Shortly after Valkyrie Elysium was revived, it is the turn of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth to win the hearts of fans once again. Although not for everyone, this version is an interesting piece of history which is now better preserved.
The PlayStation debut of Valkyrie Profile will have passed most people by, thanks to its very limited edition. In fact, should you wish to purchase the game today you can expect to pay between 200 and 9000 Euros. Fortunately, a few years later a polished version for the PlayStation Portable appeared, adding new cutscenes and finally making this mythical JRPG inspired by Norse antiquity accessible. Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth for PlayStation 4 and 5 is a port of this PSP version that in turn also delivers minimal but welcome additions.
Preparing for Ragnarök
We meet our titular Valkyrie as she descends from Asgard to Midgard, the realm of men, to recruit legendary warriors for the battle at the end of time, or Ragnarök. These warriors are all over the world the Valkyrie flies above, and by concentrating, she can hear their last cries before they die. This gives her a place to fly to and discover what was going on prior to these death cries, intervene and add them to her army as Einherjar. The series is known for its well-crafted stories and dialogue and Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth has more than enough of those. It takes its time to build its characters, portray stories and even manages to surprise and emotionalize at times. The downside to this may be that Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, for my liking, sometimes takes half an hour to complete. In the game’s opening hour, I pressed a button six times for about three simple battles, and that won’t be for everyone.
Your warriors aren’t just worthy enough to travel to Valhalla, no, you’ll have to get their Hero Value in order first, and one way to do that is through combat. That strength is not the only thing an Einherjar needs to have, the game quickly makes it clear and is vital to getting anyone up at all. Big, brutal swordsman Arngrim is a powerful warrior, but driven by selfishness and his hot head. Before Valhalla accepts him, you will have to get his Hero Value up by adjusting his traits; you designate points in a menu to boost his good qualities and make bad traits less so. If you miss this bit of explanation, you’ll have a bad time in Valkyrie Profile.
Valkyrie’s concentration periods also reveal dungeons from which you can extract treasures and put the rather unique combat system to the test. The Valkyrie and her three team members are mapped under the four face buttons and have a single attack. So the beginning blows you right through, but I soon learned that order and timing of specific attacks matters. Some enemies have default blocking stances that you have to break through, so using your heaviest attack first is not smart. What the game is less good at is signaling how dangerous enemies are. For example, several times I ran into spontaneous total party kills and completely impossible dungeons. This while just before that I found two dungeons that I had no trouble with at all. The Einherjar use swords, hammers, bow and arrow and even magic, so I had to calculate which order and type of weapons is most efficient for each situation. These weapons can be found distributed throughout the world or you can convert points accumulated in the world into weapons, armour or much-needed items. When the Einherjar are at level, you ship them to Odin to battle.
How you do this also matters because everything in Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is time-based. Each city you enter takes one period, where a dungeon costs you two. After a predetermined number of periods, the chapter ends and you are called to Asgard for an evaluation. Here Freya will tell you how the Aesir stand against their opponents, the Vanir and strangers, and how your performance as a Valkyrie has been. If you have sent enough, powerful warriors to Valhalla then you are in good shape, but I was also warned at points of Odin’s wrath when I could not send anyone through. Odin, by the way, has two eyes, which is painfully incorrect, as is the fact that the portraits of characters in dialog sometimes look nothing like their sprite form. Not that this matters, but still. You also get space there to learn about how your sent Einherjar is doing, what they are experiencing, how they are growing, as well as whether they are still alive. Freya also gives you further information here about what type of Einherjar you need in the upcoming chapter, and since you are only allowed to send two per chapter, so you will have to remember this well. What you do and who you approach is entirely up to you and you can take on Ragnarök without ever sending a single soul.
Where the PSP version added cutscenes, this version for modern consoles also makes this presentable on the big screen. Which can’t be said for everything, because in one of my first WhatsApp messages to the final editor I shouted, “wow, this is just PSP resolution on a 4K screen. The initial Square Enix and Tri-Ace title screens look incredibly blurry and slightly like pixel knit, especially as it moves. In-game, the good art direction makes this less of an issue, and when juxtaposed with the originals, it’s a clearly visible graphical improvement. Each world and dungeon works with different layers of foregrounds and backgrounds that can be switched between, giving them their own look. There are three more graphic filters to apply that did little for me and a controls menu which hilariously only shows you where start and select are on the touchpad. Letter that’s it, no option to remap buttons or anything.
Fortunately, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth makes up for a lot with a built-in savestate system where you have five save slots available at any point outside of your standard PlayStation save files. But even better is the rewind feature that lets you rewind up to 30 seconds. This is mega valuable when you consider that the dungeons, for example, contain quite a bit of platforming and have pretty chunky controls. Or when, like me, you didn’t hit the “use item” menu button in combat, but the skip turn (why put that in front, Tri-Ace?!) or flew into a wrong village and didn’t want to waste in-game time.
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is a unique JRPG that combines special systems and time management with in-depth storytelling. Because of this setup, it won’t be for everyone, but this release is an important piece of history preservation.