Wednesday, June 22, 2011

VALKYRIE PROFILE



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Valkyrie Profile
Developer - Tri-Ace
Publisher - Enix
Release date – August 29, 2000

Valkyrie Profile is a role-playing video game developed by tri-Ace and published by Enix (now Square Enix) for the PlayStation. It was released on December 22, 1999 in Japan and on August 29, 2000 in North America.

Story

In the village of Coriander, a 14-year-old girl named Platina lives with her cruel parents. The village falls upon hard times and her friend Lucian finds out that her parents are going to sell her into slavery. The two run away, but Platina inhales the toxic pollen of poisonous flowers in a nearby field and dies in Lucian's arms.

Lenneth Valkyrie awakens in Asgard and is tasked by the god Odin and goddess Freya with recruiting the einherjar for their war with the Vanir and the coming of Ragnarok. Her first recruits are the princess Jelanda and mercenary Arngrim. After the arrogant Arngrim inadvertently embarrasses her father, Jelanda plots revenge but is kidnapped by a traitorous court minister and transformed into a monster. Lenneth helps Arngrim kill the monster and claims Jelanda as an einherjar. Arngrim, having unknowingly aided Jelanda's captors, kills the man responsible but commits suicide rather than be arrested. At Jelanda's request, Lenneth makes Arngrim an einherjar but Odin and Freya find him lacking the qualities of an einherjar and refuse to accept him into Valhalla so Arngrim remains at Lenneth's side.


Characters

There are 24 playable characters in the game. However, some of them can only be obtained in hard mode.

Lenneth is the primary protagonist of Valkyrie Profile, a recently awakened warrior-maiden and servant of Odin, who has been tasked with recruiting the einherjar to fight with the Æsir in their war against the Vanir and prevent the destruction of Asgard in Ragnarok. Lenneth is one of the three goddesses of fate (the other two being her sisters, Hrist and Silmeria) the three apparently share the same body, though only one is awake at any given time and can be distinguished by their hair color and armor.

Loki is revealed to be the final antagonist of Valkyrie Profile. He is half-Æsir and half-Vanir by blood. Although he has been accepted by the Æsir, he is not completely trusted by either side. Odin and Freya sealed his power so that he remains a young version of himself. He seeks the power of the Four Treasures, which will give him the power to challenge Odin.


Gameplay
Dungeon exploration plays more like a platform game than a traditional role-playing video game, with Lenneth Valkyrie the only visible character and capable of jumping, sliding, swinging her sword, and shooting ice crystals. Ice crystals can make temporary steps and freeze enemies and are used for solving many puzzles. Upon contact with an unfrozen enemy, an RPG-style battle begins. Enemies are visible and attacking them gives Lenneth a first attack advantage in combat. Lenneth can also engage an enemy in battle by coming into contact with them; in this case, there is a 50% chance that the enemy will have the first attack.


Travel on the world map occurs in a 3D third-person perspective, with Lenneth flying in the skies over Midgard. Pressing the Start button allows her to perform a "Spiritual Concentration," which reveals new dungeons, cities and towns, and recruitable einherjar, the souls of deceased warriors. When entering a city or town, the game switches to a 2D profile view and Lenneth will disguise herself as a human, allowing her to interact with inhabitants without drawing attention to herself.

Much of the game consists of Lenneth locating and recruiting new einherjar (with cut-scenes of the circumstances of their deaths), training them, and determining if and when to send them to Valhalla to fight alongside with the Æsir. Character development for most of einherjar consists of their "death scenes," which are often dramatic and highly emotional and often steeped in symbolism and metaphors, and dialogue between them and the Gods while in Valhalla. Each chapter requires Lenneth to send at least one einherjar to Valhalla (with a maximum of two per chapter), preferably meeting a set of requirements outlined at the start of the chapter. This makes the einherjar that is sent unable to be selected again until the endgame (if they prove strong enough to survive), but the game compensates with a large cast of 21 einherjar (some of which are exclusive to Normal or even Hard difficulty).

