Title: Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
Release Date: December 22, 2022
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Turn-Based JRPG
tri-Ace has always been one of my favorite developers, regardless of some past stumbles. Thankfully, this year can be seen as a resurgence with the releases of Star Ocean: The Divine Force and now Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. The former was a long sought-after return to form for the franchise, while the latter is a welcome blast from the past.
Valkyrie Elysium was, despite mixed reception, a reboot I enjoyed. However, Lenneth is a different beast. Playing its re-release reminded me why I fell in love with this franchise and how it’s one of the most unique JRPGs ever made.
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is a port of the game’s PSP version, which was a re-release of the original PS1 launch. This debut entry follows Lenneth as Odin tasks her to recruit many Einherjar for the incoming Ragnarok. And she finds said souls throughout humanity’s realm of Midgard.
The premise is simple enough, but there is an immense degree of depth between the writing and the gameplay. The former is almost poetic at points, with Lenneth’s role creating a standout dichotomy between herself and the party members you usually don’t see in JRPGs. Truthfully, while not always present, the voice acting hasn’t aged the best, but it has a nostalgic charm.
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth manages to stand out, even by today’s standards, thanks to its mechanics. After the introduction, which can take a good while, players are greeted by a small-scale world map that Lenneth flies over, essentially enabling her access to every area. At least, that’s how it seems on the surface. Finding dungeons and viewing crucial events requires Lenneth to spiritually concentrate, manually activated via the right side of the touchpad. She will then hear voices of strife that act as gateways for identifying potential Einherjar.
Further, players are under a time limit dubbed “periods.” Performing the aforementioned spiritual concentration, entering towns and dungeons, and viewing key scenes will take periods, and once enough time has passed, an assessment occurs where you are granted rewards based on what you have achieved. Additionally, in Odin’s stead, the goddess Freya will request characters who embody specific requirements to be sent up to Asgard. Still, the choices of who and what to send up are entirely up to you.
While the passing of time may sound stressful to some, it’s actually pretty generous. Due to how many periods you have and the relatively compact map size, you’ll have spare time to explore and experiment. And trust me, if you’re a newcomer, the latter will occur right from the start. The gameplay systems here can take considerable time to understand since the tutorials are lengthy and occasionally poorly worded. Plus, there’s just a lot going on.
Aside from recruiting new party members, a significant chunk of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth’s gameplay comprises dungeon exploration, turn-based combat, and customization. First, let’s briefly dive into the dungeons, my favorite aspect. Believe it or not, platforming is a prominent factor in these areas, with Lenneth able to slide, jump, and, most importantly, shoot out projectiles that she can use as footholds to reach higher paths. The dungeon design is usually quite creative and satisfying, with several items lying in hard-to-reach spots. Although, the controls can take some getting used to, particularly the jumping, since doing so while moving is precise.
Players are also highly encouraged to examine every nook and cranny of the dungeons since the loot is precious. Because you see, there’s no traditional currency in this title. Instead, Materialize Points earned from assessments are used to make items from the main menu, including equipment and consumables. These Points are not exactly unlimited, so choosing what to create must be handled with a certain level of caution.
Combat relegates four party members, Lenneth included, to the four face buttons, with their attacks occurring once their respective button is hit. When this is first introduced, it can seem mindless, especially with how feeble the enemies are. However, it can catch players off guard during later stages, given that numerous systems are at play. For instance, combos will happen depending on the timing and order in which buttons are pressed, so blindly spamming them will result in reduced damage output.
Moreover, when accounting for the unique party members, spells, and weapons (some even breakable), failure can always be approached with several possible remedies. There’s a character-building component as well, via skills. These can be learned in the main menu, consisting of passive stat increases or more transparent benefits. All of the gameplay comes down to strategy being at the forefront of this experience, heavily rewarding those taking the time to slow down and learn. So, if you’re looking for something akin to Valkyrie Elysium from earlier this year, then you’re definitely not finding that here. Elysium went in rather different directions anyway.
As for how this remastered effort fares, it’s better than I initially expected. At any time, players can utilize a rewind feature, create up to five saves outside of the game’s inner data menu, choose between three visual styles, and alter the screen zoom to varying extents. Although, I should point out that there’s a menu labeled ‘Controls’ that just tells you where Start and Select are mapped on the touchpad, not letting you remap anything, so that’s a tad odd. None of these inclusions are jaw-droppingly substantial, but they do aid in making this entry more convenient and accessible to larger crowds.
The added save system, in particular, is notable as it enables newer players to learn and experiment at their leisure without the consequence of losing out on time that could have otherwise been retained. Still, like with the combat, brute-forcing and attempting everything with little thought will eventually result in a middling experience. Veteran fans can choose not to engage with these additions if they’re yearning to opt in for a traditional experience. On an off-handed note, the music is excellent. as expected of Motoi Sakuraba, as it encapsulates the solemn yet resolute tone, enhancing this game’s identity.
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is a terrific turn-based JRPG reborn once more for contemporary audiences. Its impressive freedom with player choice dictating combat progression and the endings, compelling writing, and satisfactory replayability make it a must-play for fans of the genre. Admittedly, the mechanics can be tough to comprehend when considering how the title doesn’t regale its workings well, but those who are patient will gradually uncover a gem of a game.
At the very least, the remastered add-ons contribute toward newer players learning the ins and outs at their own pace. With this launch, I sincerely hope the rest of the older Valkyrie Profile games make their way to modern platforms with similar treatment, too, as this is a criminally underrated series.
© 1999, 2006, 2022 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved. Original version developed by tri-Ace Inc./Character design: PRODUCTION I.G
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