Super Valis IV

And so the Valis saga finally ends.  At least in the US.  Super Valis IV was the last game in the series to be released worldwide.  While they never reached the popularity of their competitors the Valis games carved out a nice little niche.  In Japan Valis IV was more or less everything you would want in a series finale and was great.  The Super Nintendo port, while good is not as great.  It is still worth picking up but if given the choice I would recommend the Turbo CD original.

Super Valis IV takes place a generation after Valis III.  Previous heroine Yuko has ascended and become the Goddess who watches over the world of Vecanti.  When Prince Gallagher of the Dark World threatens the Dream World a young Vecanti woman named Lena is granted the Valis sword to lead the fight against his forces.

If there is one element the Valis series is known for it would be its extensive cutscenes and in the case of the CD versions, voice acting.  You get none of that here.  Aside from an extremely brief introduction loosely explaining the story the game is devoid of any context. This is doubly disappointing as even the Genesis games included them.   As the last game in the series The Turbo Grafx CD game was an appropriate send off.  It offered some gameplay improvements and had many lavish cutscenes that were a nice reward for completing each level.  This straightforward SNES port is barebones and a shell of the original.

Even calling this a port of Valis IV isn’t entirely accurate.  It follows many of the same broad strokes but in terms of gameplay this is almost an entirely different game.  The multiple characters are gone, leaving Lena as the sole heroine.  On one hand the constant character switching was annoying.  But their presence made the game that much livelier.  Lena is more or less a jack of all trades to make up for the loss of Amu and Asfal.  She loses the slide but can dash, which is significant for an important reason I’ll get to.  Her standard sword attack is complemented by an infinite use magic fireball. 

The magic system of its CD counterpart is gone and replaced by an inventory of items.  You can carry up to six items that span the gamut.  These range from different spells to healing items and armor.  To be honest I kind of like this system better.  As powerful as magic was in the original its use was incredibly limited. 

Despite the number of features missing the developers have recreated elements in a different fashion.  Midway through the CD game Lena underwent a test to become worthy of the Valis sword, gaining new armor in the process.  That armor is a standard item here that can absorb 5 hits in place of your hit points.  Certain spells are the standard attacks of Asfal and Amu.   One other gameplay element that has been changed is the clock.

Super Valis IV does not have the traditional timer that ticks down in most games.  Instead the boss meter is present at all times.  The longer you take to reach the end level boss the more hit points they will accrue.  This system tempers your exploration as you absolutely do not want them to reach full power.  Most of the bosses are pretty tough as is, with a full life bar they become absolute nightmares.  They become stronger and gain additional attacks and more than likely you will lose. 

The sense of urgency created by the boss timer will entice you into running through the levels which isn’t a bad idea.  The one true failing of this version is that the level design is boring.  I mentioned how annoying the constant character switching could be.  While true each character’s differing abilities made the levels more interesting through obstacles and deliberate enemy placement.  What you’ll find here are long drab stretches of land, devoid of interesting design or enemies.  This version, aside from being shorter, also has less enemy variety.  Considering each level runs pretty long it really stands out.

Yet when taken in isolation I still really like the game.  It certainly doesn’t compare to the better action titles on the platform but like its predecessors still manages to be a solid B or C tier effort.  The game looks greats and the soundtrack is also fantastic.  There is a vicious difficulty spike toward the end that most will not be prepared for.  The final boss battle takes so long I legitimately thought the game was broken.  Be warned.

When judged on its own merits Super Valis IV is a solid game.  A bit frustrating at times, but solid.  But when compared to the CD original it comes up short.  The graphics and especially the music are better here but the CD game is the more well rounded title overall.  It’s a shame that western fans did not get to experience the game in its original form.  As much as I like Super Valis IV it is second string among action games for the system.

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