Archives by Day

July 2024

Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Dec. 22, 2022


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS5 Review - 'Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Jan. 9, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

An intricate and evocative tale of fates woven by gods and mortals, steeped in Norse mythology, punctuated by groundbreaking combat, and brought to life by a soundtrack considered among gaming's greatest.

Occasionally, I come across a game that is a struggle to judge fairly. Valkyrie Profile is one of those. The original game is my favorite game, period. I've been a huge fan of the franchise and even awaited Valkyrie Elysium with bated breath. Going in, I already knew that I was going to like Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, which is the PS5 port of a PSP port of the original PS1 title, Valkyrie Profile. Thankfully, it's clear that nostalgia wasn't the only thing going for the game, and it's still one of the most interesting RPGs ever made.

Lenneth puts you in the shoes of the titular Lenneth Valkyrie. She awakens at Odin's request at the dawn of Ragnarök. The world may be ending soon, and Valhalla needs brave warriors to help stand against the encroaching threat of the Giants. Lenneth is sent to Midgard to seek out the souls of the dying.

Valkyrie Profile's story structure is unusual in that it's largely divided up into vignettes. Rather than following a set linear plot, you pop into the last moments of humans as Lenneth judges their worth to be brought to Valhalla. These stories are always sad and tragic but told in a variety of different ways, and if you pay attention, there are plotlines going on throughout the tragedies that tell of stories that occur when you're not there. Lenneth has her own story, but it's told slowly, with more and more of her history being revealed through her interactions.

This is what sets apart Valkyrie Profile from would-be copies and most of its sequels. While the other games also have Einherjar to recruit, they take a backseat to the protagonist's story, aside from Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume. Half of the fun of the story is seeing the world of humans through the eyes of a god and seeing how these strange stories interact.

The premise behind Valkyrie Profile is straightforward. The game is divided into periods, and you have full control over Lenneth and can fly to any location on the map. Landing at a location uses up time, but the game's time limit is so generous that it isn't really a constraint. Your main goal during these segments is to recruit Einherjar and explore dungeons, with new Einherjar and dungeons being made available in every chapter.

Einherjar are your characters in the game. There is some slight randomness to who you'll recruit and when, but you'll never be low on characters. The trick is that your characters don't really belong to you. You're supposed to be training them to send up to Valhalla to fight in Ragnarök. As the game progresses, you'll need to occasionally part with characters who meet Odin's requirements. You can't dump your weakest characters, as you need to level up characters to make them stronger, improve their positive traits, and lessen their negative ones. Odin would prefer a real hero be sent up, not a flawed mortal.

The "profile" part of the game comes into play in the dungeons. The entire game is presented in 2D, and the dungeons are sort of a combination of a standard JRPG dungeon and a platformer. They're often large and interconnected with a number of secrets and hidden items, and you'll need to platform and explore to make your way around them. Your goal is to defeat an end boss and recover stolen artifacts, which you can either offer to Odin to please him more or keep for yourself at the risk of attracting his ire. (Truth be told, you can keep every artifact in the game, and Odin will be happy if you're sending up the proper Einherjar.)

One of the coolest aspects of the dungeons is Lenneth's crystal power. Lenneth can shoot magical crystals, which are sort of like ice shards. If they hit a wall, Lenneth can climb on them to reach unexpected areas. She can even create multiple platforms or shoot the same platform multiple times to increase its size. Shattering a crystal produces a movable throwable shard that you can use to solve puzzles, as well as a temporary cloud of crystal dust that you can use as a platform.

Most of the dungeons encourage you to use all of these gimmicks to the best of your ability. While you can get through a lot of dungeons without too much trouble, you'll almost certainly leave a huge chunk of treasure and valuables behind. Not every dungeon is good, but they're generally fun to explore and search.

The combat system in Valkyrie Profile is often copied, but nothing quite hits the mark. On the surface, it looks exceedingly simple. You have four party members, and each party member's attack is bound to one of the four face buttons. Hit the button, and that character attacks. Depending on the weapon they have equipped, they may be able to attack multiple times. Once your turns are up, the enemy gets to attack, and then you attack again.

Where this gets interesting is how the game encourages you to build a team that can synergize their attacks. Just hitting an enemy does damage, but if you can knock them into the air and then juggle them repeatedly, you'll get more resources, items and damage. If you can perform a long enough combo string, you can unleash special super moves that are unique to each character and inflict a ridiculous amount of damage.

In Valkyrie Profile, alpha strikes are super important. Early enemies aren't that dangerous, but as the game progresses, giving enemies a turn can go very badly because they can deal absurd amounts of damage. Thankfully, you have options to mitigate this, ranging from special skills that you can learn to casting defensive buffs instead of using an attack magic. Weapons also have a ton of distinct traits, and even if a weapon looks weak, it can be immensely valuable. For example, the Dragon Slayer weapon breaks easily, but if used against a dragon-type enemy, it can effectively kill them in one shot.

What makes Valkyrie Profile work so well is that the combat is the right mix of quick and involved. Fights don't last very long (sometimes only a few moments), but you're encouraged to think carefully about your builds get the most out of every fight. If you're playing well, the game seems pretty easy, but a dropped combo can lead to suddenly losing a couple of characters.

That said, you shouldn't really worry about the game being too hard. In a rather strange paradox, it's probably best to play the game on Hard mode, even for a newcomer. Hard Mode only impacts a few things but offers up new dungeons and areas as well as the ability to unlock bonus characters in the optional postgame, Seraphic Gate.

Valkyrie Profile has its flaws, but they don't ruin the game. Sometimes the combat can feel a little repetitive, and the dungeons can be a little obscure. Probably the biggest problem the game has is that the true ending, as well as a huge chunk of the plot, are hidden behind some rather obscure actions and noticing a seemingly random stat on Lenneth's status screen. If you want to see everything in the game, be prepared to consult a guide or search every area.

As far as I can tell, Lenneth is basically running in an emulator that's similar to how the PS1 classics work. The result is that not a lot has changed, but the emulator allows for instant save states, rewinds, and some screen filters. This does mean it is based on the original Japanese version, which was lacking some nice quality of life features that only appeared on the North American PS1 release.

Graphically, Lenneth is a PS1 game, and it looks the part. The screen filters can only disguise so much of the blocky pixels. The game looked beautiful at the time, and if you're okay with the dated visuals, the art design is still top-notch. The music is the real start of the show. Valkyrie Profile was probably the single best work of prolific RPG musician Motoi Sakuraba, and it has one of the best soundtracks in gaming, bar none. The voice acting isn't quite as good, with a lot of the awkwardness that comes from PS1-era voice work, but a few actors (in particular the actress responsible for Lezard Valeth) knock it out of the park and sound great, even for a modern game.

In some ways, it can be difficult to be objective about Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. It's one of my favorite games, and barring a terrible port, there's no way I'd really dislike it. Getting the chance to play it again after a few years really drives home that as weird and strange as it is, it's still an absolute classic. You need some tolerance for the oddities of a PS1 title, but if you have that patience, Lenneth is easily one of Tri-Ace's best games and one of the best RPGs out there.

Score: 9.0/10

More articles about Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
blog comments powered by Disqus