Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

In 1999, tri-Ace developed and Enix published the unique role-playing game Valkyrie Profile, which came to North American shores the following year and earned decent acclaim, despite somewhat weak sales. In 2006, they ported the title to the PlayStation Portable as Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, the same year releasing the franchise’s first sequel, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, which provides an experience on par with its predecessor.

As in the first game, Silmeria features side-scrolling dungeons where protagonist Alicia can walk, run, jump, or duck, and fire photons to freeze and avoid enemies. Contacting enemies takes the player to a separate battle area, with the foes sometimes ambushing the player in this regard, though fortunately, slashing wandering enemies with Alicia’s sword in most cases guarantees that neither side will have the advantage.

To turn the tide of battle in some cases, players will need to familiarize themselves with the Sealstone system they encounter when wandering dungeons, where special orbs can provide effects such as increased attack and defensive power for either the player’s characters (when held by them) or the enemy (when the orbs are placed in pedestals. In order to obtain a Sealstone for permanent use within any dungeon, the player must first remove one of the orbs from a pedestal or the floor and take it to the Sealstone spring usually located at the beginning of a dungeon and use crystals acquired from winning battles to “release” it for use in any enemy-infested area.

Battles themselves follow a different formula than Lenneth, taking place on one of many diversely-sized battlefields instead of a single screen, where the player can move their battle party of four active characters together, their AP gauge maxing out at a hundred points, the player able to have them dash together at the cost of twenty AP, useful for dodging the enemy’s visible red attack zones. There are some hangups with this system, for instance allies sometimes getting caught against walls when the party dashes, and the enemy’s attack zones disappearing during movement.

Entering an enemy’s attack zone causes them to attack the player’s party, which recovers their AP gauge, something the party can trigger as well by having them stay still and allow the enemy to move around however they please. Outside battle, the player assigns each active character to the PlayStation controller’s face buttons, and once they’re close enough to the enemy, pressing them will take them to a side view a la Lenneth where the player’s party attacks the enemy, consuming AP and simultaneously building up a special gauge up to a hundred points that will consequentially allow characters, if their weapons permit, to use powerful Soul Crush abilities.

Although battlefields typically contain multiple enemies, the player needs not defeat all of them, but rather the leader enemy, whose death will cause other foes to flee, winning the battle for the player. The game even encourages players to do so with a bonus gauge that gradually depletes as the battle drags on. Killing the leader enemy with a full bonus gauge may net the player an item, and sometimes when attacking antagonists, leader or not, the player will “break” parts of them that earn them a special item, which can sometimes trigger Break Mode where the player can freely attack the enemy without fearing the loss of their AP, and sometimes break other enemy parts.

Broken enemy parts typically consist of equippable accessories, with each character’s weapon, headgear, gloves, footwear, and up to four accessories linked on a diamond-shaped grid, each one having one of many different runic symbols that the player can connect, if they’re of the same color (blue, red, or green), to sometimes form special equippable abilities that a character will eventually learn after a certain number of battles. Skills include increased stats, increased attack effectiveness against specific types of enemies, forcefields that take a certain amount of damage before the character with the skill actually takes damage to their health, and so forth.

Outside battle as well, the player can customize each character’s attack pattern, with weapons providing characters one, two, or three attacks of different forms, players needing to pay close attention to how these attacks move the enemy around during an attack sequence in battle, if they wish to gain the upper hand in battle and be able to perform Soul Crushes. Randomly and or repeatedly pressing all face buttons to attack the enemy, therefore, is a terrible way to play the first Valkyrie Profile sequel, as it was in the game’s predecessor.

Another feature is the ability to break the player’s party into two separate teams, which can be somewhat tricky since doing so comes at the expense of leaving the characters not moving vulnerable to enemies that still move, although it can somewhat help against tough bosses. Players can also use items or magic at the cost of AP, which will temporarily disable the battle menu. Escaping battle, furthermore, is a matter of approaching a yellow-edged area of the battlefield, which can sometimes fail at the expense of all of the player’s AP.

Like Lenneth, Silmeria has a system of Einherjar, although it’s different in this entry, with players occasionally coming by weapons in dungeons they can use to materialize additional allies for use in battle. When their levels are high enough, the player can release them from their party, reviving them in either a town or dungeon, and encountering them in revived state will sometimes provide the player special rewards. Releasing them, too, nets the player stat-increasing items, although it just might be a good idea to save them for the very last battle since allies come and go throughout the game, and there is the potential to waste these items on characters that eventually leave.

Despite its complexity, it’s not terribly difficult to get a hang of Silmeria’s battle system, with battles, thanks to the need only to take down the leader enemy, flowing relatively quickly, although some bosses, particularly the last one, can be cheap, although right before the final boss, a special dungeon, the Seraphic Gate, unlocks, allowing for additional grinding, better equipment and items, and tougher bosses. As mentioned before, there are other flaws such as the disappearance of the enemy attack zones when moving and tendency of allows to get stuck against walls, objects, or foes when dashing, but otherwise, the combat engine helps the game more than hurts.

As with most Japanese RPGs, control is superficially decent, although there are a few deep flaws, such as the tedium of character management, given the system of connecting runes on each character’s equipment screen to form and learn skills, not to mention an uneven pacing of save points in dungeons. Furthermore, during cutscenes, pressing the start button brings up a box asking the player if they would like to skip the scene, but some genius at tri-Ace thought it would be cute to have this feature not pause the scene itself, completely inexcusable. In the end, interaction is only slightly above average.

Silmeria takes place several centuries prior to Lenneth, focusing on exiled Princess Alicia, who is possessed by the spirit of Silmeria Valkyrie, banished from Asgard. The game never really explains why Silmeria was banished in the first place, and while the plot has some good portions and links to the title’s predecessor, things become somewhat convoluted towards the end, with a time travel element somewhat making the narrative laughable at times. Ultimately, the story is average at best.

Series composer Motoi Sakuraba, too, seems to be losing his touch with the first Valkyrie Profile sequel, with most of his themes being subtle at times compared to the energetic soundtrack of Lenneth, and the main battle theme, for instance, bearing resemblance to that in Tales of Legendia, though both games feature different composers. The music, however, is by no means bad, and the voice acting, as one should expect from Square-Enix, is top-notch. In the end, the aurals definitely help the game more than hurt.

The same goes to the visuals, some of the most realistic to grace the PlayStation 2, with realistic and anatomically-correct character models alongside gorgeous environments. There are some jaggies at times, but otherwise, the first Valkyrie Profile is a definite visual treat.

Finally, the sequel is fairly long, taking forty to sixty hours to complete, with a New Game+ unlockable with a higher difficulty level. Overall, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is for the most part a solid offering that hits many of the right notes, particularly with regards to its battle system, aurals, and graphics, although it certainly leaves room for improvement at times, namely in relation to the cheapness of a few bosses, the control scheme, and the narrative. Regardless of these flaws, Silmeria is definitely another solid tri-Ace title, and the franchise would receive one more title in the form of Covenant of the Plume for the Nintendo DS, though the series since then seems to have become inert.

The Good:
+Solid tactical battle system.
+Good music and voice acting.
+Beautiful visuals.

The Bad:
-Last boss is tricky.
-Character management can be hellish.
-Story gets convoluted towards the end.

The Bottom Line:
A good sequel.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 5/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 40-60 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

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