Valkyrie Elysium, let's retrace the history of the Square Enix series

Valkyrie Elysium, let's retrace the history of the Square Enix series

Valkyrie Elysium

Now that Valkyrie Elysium is literally around the corner, as it releases on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 on September 29, and on PC on November 11, it is worth taking a step back and rethinking this JRPG series that is likely to the new generations know very little, but which has something in common with another, perhaps not very famous, but still better known: Star Ocean. The two works originate in the studios of a Japanese developer who has focused on role-playing games since 1996, the year in which the very first Star Ocean was released. We are talking about tri-Ace, which has worked hand in hand with Square Enix for all these years, but which strangely will not be involved in the development of Valkyrie Elysium, entrusted instead to Soleil Inc.

If the new title of the Valkyrie series (Profile) will be able to hit the target is still to be seen. There are many unknowns in this regard, starting with the fact that it was announced as a surprise only last March and therefore does not exactly fall into that triple A range of titles that go through long and advertised processes, but this can mean everything and nothing. The problem is that the show is a bit schizophrenic and predicting the trajectory is not easy.

In the next few lines we retrace the history of Valkyrie Profile and explain why.

Valkyrie Profile

Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, a fight Let's start from the beginning: Valkyrie Profile. Between 1999 and 2000 it comes out in Japan and North America on PlayStation, but we Europeans had to wait a full seven years to legitimately play it on PSP in its second incarnation, entitled Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. Upon release, however, Valkyrie Profile is a blazing title. Not so much for its technical qualities - after all, it mixes a barely sketched 3D with two-dimensional sprites of decent quality - but for the game structure that turns out to be among the most original and inspired in a decade considered one of the most prolific in terms of JRPG .

The story follows the vicissitudes of Lenneth, a Valkyrie who has the task of recruiting the greatest warriors of Midgard to fight like Einherjar in the Norse afterlife on behalf of Odin. The game, divided into chapters, sees us search for these characters around the world and micromanage time and resources to train them before they die. The segmented plot tells us above all their tragic stories.

Lenneth doesn't have a well-defined personality at first, but as the plot unfolds, the secrets of her past come back to the surface and the story takes a surprisingly adult turn, which ends in three different endings. In addition to granting considerable freedom of choice in progression, Valkyrie Profile tried a different path in terms of gameplay. The dungeons were explored as in a real platform, despite being teeming with environmental puzzles and enemies visible on the screen: upon coming into contact with them, the game loaded a separate combat screen.

The combat system was also particularly ingenious. In the player's turn, Lenneth and his three battlemates are assigned to the front buttons of the controller: by pressing them in sequence, the characters chain their attacks, filling the Hit Gauge indicator which, once reached the maximum ceiling, triggers a sort of spectacular blow the final. The player, however, must take into account the characteristics of the selected fighters, the weapons they wield and which determine their abilities, the reload times of the spells and so on. Not to mention that if Lenneth dies and is not revived within three turns, it's Game Over.

Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, the protagonist Lenneth is a recurring character in the Valkyrie Profile series is undoubtedly one of the most important titles of tri -Ace and Lenneth has quickly become an iconic character, not only among fans, but also appears in the other games of the Japanese developer: Valkyrie is sometimes a secret boss (Star Ocean: Till the End of Time) and sometimes a character recruitable (Radiata Stories). Supported by a solemn narrative and an extraordinary soundtrack - composed by Motoi Sakuraba, who would then take care of the music in the following games - Valkyrie Profile struggled to establish itself due to a structure that, without really succeeding, sought a compromise between the old JRPG school and the more modern and linear ones. | >

Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, a fight Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria comes out on PlayStation 2 between 2006 and 2007 not only in Japan and the United States, but also on the European territory, and has never been proposed in any other version since. Which is a shame, as it is one of the best JRPGs on the Sony platform. One of the best, but also one of the most complicated, not only from the point of view of the gameplay, but also of the narrative. Set centuries before Valkyrie Profile, the new game is both a prequel and a sequel for a very simple reason: the story takes place in an "alternative" past to the Valkyrie Profile timeline, and it is precisely the reason for this dissonance in connect the plots of the two games, which seem autonomous only in appearance.

