Remember Valkyrie profile, the story of Lenneth the Valkyrie? Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria, although technically the sequel to the original Valkyrie profile, is infact the prequel to the first game. (much like the last three Star Wars movies). Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria follows the story of Silmeria, a Valkyrie who has fallen from Odin's grace. (ie. Pissed the mighty man off) and as a punishment, her spirirt is forced into the body of a mortal girl, the princess of Dipan - Alicia. The punishment was supposed to rid Silmeria of her Valkyrian powers -- but it seems that wasn't to be the case.
When Silmeria's soul entered Alicia's body, there were two souls; and unfortunuately enough, the duel between the two through Alicia's body caused people to think Alicia had gone mad. Facing the shame of being the father to a lunatic young princess, the King has her sent off to be imprisoned in a castle, claiming that she had died to cover it up. As if that wasn't bad enough, the commotion has caught the attention of Odin, who sends Hrist, one of his best valkyries, to send the rebellious Silmeria back to Valhalla.
But with the aid of Silmeria, Alicia fights off the assailant and escapes the confines of the castle to Midgard, there hoping to gain allies to aid her in further attacks from Odin, as well as finding the truth about a threat to the world itself.
Although still maintaining the title of Valkyrie Profile, the game is vastly different from the PS1 classic. Gone is the original skill learning system, in favour of a more complicated "Rune" based system. Each item in the game comes allocated to a specific rune, and the right rune-equipment combinations unlock abilities within that character that they can then learn through points gained in battle. It is similar to the system of Final Fantasy IX where armour, weapons, etc. would be equipped and characters would gain AP in battle, which when enough AP had been amounted and the ability "learnt", eventually allowed the ability to be used even if item was not equipped.
The party system has also changed; in Valkyrie profile, Lenneth would visit the places of great battles and recruit the souls of the slain, Silmeria lost that power when forced into Alicia. Instead, she can only recruit the souls, or Einherjar, by "reading" and item or weapon that once belonged to the person who's spirit Silmeria wishes to recruit. Throughout the game, Silmeria and Alicia will come across random items that were once used by brave soldiers, and by focusing all her will, Silmeria will be able to summon a spirit with some connection to the item.
Whereas in VP1, Lenneth's goal was to recruit these soldiers to fight at Ragnarok (the end of the world), Silmeria recruits them to help her in the various battles she will face throughout the game. Also unlike the original, there is no time limit to train these souls before they must depart, and instead of going straight to Valhalla as they did previously, the souls are re-incarnated as human beings when released or set free.
By letting the Einherjar free to be reincarnated, Silmeria will receive a sort of "thank you" gift from the spirit. As well as the Einherjar, Silmeria will also team up with living companions on her quest, each having their own personal reasons for joining forces with her. Also, Arngrim and Lezard Valeth will be making a welcome return in VP2.
Also gone are the 2D battles from VP, replaced by a fully 3D battle arena in VP2. Much like Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy XII, characters will run around a 3D landscape while battling monsters, using AP to cast spells, attack, use items, etc., running around and dodging attacks, and even pincer-attacking or attacking the enemy from behind by splitting the party up and manoeuvring around the enemy to take an advantage.
Monsters all have different parts that can be attacked -- for example the more humanoid specimens will likely have two arms, two legs, and a head or more. Depending on where your characters are positioned and what weapons they're wielding, they will attack a certain part of the enemy's body. Concentrating attacks on a particular body part will "break" it, meaning you can attack the monster as much as possible within a certain time limit. It also makes that body part useless to the monster for the rest of the fight, and this "break mode", if induced, will land you extra items at the end of the battle as well.
As with many RPGs, your characters will have "special attacks" -- like limit breaks, overdrives, critical hits, etc. that can be performed depending on the weapon. Weapons are made from the remains of slain monsters, which are collected and taken to shops to be forged into weapons. Depending on the quality of the equipped weapon is the amount of damage it will cause, how fast it will hit, and so on. VP's "Purify Weird Soul attack" returns, dubbed "Soul Crush". This is a special type of attack that can be pulled off by filling your special attack gauge during your turn.
Another interesting addition to the game is the concept of "Soulstones". These stones can affect just about anything battle related -- changing either you or your enemies' HP, defence, status effects, elemental weaknesses/strengths, and so on. There will be different altars where these stones can be placed, deciding whether the effect will take place or not, and if so, if it will effect your party or your enemies.
As is the nature of Valkyrie Profile games, VP2 is very explorative in nature. Lots of dungeons, lush sceneries, and amounts of puzzle solving will be amongst the hours of great gameplay the game is set to deliver. EGM recently reviewed a Japanese import of the game, scoring it an average of 8.3/10, earning VP2 a silver award. Liked were the lifelike visuals" and "complex and rewarding battles", but criticized was VP2's "plodding story line" and learning curve.
US Gamers look out for this game soon -- as it is set to hit US shores later this month. VP2 may not be the next Final Fantasy or groundbreaking RPG, but it certainly looks a worthwhile experience RPG enthusiasts will enjoy. Definitely worth a shot.