The game is divided into eight chapters, each with different quests, dungeons, and items available. Each chapter is further divided into periods, depending on the difficulty (16 in Easy, 24 in Normal, and 28 in Hard). Visiting towns, dungeons, and recruiting einherjar use up periods, requiring that the player budget their available time. Once the periods in a chapter are up, the Sacred Phase begins, in which Lenneth returns to Asgard and Freya updates her on the status of the war with the Vanir and the fate of her einherjar in Valhalla.


Each Einherjar has a Hero Value, a number representing their combat strength and strength of character, and Lenneth must send einherjar with the proper hero values and skills to survive in Valhalla and keep Odin and Freya satisfied. Not sending Einherjar and opting to keep too many special artifacts awarded at the end of dungeons will lower Lenneth's Evaluation to 0, which triggers the worst possible ending (Ending C). Conversely, offering artifacts instead of keeping them and sending Einherjar that meet or exceed the chapter's requirements awards a number of bonuses. First, it tilts the divine war in the Æsir's favor and increases Lenneth's Evaluation. Second, to increases the number of Materialize Points that Freya grants during the Sacred Phase, which are analogous to money, as they can be transmutated into items and equipment and vice versa. Finally, it earns powerful artifacts from Odin.

It also has a group experience system: battle experience is divided among the active party members, but experience points obtained from dungeon exploration (Event EXP) such as solving puzzles and completing dungeons are banked for division among party members at the player's discretion. There are three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, and Hard, with different available einherjar, dungeons, quests and mechanics. On Easy and Normal difficulty, the starting levels of einherjar vary, while on Hard difficulty, all characters start from Level 1. To compensate, there are more dungeons available and consequently more objectives that award Event EXP.

There are also three different endings. The "B" and "C" endings can be achieved in any difficulty level, while the "A" ending, which completes the entire story, is only available with the completion of certain tasks in the normal and hard difficulties. Also, the Seraphic Gate is only fully accessible in Hard.


Valkyrie Profile has a unique turn-based battle system. The two sides wage battle during alternate turns, with the whole party sharing one turn and able to attack simultaneously during that turn. Each enemy is given their own turn and do not combine attacks with one another. Each of the party members is assigned to one of the buttons on the controller (Square, Triangle, Circle, or Cross). Pressing the corresponding button on the player's turn orders that character to attack. Fighters have three character-specific attacks each turn, though weapons can limit how many they can use. Mages cast their preset offensive spells, which builds up their CT (Charge Time). Charge Time replaces MP, decreases slowly on its own, and prevents casting spells when above 0. While a mage's CT decreases, they cannot perform any actions, though there are skills that allow exceptions to this.

Stringing attacks together produces combos that prevent a target from defending or recovering, yield Magic Crystals and Fire Gems that increase experience and reduce CT, and add to the Hit Gauge. When the Hit Gauge reaches 100% in one turn, a character that participated in the combo that filled the Hit Gauge may perform a special attack ("Purify Weird Soul") that causes great damage and refills the Hit Gauge, possibly allowing another character to use their Purify Weird Soul. Using a Purify Weird Soul causes CT to rise, so characters must wait several turns before they can perform another one. Fighters have unique Purify Weird Souls. Mages use either multi-hit versions of their selected spells or Great Magic, elaborate versions of their selected spells that strike all enemies. Only certain scepters allow the use of Great Magic; human-forged Great Magic-capable scepters have a high chance of breaking with such use, and unbreakable ether-coated ones are extremely rare. Damage is not capped so the party may attack an enemy until they no longer have any available moves rather than being limited to the total HP (health points) of the target.

At the beginning of each battle, Lenneth summons her einherjar to combat. As she is needed to keep them materialized, if Lenneth is defeated in combat, she must be revived within three turns or the party will be defeated. Lenneth is also the only character who cannot be voluntarily removed from the party at any point in the game.

