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Golden Oldies: Valkyrie Profile

On 05/16/2022 at 07:50 AM by SanAndreas

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In the summer of 2000, I needed a new game to play. At that time, I was still a PS1 gamer. Being a RPG lover, my two choices were Square's Chrono Cross and Valkyrie Profile, a game from a resurgent Enix and Tri-Ace, makers of Star Ocean: The Second Story from a year prior. Of the two, Valkyrie Profile looked more interesting, so that's what I went with. And while I did later play Chrono Cross, I wasn't too impressed by it. But Valkyrie Profile went on to become one of my favorite PS1 RPGs, and considering how many of those there were, that was pretty impressive. 

Valkyrie Profile is a 2D side-scrolling RPG.  It is very loosely based on Norse mythology. Most of the Aesir are characters, though only Odin, Freya, and Loki have major roles in the story.  The world does have some Nordic elements, but it also has vampires (primarily a product of Slavic folklore) and, of course, the usual mini-Japan with samurai warriors, Shinto shrine maidens, and oni. Ragnarok (which was actually an allegory of Scandinavia being Christianized) is fast approaching, and you take the role of Lenneth, the second of the three Valkyrie sisters - the Valkyries in this world are an amalgamation of the Eddic Valkyries and the Norse goddesses of fate, the Norns. You are awakened by Freya at the command of Odin the All-Father, who needs your help filling the ranks of the Aesir army as they prepare to battle their enemies, the Vanir, under the leadership of the demon lord, Surt.  Of the einherjar, only Arngrim is authentically Norse, as he is based on a legendary Viking berserker named Arngrim. The rest of them are the usual cast of sorcerers and warriors, along with, once again, the obligatory Japanese cast members. 

The basic structure of Valkyrie Profile is simple. The game is divided into 8 chapters. Using your divine powers, you seek out worthy heroes to become Einherjar, usually accomplished through tragic cut-scenes. These are alternated with dungeon sequences where you build up your heroes by fighting monsters and looking for treasures. In addition to leveling up your heroes, you must also improve their virtues to make them worthy of Valhalla.  When your Einherjar are sufficiently virtuous, you are to offer select ones up to Valhalla, which will permanently remove them from your party as playable characters. Each action consumes a certain number of "periods."  Once all the periods in a chapter are exhausted, the Sacred Phase begins, where you see the results of your hard work, and are evaluated and rewarded by Freya. It is at the end of chapter 8 where you will meet your final destiny. 

Two of the major themes of Valkyrie Profile are deception and rebellion. The game's structure, and even the packaging and manual for the US version play into these themes. Played straight, according to the instruction manual and even the packaging, you collect your einherjar as above, send them to Valhalla, and after all 8 chapters are ended, you attack Jotunheim Fortress for a final confrontation with Surt. The game is entertaining enough just doing that, as you get to see the stories of your heroes before they become einherjar.  However, Lenneth has two unique attributes. Her "Eval" attribute determines whether or not she is in the good graces of Odin the All-Father, while her "Seal" attribute is the degree to which her past memories are sealed away. 

Midgard, the human world, is not a nice place. The major nations of the world are all at war with each other, with smaller kingdoms finding themselves in the crossfire of their larger neighbors. Poverty and disease abound, and many poor families find themselves forced to sell their children to the world's numerous slave traders. All of this is deliberate, and it is *not* Surt or the Vanir who are responsible. 

