Just under a month ago, Square-Enix released a trailer for a new Valkyrie Profile project. At first, there was no information except for the Valkyrie Profile Lenneth logo that appeared at the end of the video. Much speculation occurred after that. Was it a remaster, a remake, a port of some kind? A week later, Square Enix revealed the ugly truth: a Valkyrie Profile Lenneth mobile port.
Square-Enix’s mobile ports have been lackluster at best, so does this new version of Valkyrie Profile Lenneth break the trend of S-E’s recent mobile outings? If you’ve read the headline, then unfortunately, you already know the answer to that question.
Title: Valkyrie Profile Lenneth
Release: March 22, 2018 (Japan) / TBA (Other territories)
Platform(s): iOS (reviewed) / Android
Let me just start off by saying that I was extremely worried when this project was announced. Valkyrie Profile for the original PlayStation is one of my favorite JRPGs of all time. I love the blend of strategy and action that the combat system allows; I love managing the skills for the dozens of party members; and I love the tragic (at times overly melodramatic and ridiculous) storyline. The music, art direction, and presentation are all top-notch as well.
Even the strange structure that the game imposes on you, leaving you with what comes down to a time limit, where you must manage your town visits and dungeon exploration, is oddly thrilling. In other games, this kind of restriction would feel overbearing, but for some reason Valkyrie Profile manages to pull it off.
All of this is left in tact in the transition to iOS. As this is a port of the 2006 remaster, Valkyrie Profile Lenneth, for the PSP, the upgrades from that version are all intact. Character sprites are crisp and well-animated; character portraits are touched up and nicely detailed; and the backgrounds are also presented in a higher resolution which allows them to really shine.
The game looks great on the iPhone 7 that I tested it on and even better on an iPad. I’m sure it looks even more stunning than that on an iPhone X or a newer Samsung model for the Android version.
The iPhone and iPad speakers aren’t really up to the task of presenting a clear version of the soundtrack. I recommend playing with headphones if you want to take in all the music and sound effects in a high-quality way.
As for the battle system, obviously the iOS version can’t emulate the face buttons from the PlayStation or PSP’s control pad, so much like Valkyrie Profile Anatomia (an original 2016 mobile game), touch controls are used. Touching a character’s stat bar will initiate attacks, and it’s arguably simpler to string together your character combos once you get used to their positions on the screen. I do prefer the button combinations from the original versions, but overall the battle system makes a great transition.
So far it may sound like I’m doing nothing but singing praises. However, besides the wonderful battle system, the other most important aspect of the game is dungeon exploration. In these phases, Valkyrie Profile turns into a 2-D platformer. In the PlayStation and PSP versions of the game, even with the ability to use a D-pad, the controls could be a little stiff. And this is where the game suffers and dies on mobile.
The touch controls for movement and jumping are awful and pretty much make the game unplayable. The opening dungeon, which is meant as a tutorial and can be cleared in about 30 minutes even on your first playthrough, took me well over an hour because of the terrible touch controls.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with their implementation. When you touch the screen on the left side a joystick will appear allowing you to walk or run depending on the distance you swipe. However, no adjustments were made to the actual game itself. There are quite a few areas that require some platforming finesse, especially in later dungeons.
Finesse is something you just cannot pull off with the touch controls. Trying to make the simplest jumps is a painstaking ordeal. Forget about doing any kind of platforming quickly, which is required for certain traps. The touch controls make it impossible. Maybe this issue is not as prominent on Android, but I see it being the same. As mentioned before, the core gameplay wasn’t adjusted for touch controls.
Veteran players will remember The Citadel of Flame, a Hard Mode-only dungeon found about halfway through the game. This becomes completely unplayable with touch controls. The opening section is even more frustrating than in the original, and the infamous platforming section about midway through the stage is where I stopped playing. It’s just insurmountable.
This is a huge shame, because Valkyrie Profile is such a fantastic game that deserves to be remembered and played by new generations of gamers. I wish that instead of this shoddy mobile port, we received a PS Classics version on the PSN or even just a straight portof the PSP version for the PS4.
Sadly, this is what we have to work with. Maybe Square-Enix will patch the game before a Western release, but that would involve actually doing some work and tweaking the gameplay. But S-E doesn’t seem to be in the business of making the best games possible for their mobile ports. They’re just in the business of cheating fans out of money.