Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is the PlayStation Portable conversion of the 1999 PlayStation game Valkyrie Profile from Japanese developer Tri-Ace, best known for the Star Ocean series. The game is considered to be one of the rare gems of the era thanks in part to a modest production run that has made it a hot commodity for collectors. However, anyone who has played Valkyrie Profile can also vouch for its status as an impressive role-playing game that's arguably the best title Tri-Ace has ever produced. Therefore, anticipation for its PSP release has run high. We got our hands on the import version of the game to see how the console game has translated to the PSP.
If you're unfamiliar with Valkyrie Profile, there are a few things you should know. The game drops you into a war based on Norse mythology. You'll play as a female warrior known as a valkyrie, who attended the ruler of the Norse gods, Odin. These fierce maidens were viewed as awesome fighters and were charged with distributing death lots among warriors on the battlefield and shepherding the souls of the fallen to Valhalla (an afterlife destination reserved exclusively for heroes). With a Nordic apocalypse looming, Odin sends out a lone valkyrie named Lenneth to find warriors to help defend Asgard, the gods' home.
When you fire up the game you'll find an assortment of options, including access to a movie gallery and sound test mode. The movie gallery collects the new cinematics that have been added to the game, which show off key moments in the story. Once you see them in the game you'll be able to go to the gallery to rewatch them at your leisure. When you start a new game, you'll be obliged to stick through the lengthy intro, roughly 45 minutes or so, before you can save.
The gameplay breaks down into the archetypal RPG components: exploration, character interaction, and a whole lot of combat. Valkyrie Profile's battle system stakes out its territory in the turn-based family of RPGs and finds you controlling a party of up to four fighters at a given time, each assigned to one of the PSP's face buttons. You'll perform melee attacks by hitting each fighter's corresponding buttons. If you time your attacks properly, you can create massive chains that do progressively more damage with each hit. When melee attacks aren't enough, you'll be able to use magic and items to help even the odds. The system holds up after seven years and works well on the PSP. As in most RPGs, you'll be collecting experience after each battle that will eventually let your party level up over the course of the adventure, which will open the door to new spells and abilities. You'll enhance your party's growing power with a host of different items you'll collect on your adventuring, buy in shops, or create yourself.
The visuals are based on the original PlayStation game--which was a fine-looking game in its day--and don't sport much of an improvement. Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth's look remains faithful to its PlayStation roots and is pretty atypical of the RPGs of its era. In the face of the landmark presentation achievements seen in Final Fantasy VII, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth has you exploring areas with prerendered backgrounds that animate. The game's world map is a massive 3D plane you'll be flying over to look for spots to drop down and adventure in. In contrast to the static backgrounds, the characters in the game are large, well-animated sprites. The downside to the PSP conversion is that you'll notice some blurriness due to filtering when the view is brought in close. The blurry graphics are a bit of a letdown given the game's now-legendary beauty on the PlayStation. However, the lush new cinematics help take the sting out of the loss of clarity. The same principle of good news/bad news holds true for the game's loading, which, while speedy in some spots, bogs down in others.
The audio makes a more consistent trip to the PSP and offers up the game's stirring soundtrack and voice in rich stereo. The soundtrack has aged well, and the Japanese voice acting has that extra kick in the form of strong emoting. The sound effects have also made a faithful trek over and serve up a good helping of clear effects in and out of battle.
Based on what we've seen, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is a mostly solid conversion to the PSP that hits almost all the right notes for fans. As it stands now, the overall package is OK, but it doesn't offer much new gameplay content for fans of the original. Anyone looking to import it shouldn't expect a completely warm welcome from the game, as it's not friendly to non-Japanese speakers. While the core menus feature English, like all RPGs Valkyrie Profile is a very story-driven experience that will require a good knowledge of the language to get the most out of it. If all you're looking to do is plow through it for some nostalgia, you can find FAQs online to help you through, but you'll be missing out on the game's rich story. Though the game is out in Japan now, there's no word from Square Enix on whether it's coming to the US. We're hoping the game finds its way over to these shores, because if you missed out on it on the PlayStation, this could be a great way to see what all the fuss was about back in the day.