By visiting certain locations, performing certain actions, and defying the gods by refusing to return sacred artifacts or send Einherjar, you can lower Valkyrie's Seal level. This will unlock locations which would otherwise not appear. By digging a little deeper beneath the game's facade, you will learn of Odin's machinations behind the scenes, which involves a game of chess involving Lenneth, a vampire lord, and several of your Einherjar. First off, despite what is presented in the game's backstory, the Aesir are *not* the good guys. Odin, who has one key difference between himself and the other Aesir that makes him both powerful and dangerous, wants to dominate the world at any cost, even the destruction of Midgar itself. In certain Sacred Phase scenes, Loki makes brief appearances, and if you play the game straight, that's all you see of him. But as anybody who's read Norse mythology or even watched Marvel's Thor series knows, Loki is generally the Satan of the Norse world. Let's just say that Valkyrie Profile is not an exception in that regard. Adding further to the divine political power struggle going on between Odin and Loki is a human sorceror named Lezard Valeth, who is performing horrible experiments so that he can bridge the gap between God and human - specifically, he is obsessed with the Valkyries and wants to enslave them to an eternity of sexual bondage to him.  However, the things that decrease Lenneth's Seal rating are also generally things that decrease her Eval rating, so you have to be careful. If your Eval rating starts getting low, Odin and Freya will get increasingly upset with you, and you'll receive fewer rewards for Sacred Phases. If your Eval drops too low, Freya decides that you're too much of a liability and attacks you in a battle that is pretty much unwinnable. This nets you the bad ending, where Lenneth is basically thrown into limbo for eternity while Odin and Freya revive her older sister, Hrist, as a replacement. Getting the "A" ending dungeon pretty much requires you to consult a guide, as certain things have to be done at certain times, and if you miss these times, you miss out on the "A" ending for the remainder of that playthrough and will be fighting Surt. 

As far as the actual gameplay goes, you'll explore side-scrolling dungeons with light platforming elements. You'll search for treasures, with some of the chests being booby-trapped. If you're stuck in a dungeon, you'll need to look for clues in the environment that pillars and such can be broken with Lenneth's sword, allowing your party to pass. And of course, you'll fight monsters. In Valkyrie Profile's battle scenes, each character is assigned to one of the four PlayStation face buttons, and each time you press that button during your player's turn, the character assigned to it will attack. The object of the battle system is to time your characters' attacks so that the enemy is barraged with a steady stream of hits, filling up a hit gauge. Successfully filling up the hit gauge allows your characters to unleash special attacks called "Purify Weird Soul" (PWS) attacks. You have to be quick on the draw to unleash these attacks, because the hit gauge will rapidly drain once the option to use them appears. If the PWS attack manages to refill the hit gauge completely, another character can unleash their PWS, for increased damage. By masterfully combining regular attacks and PWS attacks, you can allow all four active characters to unleash their PWS attacks and absolutely wreck your enemies. Each character has different attacks that hit enemies in a different way, and enemy size and weight will also need to be taken into account. Successfully chaining hits together also causes the enemies to draw spirit orbs that recharge characters' PWS gauges and drop crystals that increase the experience your party obtains after battle. If Lenneth gets knocked out, you have three turns to revive her, otherwise, you lose the battle. The battle system for Valkyrie Profile is very hectic, but also very satisfying. At the end of the major dungeons, there is a boss battle where your ability to coordinate your party's attacks will really be put to the test. Winning the battle generally allows you to open chests containing rare artifacts. These artifacts are more powerful than the weapons you can find or synthesize elsewhere, but refusing to return them to Odin lowers your Eval rating. For those who need an extra challenge, Valkyrie Profile includes a bonus dungeon, the Seraphic Gate, which has the most powerful monsters. Many NPCs show up as bosses in the Seraphic Gate, including Lezard and Freya, and they can even be recruited.

Valkyrie Profile is also quite pleasing from an aesthetic point of view. The characters are a bit pixelated but well animated, and the art style is very reminiscent of Star Ocean: The Second Story, which was also created by Tri-Ace. The game uses occasional FMV to show parts of the dungeon crumbling when you hit certain objects with your sword. The music is composed by Motoi Sakuraba, who also composed for the Star Ocean, Tales, and Dark Souls series, and features his recognizable mix of electronic music with classical elements.

Valkyrie Profile was one of those games I call a "pleasant surprise." I wasn't sure what to expect from it, being an unconventional side-scrolling RPG I hadn't seen since the likes of Faxanadu on the NES. Many of the Einherjar's stories are tragic and moving, and the battle system is so much fun. I still have my original copy of Valkyrie Profile on PS1, which is now worth a lot of money (I bought it for $40 new in 2000). The game was later ported, with additional content, to the PSP and then to iOS. Hopefully it will show up on the Switch or PS4/PS5, especially with Square Enix reviving the Valkyrie Profile series with a new PS4/PS5 entry, Valkyrie Elysium. Valkyrie Profile is truly one of the underappreciated RPG gems of the PS1 generation, and it deserves to be introduced to a new generation of gamers and to be made available to longtime fans like myself. 



