Valkyrie Elysium: The First Profile

Gosh, I really wish someone would make another Valkyrie Profile game. It's been over a year since Valkyrie Anatomia shut down, and that was a mobile game with all the expected baggage. It's gotten to the point where I'll latch on to any unrelated name with Valkyrie in the title, like Square Enix's newly announced Valkyrie Elysium.

Oh wait. Elysium actually IS a new Valkyrie Profile. It has the signature series silhouette in its logo, after all.

Yet the game's initial trailer doesn't show much immediate connection with earlier Valkyrie Profiles. We're told that Odin has summoned a valkyrie to ferret out the reasons for the apparent ruin of the worlds both below and above. And as Valkyries are wont to do, she’ll roam the land and recruit the souls of brave and dead mortals to join her cause. 

It’s the same premise as the original Valkyrie Profile, but Elysium has an apparently new heroine and a new emphasis on combat. The first trailer shows off a 3-D action game in which the blonde heroine (who’s seemingly not Lenneth Valkyrie OR her sister Silmeria) leaps and slices and dashes around. Square Enix’s initial writeups promise that her einherjar recruits can join her in battle, though there’s only a flash or two of that in the trailer.

As many have critically observed, Valkyrie Elysium doesn’t look so great. The scenery is sparse well beyond an intentionally bleak landscape, and the battle system doesn’t show enough to set it apart from any other brawler where you might juggle enemies for mid-air combos. It resembles a routine mid-level action game from the PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 3 era.

And I'm looking forward to that. The rising budgets of the modern game industry eroded a lot of the middle ground over the past generation, bifurcating the market into indie creations and expensive triple-A blockbusters. In its primitive looks and apparently ambitious plot, Valkyrie Elysium hearkens back to an era where developers didn’t worry if their ideas were too big for their budgets—an era of Bujingai, Gungrave Overdose, Red Ninja, Spy Fiction, Nano Breaker, Folklore, and other 3-D action games with unique styles and compelling mechanics wrapped up loose and cheap, like a Christmas present from a younger sibling.

Developer Soleil Game Studios seems new and untested, but their catalog is awash in B-level action. Games like Wanted: Dead were once commonplace, and though they couldn't stand next to polished, lengthy, and balanced blockbusters, they could at least share a store shelf.

That’s why I’ll refrain from judging Valkyrie Elysium on appearances. It’s always the part of a game that interests me the least. I’m more intrigued by the prospect of Valkyrie Profile’s button-jabbing, combo friendly RPG battles morphing into a faster-pacer action game. I’m looking forward to seeing just what Elysium does with the whole concept of valkyries, a myth seldom explored fully by video games. If I were hung up on how nice a game looked or how smoothly it ran, I might have discarded Nier, Pandora’s Tower, Advance Guardian HeroesDrakengard 3, or perhaps even dear Gravity Rush. How disturbing.


Besides, Valkyrie Profile fans must admit that we weren't getting another game in any fancier packaging. Valkyrie Anatomia lasted four years but now seems largely forgotten. Covenant of the Plume, the DS strategy-RPG, earned far less of a following than it deserved. And even Valkyrie Profile 2, the last outing for consoles, didn’t catch on like the original. We're lucky to have a new Valkyrie game, opaque as it may be in referencing the original series. 

Of course, there are links to be found. You’ll see the field of weeping lilies that figures prominently into Valkyrie Profile motifs, and the official art and the last shots of the trailer show a halberd-wielding, raven-tressed armored figure who's a dead ringer for Hrist. She's the grouchiest of the three Valkyrie Profile sisters--and the only one who didn't get her own game.

The main illustration implies that she’s equal to the protagonist, though I'm afraid that 1980s cartoons like G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, She-Ra, Beverly Hills Teens, Visionaries, and Lady Lovely Locks conditioned me to assume that all fictional dark-haired women are innately evil. I'm not sure if I'm kidding.

And what about the new valkyrie heroine? My nutty suspicion is that she's related to the amalgam Valkyrie we saw at the end of Valkyrie Profile 2, when Hrist, Lenneth, Silmeria, and human princess Alicia all combined into one warrior like little Norse toy robots. That likely won't bear out in the game, but I should get it out there just in case I'm right and Square Enix owes me a payoff to keep me from suing. I'm pretty sure that's how spoilers work.

I might never be able to fully hate anything that involves Valkyrie Profile, but I think there’s some valid anticipation here. Valkyrie Elysium looks like a potentially cool new take on a favorite series and the sort of mid-range action game I’d like to see more often. And hey, the music’s nice.