Set several hundred years before the events of the first game, VP2 sheds light on the history of the grand city of Dipan. When Silmeria strikes up a rebellion, Odin hastily entraps her spirit within the body of crown princess Alicia, but it isn't long before her feisty determination reveals itself. King Barbarossa, fearing that his beloved daughter is possessed, ships her off into exile and declares to his citizens that their future matriarch is dead.
In Lenneth, you learn that Dipan was punished (by then Valkyrie Hrist) for infernal experiments that violated the laws of the gods. Silmeria hints at the fact that there might've been a greater agenda at work, with Hrist desperately seeking the rebel goddess by picking up hints as to Alicia's current whereabouts. A chase around Midgard ensues as the princess and her alter-ego flee the wrath of Odin. Of course, they'll also be prompted to seek out powerful allies in their quest for independence.
The core gameplay in Valkyrie Profile 2 remains largely the same, with the four-button character control system fully intact. Each face button is tied to a particular warrior in your party and by timing their attacks you can create all sorts of combos in real time. It's a unique battle engine that marries the strategic elements of a turn-based RPG with the action of developer Tri-Ace's own Star Ocean series (one that characteristically relies on AI routines to control other party members). Some extra-dimensional elements have been applied to the formula, though, that allows for more unique formations and the ability to execute pincer (and other) attacks on unassuming foes.
Dungeon crawling elements also reprise, with some mechanical upgrades to the Valkyrie's crystal powers (now called the Photon Action System), including the ability to switch places with enemies. The 2D platforming aspects remain, as well, only with beautiful three-dimensional scrolling backgrounds replacing the artifact-ridden pre-rendered stuff of the first game. As good as it looked despite imperfections, it's hard not to welcome the new look – especially when the improved aesthetics extend to the character models and other aspects of the game, as well.
There are differences in the flow of the two games, though, with Silmeria eschewing the use of “periods” to determine the lapse of time. The story is still split into distinct chapters, however. The more earthly story dictates that other fundamentals change. As Alicia, you no longer have access to divine powers and thus recruit allies by finding objects associated with them on the mortal plane. You'll also be buying items and equipment from shops in lieu of using “materialize points” to create them out of the ether.
Valkyrie Profile 2 has been a long time coming and, at least according to those who've already completed the Japanese version, it's worth every second of the wait. You can get your fix in less than two months when it hits US shelves in September.
7/28/2006 Cavin Smith