A series on first impressions
There have been plenty of times in life that we have been simply sucker punched by something that we never expected. Whether that experience is positive or negative, we always tend to remember these moments more than those that fall within our routine. Video games are no different, especially when it comes to the ones that stood out by inadvertently spawning new ideas. This series aims to take a look at various games that have exceeded expectations and transcended first impressions.
And what better way to kick this series off by starting with one of the most beloved cult classics of the RPG genre: Valkyrie Profile, which was released in 1999. Developed by tri-Ace and published by Enix before their merger with Square, Valkyrie Profile drew heavily from Norse mythology, with the story centered around a valkyrie who is tasked with recruiting fallen warriors in hopes of stopping the world ending Ragnarok.
Boasting an impressive battle system featuring a unique juggling mechanic that utilized proper timing of the face buttons assigned to the different characters, Valkyrie Profile was well received by critics, which was enough to spawn three other games in the franchise. Personally, this is also one of my favorite games of all time, and was my introduction to RPGs as a whole. But I never really expected it to even be an RPG, nor did I expect to be sucked in by its absolutely beautiful world.
I first saw Valkyrie Profile on an advertisement in the now-defunct EGM magazine, and at the time, I was a sucker for 2D platformers such as Megaman X and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. When I saw that Valkyrie Profile used the same perspective as these games and how the main character used a sword, I was hyped, but was also confused about certain screenshots depicting four people in a diamond formation. Thinking that these may simply be cutscenes, I went ahead and purchased it for myself.
However, the moment I chose to start a new game, I was dumbfounded. What started out as a promise for action packed swordplay transformed into an immersive and emotional 30 minutes that was almost devoid of any controllable sequences. It felt like I was watching a movie with button prompts. Aside from a small battle that I perceived as a cutscene, there was nothing much that would get in the way of storytelling.
After the first save point, I thought things would get better, but instead, it would be a while more before I even got to the point where I can freely control a character in a platforming manner. But there were no enemies. I was running around town talking to various people from a side-scrolling perspective, but it was oddly idyllic. When things started to escalate, another battle ensued, using the same style as the aforementioned battle that I thought was a cutscene. This was when I started to worry that I might not have picked up an action packed platformer.
It's not a platformer!
Unfortunately, my worst fears at that time came true. The game had none of the action that the advertisement promised. I was leveling up, getting random drops, and optimizing my equipment. I was playing an RPG for the first time in my life, and despite not being able to play one before this, I knew what they were, so I actively stayed away from them due to my tendency of getting hooked to narratives. And with runtimes of more than a hundred hours, I didn’t want all my gaming time to be sucked up by a sprawling narrative.
But that’s exactly what happened to me in my time in Midgard. I got sucked in by the deeply personal life stories of my now dead party members. I found that the battle system was a thing of beauty with you being more involved in real time decisions rather than choosing your attacks via a menu system. The voice acting was also superb, being my first taste in voice acting in video games. Everything about this game hit me hard, and it was a wonderful experience that I couldn’t get enough of. Until I hit a roadblock in the form of a boss battle that I seemingly couldn’t overcome.
One of my earlier party members, a goddess named Freya, confronted Lenneth about something going wrong inside her and then suddenly talked about divine sleep before fighting me in a boss battle. And no matter which attack I use or which setup I try, none of my attacks did any significant damage to her while she’s just deleting my party’s health bars. And I couldn’t understand what I did wrong. Frustrated, I put the game down for a while, trying out other RPGs. But I just couldn’t get Valkyrie Profile out of my head. That was when I inadvertently read about the game’s multiple endings. This was another huge revelation for me, because I never even thought about a game having multiple endings. I was repeatedly blown away by this game, and until this day, I could still remember every moment of playing through this unique experience.
Searching for noble souls
Unfortunately, no other RPG has even come close to what Valkyrie Profile did for me. There were multiple contenders, like the Super Mario RPG games, Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier Exceed for the Nintendo DS, and Namco x Capcom, but none of these scratched to play through something similar to the original Valkyrie Profile. And while Indivisible held plenty of promise, the game’s shunted growth due to the developer’s dissolution will forever remain a disappointment for fans who have been waiting for a successor to the throne with bated breath. And until then, we’ll always be replaying through the original game or loading up the port for PSP.
The game isn’t perfect, though, and there were multiple instances within the game’s systems that seemed obtuse. After all, I couldn’t figure out then how to even dodge the fight against Freya until accidentally stumbling upon a review for the game. This means that there will be plenty of opportunities for improvements if another similar game aims to challenge the throne.
How about you? Have you played through Valkyrie Profile? Or have you had a similarly mind blowing experience with any game that you have previously played? Share your experiences with us at https://twitter.com/megacatstudios or head on over to https://megacatstudios.com for more retro gaming goodness.