The plot shifts the focus from Lenneth - who is still present, and fundamental, in the last bars of the adventure - to Silmeria, his sister Valkyrie trapped in the body of Princess Alicia of Dipan. Hunted by a third Valkyrie, Hrist, Alicia / Silmeria embarks on a long journey to save first her kingdom, and then the world.

Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, Alicia is possessed by a Valkyrie named Silmeria Although Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria discards the colorful 2D for a three-dimensional graphics engine, the exploration of dungeons continues to remember the horizontal / vertical scrolling platformers. The timing of the game is more relaxed, but there are many more role-playing aspects to manage and the combat system, called Advanced Tactical Combination or ATC, is certainly more intricate. The basic setup is the same, with the four characters in the party associated with the controller keys, but during the player's turn you can move around to dodge the enemies' area attacks. Each movement or attack consumes AP, and if the combos fill a suitable gauge, characters can unleash their final blows, called Soul Crush.

An interesting new feature is the ability to end fights early, defeating any enemies marked as leaders, and also a dynamic that allows you to attack certain parts of the body of the targets to weaken them and obtain additional items at the end of the battle. Again it is possible to recruit up to twenty Einherjar per game, unlocked at random from a roster of forty secondary characters in total. Forming the party in precise combinations unlocks additional dialogues and interactions that define their subplots and personalities.

Covenant of the Plume and Anatomy

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, a scene from game The Valkyrie Profile series also features two notable spin-offs, released for Nintendo DS and mobile systems. The most interesting, the one for the Nintendo portable console, partially changes genre and switches to turn-based strategy with an isometric view. It is called Covenant of the Plume and has as its protagonist Wylfred, the son of an Einherjar who swore revenge against Lenneth, the Valkyrie who deported him, leaving behind only a feather. The latter plays a decisive role in the story and in the gameplay because it allows Wylfred to temporarily enhance one of his battlemates: in exchange, that character will be removed from the battalion permanently at the end of the fight, but the protagonist will learn a new skill. . The use of the so-called Destiny Plume influences the ending of the game.

The combat system mixes the peculiar dynamics of the series with the battles in the style of Triangle Strategy. Once an enemy is engaged on the isometric grid, the action moves to another screen where the player decides the order in which they attack the characters in the formation, associated, as usual, with the keys of the Nintendo DS. The combos load the usual indicator that allows the triggering of the devastating Soul Crush.

Valkyrie Anatomia: The Origin, a scene from the game Valkyrie Anatomia: The Origin, finally, is a 2016 mobile title, then released worldwide in 2019. The story takes place an indefinite number of years earlier of Valkyrie Profile and, although it is a prequel, thanks to a narrative trick it can also be considered a kind of alternative timeline. In this circumstance, Lenneth prepares for Ragnarok by hunting for Einherjar, which obviously, being the game a real gacha, are obtained randomly and must be grown, combined and upgraded.

Unfortunately, the title developed by Dokidoki Grooveworks is disappointing, both because the plot is really spurious, and because it insists on predatory dynamics that are inspired by previous games. APs, for example, become a resource that is exhausted by exploring the maps - made up of interconnected rooms and corridors - and which is recharged over time or with real money. The fights take place in the usual way of the gachas, with the difference that the player can touch the portraits of the characters to make them attack in the most convenient order.

Although spoiled by a structure that uses too much leverage on in-app purchases and a contained fanservice, Valkyrie Anatomia is not completely to be thrown away. The music remains enchanting, as are the illustrations that accompany the narrative. The Soul Crush, moreover, are among the most spectacular and curated of the series.

Valkyrie Elysium, a scene from the game Now it's up to Valkyrie Elysium to bring the Valkyrie Profile back into vogue after so many years spent on the sly. The new developer, Soleil, has focused on a completely new formula, certainly divisive, but not entirely unexpected: Valkyrie Elysium will be a third-person action game, which nevertheless retains some aspects of the series, such as combos, Einherjar and the Soul Crush. But will it be able to establish itself in an increasingly crowded and competitive market? We'll find out in a few weeks.

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