Valis III (Genesis)

For the brave gamers who decided to take a chance with Valis the first few games were a lesson in mediocrity.  I won’t deny that there is a certain charm to those games but they were also average in every way.  Especially Valis II, which was flat out bad.  Valis III represents a turning point where the series mechanics finally caught up to its production values.  This is a legitimately good game and probably Renovation’s best release in the US. 

The Dark World is on the verge of death as it is being pulled into a nearby star.  With nowhere left to turn King Glames sends his subjects to both the Dream World and Earth.  Or so he wants everyone to believe.  The truth is Glames owns the counterpart to Yuko’s Sword of Valis and with both weapons combined ultimate power is achieved.  Yuko teams up with Valna and Dark World warrior Cham to fight back against Glames and save both worlds.

Valis III owes most of its quality to its tight controls.  Yuko is far more responsive and remains unchanged in terms of her abilities.  New to the series is the power bar, which determines the range and strength of your attacks.  The only real change would be the slide, as it is introduced later in the game.

The game’s major feature is its three protagonists.  Aside from Yuko both Valna and Cham are playable and can be switched at any time aside from boss battles.  The differences between characters are only slight at first.  Yuko is balanced while Cham’s whip has medium range and attack power.  Valna is physically the slowest and weakest but has the longest range and also takes the most damage when hit.  Magic is also another area they differ.  Each of the three spells change for each character with wild effects.  Valna is grossly overpowered with magic and the clear choice to fight bosses.  Cham’s spells aren’t so great, meaning you’ll use her for high attack power.

As fun as it is to play around with each character the real star is the excellent level design.  Previous games failed in this area; while they showed flashes of brilliance ultimately they were boring.  The stages have an almost Castlevania like feel to them in that everything is deliberately placed for maximum annoyance.  Later levels become pretty inventive such as sunken temple, where enemies need to be frozen to make platforms.  There’s an even balance between the longer levels and bite sized set pieces that add a huge amount of variety and keeps the game from becoming stale.

At seven levels Valis III is decently long.  Each level is further broken down into multiple sections making this one meaty package.  For the most part most players will breeze through it as it is fairly balanced.  The levels aren’t highly populated and magic is readily available.  The only thing stopping me from saying the game is easy would be the boss battles.  Towards the end of the game they become nightmarish bullet sponges that can take upwards of five minutes to kill, if you can survive that long.  It will take nerves of steel to see the end of this one.

Despite its length the Sega version is actually missing some of the Turbo CD’s content.  There are entire sections of certain levels completely missing.  There’s an entire segment where you climb the cliffs and a waterfall before meeting the boatman that is gone.  To its credit this version does have some exclusive content.  There’s an entirely new level and most of the bosses have either been redesigned or given new attack patterns.  In some cases it’s for the better but it doesn’t make up for what was lost.

As a port the Genesis version of Valis III compares favorably in some areas but comes up short compared to its CD counterpart.  The presentation is uneven; most levels are identical but differ in terms of their color palette.  While the Turbo CD game is looks better overall in my opinion there are a few levels that have added layers of scrolling or completely new sprites here.  Where it truly falls behind is in its cutscenes.  Prior Sega ports of the series have managed to keep nearly all of the cutscenes and only lost the voice acting.  Here a significant number are gone and replaced by lame text scrolls. Maybe Telenet should have sprung for a larger cartridge. 

In Closing

It’s nice to see that the Valis series continued to improve over the years.  After the disastrous 2nd game Valis III is a breath of fresh air and a great platformer.  While I still prefer the Turbo CD version honestly you can’t go wrong either way.  Sadly it’s a bit obscure today but still worth tracking down.