Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Role Playing Game
Despite all the hype Sony built for the PlayStation Portable, the console has lagged behind the Nintendo DS in terms of sales and creativity. But there is still no denying the fact that the PSP is a very powerful piece of hardware and can deliver incredible gaming experiences to Developers who take the time to build them. Utilizing nearly the power of the PlayStation 2, with WiFi, analog controls, and a beautiful, crisp wide screen--the gamer has all the tools in the palm of their hands to experience the same type of epic gameplay experiences that they normally do on their PS2 console.
Unfortunately for the sophisticated gamer who is tired of quick little mini-game experiences on the Nintendo DS, Developers haven't really given anything worthwhile to the PlayStation Portable. Sure there have been a handful of great games released but nothing to create a massive increase in units sold at retail. This all could soon be changing though. The first example we will examine today is an excellent new Action RPG from Developer XSeed Games. To the hardcore gamer, you don't have to waive a great RPG at them for long before they will come running to buy your game. But will Valhalla Knights be this title for the PSP?
First off, I must mention that this title looks really good. While the graphics don't compare to the latest PS3 or Xbox 360 releases, for a handheld platform, Valhalla Knights looks ever bit as good as what I would expect from a PlayStation 2 RPG. Each character is highly detailed and it appears that time was spent to make this game play like a big-screen console RPG rather than a watered down handheld game. There is no clearer evidence of this than the opening fight you participate in against a huge boss character. This opening sequence brought a smile to my face and a song to my RPG heart.
Our story begins where our main character loses his memory and you are directed by a mysterious voice that is watching over you. The problem is, this voice is in your head and nobody else can hear it but you. But our hero must not only regain his memory but save the world from an evil Dark Lord.
One of the big new features that XSeed is bringing to the table with Valhalla Knights is giving the player control over all aspects of the game. This begins as you choose the sex of your character, their race, name, and skillset. WIth choice also comes a warning from the Developer. I was advised to begin my first adventure as a Warrior because the other classes can be a bit challenging. This was very good advice and helped in the early stages of the game.
As the player enters the world and must go on their first quest, your next set of choices appear. Do you go out alone and explore the castle without any party members? Should you upgrade your equipment with your limited funds? Should you go out and spend your money on a new party member? I chose the latter and added a Priest to my ranks. This ate up just about every single last coin I had to spare.
Even at the early stages of the game, the amount of choices XSeed and Marvelous Interactive give the player is very impressive. You would expect this kind of sophistication and detail in a PS2 game but not a PSP title But my amazement with this title did not end there.
As your funds increase, players can choose to change their classes, add more party members, and better equip themselves for battle. In fact, up to six characters can be included in your playable party. Anyone in your active party can also be controlled during battle so you can better control their abilities.
Battles play out in real time combat sequences with the R button serving as a "lock on" mechanic. You can then hit X or Circle to deliver a series of awesome attack combos. For those characters with ranged abilities, the L button will be used for those moves. Managing your team may seem easy at first. But trust me when I say that when six party members get involved with a screen full of monsters, the action is fast, frantic, and some of the most RPG fun you will have on a handheld device this year.
One of the areas I was not so impressed with is the camera and controls. Part of the problem comes with the analog nub of the PSP being entirely too difficult to control. Your characters will, at times, will not move precisely where you need them to and making minor adjustments to try and exit a room or speak to a particular person can be an adventure for your patience. Other issues with the controls involve the camera system. Despite the in-game map included on screen, there is no reason why the camera can't give you a better viewpoint over the action. But because this is still a preview build of the game, I can overlook these issues and hope some of them get fixed before the release. If it can't be fixed completely, I hope they can be fine-tuned or after much more time with the title I can get used to these issues.
A portion of this build I was not able to fully test is the multiplayer mode. Included in Valhalla Knights is wireless multiplayer that allows a co-op gameplay experience or even a head to head Versus Mode. Personally I am not a big fan of head to head modes--but I really like the idea of having the co-op gameplay experience here. The best thing about this mode is that players will get to retain any gold and experience in their single player adventure.
WIth a shortage of good handheld RPG's, Valhalla Knights looks to bring players a long and enjoyable quest that might even keep players off of their big-screened consoles and on their PSP. While there are a few issues that need to be worked out, from what I have seen, this game is going to be the first of many exceptional PSP games coming in 2007.
We will be back to deliver a full review of Valhalla Knights once we get our hands on a final build of the game.