Thursday, June 3, 2010

Valis II

Laser Soft / Telenet / NEC

What I remember most about acquiring Valis II is that, well, I didn't really want to acquire it. It became a part of my collection simply because it was the only Turbo CD title that my local game shop happened to have in stock that day. Predictably, I didn't care much for it. I did love its music, and over the years, I've come to appreciate its story; but I must warn all prospective buyers that--though this isn't necessarily reflective of the game's worth to me--it is the worst of the PC Engine Valis episodes, an action-platformer that rates as acceptable--but just barely.

V2's levels are quite straightforward in design. There isn't much platforming or many tricky obstacles to deal with; subsequent Valis episodes demand far more in the ways of skill and strategy. II places its focus on hack-and-shoot action, and the little challenge it offers comes from enemies who take lots of hits or attack from advantageous positions. You need to figure out when it's best to combat your adversaries and when it's best to flee from them, and making those determinations isn't particularly difficult. The game is short, easy, and very generous: it doesn't penalize you much with its checkpoints or make you begin a whole new battle when you lose a life to a boss--both of which are fine with me.

Valis II disappoints when it comes to gameplay, graphics, and challenge, but its soundtrack is a rather compelling draw. Fast-paced tunes and sinister dirges keep the player motivated and alert when the action itself gets a little bland... which happens quite often.

You'll wind up in difficult situations like this only if you charge ahead recklessly. Proceed patiently and you'll be able to obliterate your foes with little hardship. Utilizing a stop-and-start approach really nullifies any feelings of intensity that the game begins to generate, but it's necessary in light of the clunky controls and Yuko's inflexibility.

The fourth zone, with its blob-and-dragon army, and the fifth, with its deadly obstacle courses, seemed quite difficult to me when I was younger. Now I realize I was just an awful player back then.

Zone 3 is my favorite due to its nice colors, strange enemies, and incredibly sweet music.

The in-game visuals are crude for the most part, and the cinemas are typically of the miniature-window variety.

The plot those cinemas relay, however, has some surprising depth to it and concludes in brilliant fashion. Unfortunately, if you aren't familiar with the preceding episode's story, you'll find yourself baffled by the tale that's told here. I had no idea what the hell was going on back when I first played the game, and it really pissed me off.

Don't worry; this is no Gogan-vs.-the-Punjabbis sort of spectacle. The bosses are large and look pretty cool but put up little resistance.

The platform ride in the final zone can make for a challenging sequence, but you can make life very easy on yourself by holding on to the powered-up wave weapon. The multiform Megas at the end is a pushover, easier to defeat than the third-stage boss in Valis IV (to put matters in perspective).

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