Valis III would be the last in the series to come to the US which is a bit sad. But at the very least the series went out on a high note and we were spared seeing the property whored out as a PC porn game as Telenet fell on hard times. I’ve got to hand it to Renovation/Telenet, they certainly kept at it and as much as I might disliked the first two games I still enjoyed them to an extent. What can I say, I had a soft spot for games with an anime aesthetic. But this time it isn’t a guilty pleasure as Valis III is a legitimately good game and one of the best CD titles released for the system in the US.
The Spirit World is on the verge of collapse as it is being swallowed up by a black hole. King Ramses decides to move his people to a new world and declares war on both Earth and Vecanti. This is just a front however. Rames is in possession of the Sword of Lassas, the counterpart to the Sword of Valis. When the two are combined ultimate power is given to their owner and Ramses has his sights set on Yuko’s sword. You know where this is going….
The big new feature are the three playable characters. About a quarter of the way through the game you’ll have access to Yuko, her sister Valna, and demon world resident Cham. Cham attacks with a whip Castlevania style while Valna utilizes magic projectiles that attack in a 3-way shot fashion. For Yuko the variety in projectile weapons is gone unfortunately as she has settled on a simple wave attack. So that you won’t simply spam the attack a charge meter that governs the strength of your attacks has been added like Astyanax. I can’t really say it adds much and can largely be ignored.
Their main differences between characters comes from their use of magic. There are three types: fire, lightning, and ice with the spells differing per character. This is where Valna shines; her spells are incredibly powerful and use little MP so they can be spammed. On the flipside she takes the most damage when hit. I’m struggling to think of any area that Cham beats the other two but I can’t. It seems like her attacks are stronger but landing hits with the whip needs to be very precise. She’s just…there.
The level design has been overhauled dramatically. Gone are the flat planes of the second game and in its place is a greater emphasis on platforming. This is all well and good but the stupid super jump will lead to many a cheap death. When it all comes together it’s great. Many levels like the ice cave and the temple make extensive use of the slide to cross gaps. The only problem is you have to be exact in your positioning or you’ll die. Aside from these issues though you are rewarded with a long and varied quest and a somewhat involved plot as the series is known for.
This is not an especially difficult game although it has its moments. Generally Yuko is the best option to run through each level while Valna’s magic makes short work of bosses. This isn’t just my opinion as there are many segments that force you to play as Yuko, highlighting how well rounded she is. Items to refill magic are abundant so you can spam spells recklessly, making it easier. It’s the platforming that is frustrating. There are many parts of the game where it is easy to fall to your death by being one pixel off and it sucks. The high jump is just as finicky as the double jump in Revenge of Shinobi and unfortunately is required toward the end. If you die during a boss battle forget it. You lose all power-ups and trying to win with the weakest attack power and no spell is futile.
Valis III improves on the visuals of the second game significantly. For one the game is much longer and so has a greater variety of settings. Backgrounds are just as detailed with the overall color palette being much more vibrant. The denizens of the Spirit World are flamboyant and very late 80s anime in their design which is probably why I like the game so much. The CD game has a number of advantages over its Sega counterpart chiefly its more frequent cutscenes and voiced dialogue. That last point isn’t necessarily a bonus though. The voice acting is atrocious at times with lazy line reading and a notable lack of effort by some of the actors. I will say that it is pretty cool that there is separate dialogue depending on which character confronts each boss, very nice.
Personally Valis III is my favorite game in the series although the fourth game does many things better. It has a well-rounded cast of characters, solid level design, and a great soundtrack to boot. It’s a bit obscure now but not that hard to find and is definitely worth picking up. Just do it face down as that American cover art is ghastly. Wow.