System: Playstation Portable
Title: Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
Publisher: Square Enix
Circa: 2007

Intro:
This game is one of the rare sleeper hits that saw a re-release onto a new console. While it stayed with its original style, the control scheme had to endure only minor changes. It seems though to remain almost an eternally obscure game though. Most hear about it through word of mouth and fewer still have the chance to play it.

Story:
You play as the Valkyrie Lenneth, chosen by the All-Father Odin to select worthy human souls to become Einherjar, mortals chosen to aid the Gods in their struggles against the Vanir and to fight in Ragnorok. Lenneth is to use the time before Ragnorok to find, recruit and train Einherjar to be sent to Valhalla. Using her unique abilities, she tracks down numerous souls and offers them the chance to join her side. Some perhaps hold secrets about even her own mysterious past. Much of what one learns about the characters comes from the cutscenes that lead to their death. There are a total of 3 endings to this game, each having a different take on events.

Gameplay:
How this game handles is fairly unique. You are given a set amount of "periods", each breaking down into 8 chapters, which end with the coming of Ragnorok. You have freedom to fly around the map, travelling to various locations that are revealed by "listening" for the sounds of dying souls or the undead. Each visit uses a number of periods, listed under the name of the location. While the world itself has only a few hidden locations, best visited later in the game, and does not allow much exploration, the dungeons' complexity more than compensates for this.

Each chapter you are given particular things to look for in a person to send to Valhalla. The idea is to find the people with these skills, train them up (leveling and giving them the skills needed) and then transfer them to Valhalla. Based on how you do on meeting these objectives you will be rewarded at the end of each chapter. This is tracked through Lenneth’s evaluation rating. There are other things you can do to increase it, like sending artifacts to Valhalla, but you can also decrease it, by keeping the artifacts.

Each dungeon is a unique instance, ending with a boss fight. Learning to navigate takes some time, but liberal use of the map makes it a bit easier to navigate each and find your way around. This map is also very useful to find unexplored passages and areas. Treasure is also scattered throughout, making scouring the dungeons and winning battles a worth-while venture.

Battle is a very different affair. This game will actually tell you when you go into overkill (and, in ways, encourage it). As each character attacks, the gauge in the bottom left will fill. If you manage to combo everything right and hit 100, then you can use their final attacks. These are very powerful, but again, sequence is everything. The more attacks you manage in this sequence, the more powerful they get. The last thing of vital note on the subject of battle is keeping Lenneth alive. She is what allows the rest of the party to stay material. If she dies, you have 3 turns to revive her before the rest of the party dematerializes.

The last things to note about the game would be the currency, personality traits and skill system. Valkyrie Profile has no traditional currency. Instead, you can divine and transmute items from the party menu. This is how you will get most of your items and it will allow you, if you can find the right things, to transmute the most powerful weapons in the game. This will cost materialization points, which are given to you at the start of each chapter and from dematerializing weapons, armor and artifacts you find. The second part, personality traits and skills, are how you improve your characters at level up and meeting the requirements for the Einherjar. Each time the character levels up they gain a certain amount of CP (Capacity Points) which can be used to increase their skills and personality traits. The skills improve the character’s statistics and add new abilities they can use. CP can also be used on personality traits. These improve the Hero rating of the character, which is sometimes part of the requirements in the chapter. All these have a “Needed CP” listed next to them. As long as you have the points, you can improve anything about the character. Just remember to use the “Set Up” as well to equip abilities that you have taught to the characters.

Multiplayer:
None.

Controls:
The game needs to be looked at from a few perspectives to really understand the controls. There is the Overworld, the Profile View and Battle System.

The Overworld is fairly simple. You can call up a map to help navigate to particular locations using Select. There are times this greatly helps in finding some of the slightly more out-of-the-way locations you can travel to. You use Circle to fly forward and can look around with the D-pad. Start is used to “search”, revealing the locations of various characters to recruit and dungeons to explore.

The Profile View is used to navigate the towns and dungeons. The controls vary a little, only in regards to Lenneth posing as a human or wearing her armor. When she is in her armor you have your sword, which can be used to gain the initiative in battles, your Ice Crystals, which can be used to scale walls, Jump and Slide (by ducking then hitting jump). As a human, it is just moving and jumping.

Battle is very different from most games here. Each member of your party is assigned a button and, based on their equipped weapon, they can attack a set number of times. If you manage to get the combo gauge to 100, then you can use your final attacks. Again, the idea is to reach 100 to keep it going.

Graphics:
Even now, the graphics are very well done. This is just one element of the game that was very well done. Most of the characters look very good in the CGI animation sequences as well. The battle graphics are still impressive, especially when you are using their final attacks.

Sound Effects & Music:
The voice acting is quite well done. When the characters do talk, they have something to say that adds to the story. More often than not, having the volume up to listen to the game will be a treat. The music in the game is also very distinct. It is very easy to recognize and there is enough that you usually will not get tired of it.

Obscurity:
This game has not really received much recognition. This was a sleeper hit back when it originally came out and has remained as such throughout the years.

Summary/Author’s Take:
I will admit this is a game I came across by chance because of an old room-mate of mine. I had heard a little about it and that it was a good game to play. I started up on the PS1 but had to let it go because the semester came to an end and we had to part ways. It was not until I got it on the PSP that I was able to finish the game properly. It proved to have a very compelling story and, while very dark in ways, it is a moving game about the potential of things. This is a game with decent replay value, even if to just try the different difficulty levels, and see what results.

Story: 92%                Preparing for Ragnorok, uncovering the truth.
Gameplay: 93%            Unique, untraditional RPG.
Multiplayer: n/a            None.
Controls: 80%            Takes getting used to.
Graphics: 82%            Decent.
SFX & Music: 91%            Distinct and enjoyable.
Obscurity: 60%            What? Oh, maybe.
Overall: 90%                A solid, different, RPG.



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