IGN Review of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
Take the limited run of a critically acclaimed RPG released almost six years ago. Now add to that the hype surrounding a title that regularly fetches more than $200 dollars online. Mix that with a lead-up to a forthcoming sequel and a new port over to the PSP and you get Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, the latest title from Square Enix. But is the game merely a simple port or a fully resurrected title itself? The answer to that is surprisingly both yes and no.
For those of you who weren't interested in RPGs in 2000 or, most likely, weren't afforded the opportunity to own the original title, allow me to provide you with a little backstory on the game itself. Players are cast as Lenneth, a Valkyrie (or battle-maiden) tasked by Odin to collect the souls of fallen warriors who are brave or skilled enough to be sent to Asgard. These resurrected soldiers would then fight for the gods against the hordes of demons, giants and other enemies foretold in the coming of Ragnarok, or the battle at the end of the world. Unfortunately for Lenneth and the gods, doomsday is fast approaching, and she only has a short amount of time to find, train and deliver these fighters known as Einherjar to Asgard's gates.
To accomplish this goal, you'll need to travel Midgard, flying high about the ground searching for these fallen soldiers and discovering how they met their fateful ends so you can recruit them to Odin's cause. Doing so will require the use of Spiritual Concentration, which enacts the Valkyrie's heightened senses to detect the cries of the heroic dead in their final moments. While you can investigate these psychic flashes to find soldiers, you can also use them to track down towns or other locations to explore. Oftentimes, you'll find yourself returning to previous locations to flesh out the storylines of some of your party members, but you'll also use it to trigger specific events in the world or acquire special items or weapons, many of which are key to the success of Lenneth's mission.
Lenneth will also use this power to discover areas of evil in the world, such as ruins, caves and other structures that threaten the safety of the people of the land. Here, you'll explore these areas, solving environmental puzzles by shooting ice crystals to form stepladders and platforms, as well as deflecting beams of light and freezing monsters to stand on. Any battles you engage in are turn-based, although there is an element of real-time action tied to the system: Each party member is tied to one of the four face buttons, and pressing it once or more triggers an attack from that particular character. By timing your attacks just right, you can perform combinations that will juggle your opponents into the air, only to land directly into the oncoming blow of a secondary or tertiary attack. Successful combinations can increase your hit meter, and once you've filled it in one attack round, you can trigger a "Purify Weird Soul" strike for extraordinary damage. Even better, if you manage to refill the hit meter with one of these strikes, you can perform a super powerful combination with members of your party, which can potentially result in items or experience point bonuses.
Like other RPGs, you'll inevitably collect tons of items; however, instead of buying or selling these items in shops, you'll actually create the equipment you need. Lenneth's power of Transmutation allows you to take any item, weapon or elemental artifact you receive and convert it into something else that you might want. This is one of the few ways that you can constantly replenish your stores of health potions and resurrection items, as well as replace any weapons that might break under the strain of battle. Utilizing this power costs Materialize Points, but you can convert any piece of equipment that you don't need into additional MP if you're ever running low.
However, you will discover a number of items that you'll come across in each dungeon aren't particularly transmutable or convertible. These artifacts are usually some special item that bestows its wielder with special abilities or powers, and can be useful to your party. There is one specific caveat, though: Asgard will request any and every single artifact that you come across, and in exchange for giving up these powerful items, it will bestow experience in an orb that can be allocated to any party member at any time to help them reach new levels. Leveling up characters gives them a pool of points that can be used to acquire new skills that can be used in battle, such as countering attacks from enemies, as well as strengthening character traits of Einherjar that might be particularly weak. While it might not seem like a beneficial decision to bolster these traits over skills, these character flaws play into just how valuable a warrior will be to the gods when they are fighting in their army in Asgard. Figures of weak character will more than likely fail or even be killed in the battles leading up to the last days, while those of fortified dispositions will be extremely successful in their otherworldly tasks.
While you can concentrate, recruit warriors and explore dungeons in any order that you wish, you should know that each primary action consumes a certain amount of time, known as periods, in each chapter you're in. With each chapter is comprised of 24 periods, and only eight chapters to achieve your goals, it becomes extremely important to decide what actions you'll undertake. As a result, you may have to deal with the fact that you've lost the chance to get a specific fighter if you have poor time management, while planning each move carefully should result in enough time to return to previously visited areas for new items or leveling up your party, which is essential for their success as the game progresses.
At the end of each chapter, you are summoned in front of Freya, the Goddess of Fertility, who examines your progress and evaluates how well you're succeeding at your task of training and preparing your warriors. She will also gauge how many characters you've sent to Asgard, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Freya will also provide you with status updates on the war, especially if you've chosen to withhold artifacts that could potentially tip the balance of the fight. You can also get updates on previously transferred Einherjar, and specific skills that the gods need from your characters, such as negotiators, archers or spellcasters, in the upcoming chapter. While these hints about what the gods are looking for are mildly helpful, it's really up to you to decide how or if you'll even take them up on their wishes, sending those characters that you feel are up to the challenge of fighting for the gods.
This ability of choosing to follow the dictates of the gods or going on your own, along with the non-linearity of the gameplay is what made the original Valkyrie Profile so appealing, and the same can be said of Lenneth. The original difficulty levels of Easy, Normal and Hard make a return in the PSP version, which provides an added level of replayability. Additionally, the inclusion of three separate endings ensures that you have to play through the game more than once to get the full story of Lenneth's adventures on Midgard as she recruits for the army of the dead.
However, while this is a near-exact port with a few minor adjustments to the visual and aural presentation, Lenneth stumbles into some of the same pitfalls that a number of other ports run into. For one, there is no new gameplay content included in Lenneth that wasn't found in the original title. We're talking no new dungeons, no new items and no new warriors to recruit, amongst other potential features that could've been added to the 40+ hour title. Nor will you find a clearer explanation of some of the gameplay elements in this title, which will inevitably cause a lot of trial and error for new players who've never picked up the game. What's more, while this is a six year old game, the title still comes with a significant load times, particularly around transitions between maps and in-between battle sequences and menus. At some point in time, you'd expect that the load issue that existed in the first title would be addressed in the port, but that's not to be found in Lenneth. The same could be said for the slowdown that creeps in every now and then in the game (particularly in battle when a strong spell is cast), but that hasn't been addressed in this port either.
Similarly, while there is a beautiful 16:9 transfer to fit the PSP screen, as well as new CG cutscenes to illustrate key moments of the plot (including some hints to tie together Lenneth to the forthcoming VP2: Silmeria), the blurry and pixilated animation frames for opening certain doors or gates is somewhat detracting to the rest of the game. Fortunately, the re-mastered soundtrack and sound effects make up for some of the graphical issues.
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