Cary Woodham

05/16/2022 at 08:09 AM

I never played this one, but one side scrolling Norse mythology game I did like was Odin Sphere.  I also liked Namco's Legend of Valkyrie, although that one had hardly anything to do with Norse mythology.  Crazy Namco!


05/16/2022 at 12:59 PM

Yep, I have Odin Sphere as well. Great game.

One thing I didn't mention in the blog is that the original PS1 dub was done by 4Kids Entertainment, the company that handled the original English dubs for Pokemon. So most of the voice actors in VP were from Pokemon, including the actors who played Ash, Misty, and Brock. Lennetjh's voice actor is Megan Hollingshead, who voiced Nurse Joy. 

Cary Woodham

05/18/2022 at 07:50 PM

4Kids must've also done one of the Ape Escape games, because the two main characters in that sounded like Ash and Misty!


05/16/2022 at 09:35 AM

I just sold my copy of Valkyria Profile 2. I never had time to play it.

The first one looks really interesting. I'll have to keep tabs on the new one coming out, and I hope they release the previous games digitally. 


05/16/2022 at 01:03 PM

Valkyrie Chronicles 1 on PS1 is very pricey these days. Video games have been a better investment for me than some stocks nowadays.


05/17/2022 at 06:00 PM

Ha I had the same dilemna in choosing between getting VP or CC one time I was in Funcoland. At the time PS1 releases were going through a thin season, at least for anything I was interested in. So I decided to check out older games I missed. I wound up going with CC, as I wanted something more recognizable and traditional than what VP and it's side scrolling, single character segments was offering. I turned out being quite satisfied with my purchase, and that is without comparison to the other game, which i never played. 

As far as VP, always thought the character sprites in battle looked cool, and still do.  Their designs are in the same fantasy-anime vein as Record of Lodoss War. I only actually played Silmeria though. Good game, but lost somethingwith the switch to 3D models.


05/18/2022 at 01:51 PM

Yoh Yoshinari, the lead art designer, has a pretty extensive resume in the anime world, including Evangelion, Kill La Kill, and Gurren Langan. I also had Silmeria. I prefer the original game. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

05/23/2022 at 09:41 PM

Valkyrie Profile is one of the RPGs that slipped under my radar, and I've always regretted not having purchased it. Part of the problem was that summer of 2000 was when I got my first job and it only paid peanuts. Of the six months I worked there, the only game I could affter was Crash Team Racing since it marked down to $20.

It wasn't until September 2002 that I got a better job where I could actually afford broaden my horizons. Prior to then, I know I saw Valkyrie Profile on the shelf at my local Electronics Boutique, but I was distracted by whatever I could trade-in or find for under $15. Also, around the time of its release, I had recently started getting into RPGs, since the ocean was too vast for me to narrow my focus and learn about VP at the time.

If I knew how good it was, I would have been alert to at least look for a used copy well before it became hard to find. It did eventually bite the bullet and snag a copy from eBay, but it ain't CIB. Had to take what I could get without taking out a loan.


05/24/2022 at 04:26 AM

I've done a better job at investing in video games than I did investing in stocks. That's kind of sad and hilarious at the same time. 

Besides the Norse flavoring (one of my favorite NES games is the Greek flavored Kid Icarus), I had rented Star Ocean: The Second Story a year prior. The similar artistic style of VP helped win me over. Between VP, FF9, and Lunar 2, I had a great winter gaming-wise, which thankfully didn't tank my third semester of college. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

05/25/2022 at 11:30 PM

That's crazy....Star Ocean: Second Story was the first RPG I ever owned. As a teen, I begged my mom to buy the game for me when she was looking for me in our mall's Electronics Boutique (once again). I remember seeing an in-store video ad for it that mentioned that there were over 80 endings you could discover. I had to have it. And though she was somewhat reluctant, she actually purchased it for me since it had recently been marked down to $20 which was much easier to afford the the original MSRP.

This was a very important game for me because I was brand new to the dicovery of RPGs after a friend showed me the Final Fantasy VII demo about a year prior. Star Ocean was the first PlayStation RPG I could get my hands on and boy I did enjoy that game! That's why it's so ludicrious that I didn't purchase Valkyre Profile much soon than I did.

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