect some souls!