Valis II

Valis was not an especially good title.  In fact you could even say it was only slightly above average.  Early in the Sega Genesis’ life you could appreciate it but as superior titles released it couldn’t keep up.  Yet there was something about it that was just so charming.  That charm is what makes the series my guilty pleasure.  You also won’t find any of it here. Even with the addition of a CD soundtrack and extensive cutscenes Valis II is simply a bad game.

Peace has returned to the world of Vecanti after the defeat of Rogles.  The peace is shattered however as civil war breaks out.  Those still loyal to Rogles oppose the new emperor Magus.  The anti Rogles faction tries to steal the Valis sword in order to tip the balance, drawing Yuko into the conflict as well.

To be completely honest I question why Valis II is even on a CD.  The game is incredibly short by any standard and makes me wonder what all of the extra space was used for.  There are numerous cutscenes after every level but the Genesis game had that too.  All of the time spent on excess should have been used to improve the core game.  You don’t generally hear anyone mention Valis II when talking about the series for a reason.

Gameplay has been simplified from the first game.  The slide move has been removed as well as the high jump.  The different magic spells have also been excised entirely.  In its place the Valis sword will always fire a basic projectile.  The large number of different weapons has been paired down to just three, cutter, homing, and dual.  All three are unimpressive and lack flair.  There are also special items that sort of replace magic but their activation is so wonky I’m still not sure how they work.

The simple gameplay could be forgiven if the level design were interesting but Valis II fails spectacularly at even that.  For the game’s first half you will spend all of your time killing enemies that approach in a straight line with no deviation.  There is no tricky enemy placement or challenging platforming, just a straight path.  The second half picks up considerably with larger levels full of hidden items and sometimes alternate paths to the exit.  If the whole game were this inspired then maybe Valis II would have been decent.              

The main reason it suffers so badly comes from all of the features removed during the porting process.  Valis II on the MSX and PC88 was a much deeper game.  There were more weapons that could be upgraded as many as four times.  Magic played a heavier role as it used jewels instead of MP.  The biggest loss came from the lack of different outfits.  Yuko’s wardrobe was more than just cosmetic, each outfit offered different benefits that made switching worthwhile.  Some suits increased health or attack power while others boosted defense.  If you didn’t want to bother the standard outfit was well rounded. Granted those versions had their own issues (mostly technical) but if you took their feature set and combined them with this versions production values it would have been special.  Or the X68000 version.

As you can imagine the game is laughably easy.  Nearly every enemy will simply run into your sword and will inflict little damage.  Power-ups aren’t plentiful but you really don’t need them.  Almost every boss can be defeated by slamming the attack button without moving.  The game is so easy it would be embarrassing if most couldn’t finish it one sitting with no trouble.

Visually the game is uneven.  The odd numbered acts are so simple in appearance I question if the artists even tried.  The cityscape of Act 1 looks terrible compared to the Famicom Valis.  The even numbered levels for some reason are more inspired, featuring truly alien design that actually looks nice.  The large bosses of the original have given way to unimpressive creatures that are so simple to beat it’s as if the designers simply gave up. 

There are a significant number of cutscenes in the game with some slight animation but even those aren’t perfect.  They are heavily letterboxed, occupying a sliver of the screen.  Even that small window is heavily pixelated which is disappointing.  I noticed less blood compared to the remake of the first game despite the large amount of death present.

The one bright spot is the soundtrack which in typical series fashion is excellent.  All cutscenes are fully voiced, with the dub varying from competent to bad.  The Valis sword is frequently called Varis as if no one caught it while recording.  There is some banter between Yuko and each boss as well but it is mostly fluff and over dramatic.

I’ll give NEC credit for bringing over nearly every game in the series.  But that doesn’t mean I’ll recommend them.  Valis II is a mediocre game, lacking any of the charm of its fellow titles.  While the pickings were slim on the Turbo CD in the US you can certainly do better than this lacking title.  I didn’t expect much but still came away disappointed.

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