The past 12 months have seen the reinvigoration of RPGs in the English-speaking markets. Final Fantasy VIII and Vagrant Story have sold oodles of copies, while the upcoming Chrono Cross, Lunar 2, and Final Fantasy IX have fantasy fans already counting their pennies. One of Enix's more recent RPG titles, Star Ocean: The Second Story, has also sold pretty well. Taking into account the success of Star Ocean and RPGs in general, Enix has decided to give Westerners another treat: Valkyrie Profile.
Developed by the same team that created Star Ocean: Second Story, Valkyrie Profile offers something not many flatlanders can relate to: Norse mythology. It seems Ragnarok is up in Valhalla threatening to wage a heinous war on Odin's lily-white butt. As you can imagine, Odin needs soldiers - and fast. Since you're the biggest, baddest Valkyrie in all the land, Goddess Frey taps you for the job of military recruitment. Unfortunately, Valhalla is the Norse equivalent of heaven, and the only way you'll be able to enlist new soldiers is to head down to Earth/Midgaard and recruit some dead folks. To make things interesting, you'll also stumble upon a tense political situation and impending war on Earth. In short, Valkyrie Profile will put you right smack in the middle of two raging conflicts.
You'll be responsible for recruiting a total of 24 soldiers throughout the game, but only three will be in your party at any given time. RPG fans will find Vagrant Story's battle system somewhat reminiscent of Star Ocean's in that you'll engage in battles in order to gain points, which will let you enhance a wide variety of skills. You'll be able to make a character heroic, intelligent, strong, agile, or proficient in magic, but it'll be impossible to make an all-around dominating character. Once in a while, Valhalla will request a soldier strong in certain characteristics, so you'll have to do your best to train someone to fit the bill. As you recruit souls and train them, you'll come to learn of their history and their beliefs, even developing an attachment for them in some cases. Once they're adequately trained, though, you'll have to send their souls up to Valhalla to join Odin's army. Send them too soon, and they may perish, leaving Odin weakened. Send them too late, and there won't be a war left to fight. Regardless, once they're in Valhalla, they're not coming back.
Valkyrie Profile will be a semi-nonlinear RPG in that you'll have a single world to explore and a series of battles to fight, but you'll be able to do so in any fashion you wish. The game will require that you stay on task, however, so deviation from your mission isn't advised. Battles will be fought in a 2D perspective, with a variety of magic, fighting, combo attacks, and finishing moves. With lush backgrounds and highly artistic visuals, it's no surprise that Valkyrie Profile will be released on two CDs. For FMV fans, anime-style movies and interstitials will be peppered throughout.
For those worried about the translation, Enix has learned its lesson from the Star Ocean 2 fiasco, and it is promising a direct translation of the Japanese Valkyrie Profile. Furthermore, the same voice talent that was used for Metal Gear Solid is being tapped for this puppy.
With features such as soul concentration, random character interaction, and a turn-based, combo-capable fighting system, Valkyrie Profile should offer a new kind of refreshment to American audiences. Brush up on your Norse mythology now, though, as the game is slated for a late August release.