Sunday, April 25, 2010

Legend of Valkyrie


As is the case in Fray~Xak Gaiden, here we have a chick who goes on an adventure that plays out somewhat like an action-RPG, somewhat like a free-roaming shooter, and somewhat like a platformer. The biggest knock on Fray is that the cute-but-chunky main character doesn't control particularly well. Valkyrie fares better in this regard but still doesn't play all that wonderfully, as leaping can feel awkward, and you'll absorb a good share of "questionable" hits.

There isn't much of a "quest" to experience here. Although there are quite a few forks in the road and some secrets to uncover, there isn't any backtracking or town visiting or, really, any thinking at all to do, which may be good news for folks who don't want to contend with a language barrier. You plod about the land, killing enemies and acquiring spells and weapons as you go, and beat a boss before venturing to the next area. Very simple stuff.

Occasionally, you'll encounter an NPC who'll ask you a question and provide you with three possible responses to choose from. These are the only parts where not knowing Japanese can be a bit of a problem, but since your options are so few, the amount of time spent on trial and error will be minimal. Get a question wrong and you might miss out on a spell or lose a heart or be sent back a ways, but it's never really a big deal.

Even the passwords aren't much of a problem: each is just twelve characters long and is made up of hiragana and letters from the English alphabet. And since the game is so short (a mere seven areas), completing it in a single sitting (and thus not bothering with the passwords at all) is quite possible.

But don't expect to come across much eye candy during that single sitting. While the environments look decent enough, they can't compare with Fray's colorful, cartoony boards; and the enemies, while fairly large, are often somewhat fuzzy and ugly.

There are mini-bosses to deal with, but that cast sorely lacks variety: I fought the same dumb "mouth-monster who sits in the middle of the screen and spits boulders" more times than I cared to count.

The end-of-stage bosses, on the other hand, are rather interesting. Fights with them play out sloppily but are very enjoyable.

Some of the weapons you can obtain are rather fun to wield, and there's one really cool magic spell that allows you to become BIG Valkyrie and do damage to enemy creatures simply by stomping on the ground.

But LoV, while an adequate hybrid title, never really feels exhilarating, and it gave me nothing that makes me want to revisit it. Fray doesn't play all that well, but it has a very charismatic and adorable main character and lots of funny moments. Valkyrie, on the other hand, contains not a single exceptional element. It'll do for whittling away an afternoon, but don't expect greatness from it.

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