Six weapon types are present: Light Sword, Heavy Sword, Katana, Lance, Bow, and Staff, corresponding to the six types of characters: light warrior, heavy warrior, samurai, lancer, archer, and mage. Most characters will only be able to equip their specified type of weapon (though some swords can be used by light and heavy warriors and samurai) and only certain weapons allow them to perform all three of their attacks (or Great Magic in the case of mages). Lenneth is the exception; she can equip both swords and bows and her Purify Weird Soul, Nibelung Valesti, changes accordingly. Some weapons run the risk of breaking with each use.

Development
Matsuno, the game's producer and director, preferred to create a new game title from scratch and use design ideas from staff collaborations, rather than reusing popular characters and designs that are found in sequels. Vagrant Story is regarded as a mixture of genres, as it contains elements of role-playing in its battles and platform games when in the field map. Matsuno explained that the development team was not eager to place Vagrant Story into a specific genre, preferring to create the game with a genre of its own.


During the design phase, Matsuno was shown photographs from France, particularly Saint-Émilion in the region of Bordeaux. This region was visited by one of Matsuno's colleagues, who was a wine enthusiast and favored Saint-Émilion, one of the largest vineyards of Bordeaux. Captivated by this small town's architecture, the design team went on a trip to France to adopt these styles into the game. A team of five people was formed on September 1998, including Matsuno and the principal persons in charge of graphics and decorations, to realize the game's setting.

Development of the game began in January 1998, spanning two years with manpower that steadily increased from 20 to 50 at peak development phase. The storyline conceived for the game follows Ashley Riot's origins as a dedicated government agent prior to being the titular "vagrant" who is "involved in many incidents" after the events in Leá Monde. Inspiration for the plot is derived from Hollywood "classic and blockbuster" films as well as European and Asian films. The gameplay was conceived to cater to hardcore gamers who do not "ask for hints and read through strategy guides". However, Matsuno revealed that over half of the game's story was cut due to capacity and development time constraints. Memory issues was considered the most challenging aspect of the game development, with the team forced to adjust the game's interface, texture mapping and polygon mesh in maps, as well as removing gaming elements such as AI-controlled supporting non-player characters that would have joined Ashley in the middle of the game.

Vagrant Story was conceived during a time when most games had made the transition into three-dimensional graphics. Games with real-time polygons were the mainstream, and it was decided for Vagrant Story to follow this trend. Murata, the main programmer, expressed his concerns in working towards a large-scale three-dimensional game for the first time. To avoid discrepancies in the frame rate caused by the large number of polygon models, the modeling team had to select an aspect of each character to focus their attention. Art director Minagawa mentioned that painstaking detail were given to each individual model, even to characters that only appear for a few seconds in the game. The same character models were used throughout the game to create a seamless transition between event cutscenes and actual gameplay. The sound effects of Vagrant Story are credited to Minoru Akao, the game's sound programmer; and Tomohiro Yajima, the sound editor and engineer.


Music
The original score for Vagrant Story was composed, arranged, and produced by Hitoshi Sakimoto, whose previous video game works included the soundtracks to Radiant Silvergun and Final Fantasy Tactics, with additional arrangement by Takeharu Ishimoto for Track 2–30 and Hirosato Noda for Track 2–31. A Japanese orchestra ensemble, Shinozuka Group, performed for the orchestral piece of Track 2–29. All synthesizing operations are led by Takeharu Ishimoto with assistance from Hidenori Iwasaki for Track 1–1 and Hirosato Noda for Track 2–18.

Sakimoto noted that during the initial phase, he composed "bright and cheerful" tunes similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, but Matsuno emphasized music that was "more deep and heavy". Matsuno also advised him to listen to music from The X-Files for ideas on ambient scores, and Sakimoto pointed out influences of James Horner and Hans Zimmer in his compositions. Sakimoto was impressed with the dedication of the development team to the game, and expressed uneasiness trying to come up with music during the game previews. Sakimoto created themes for each character and monster, and made several changes in their melody to reflect their relationships, feelings as well as antagonistic views. The soundtrack for Vagrant Story remains to be one of Sakimoto's favorite compositions.

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