|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tri-Ace||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
December 16, 2008 - The Vakyrie Profile series can best be described as a cult series, with a minimal number of dedicated fans who sing its praises whenever possible.
It first came on the scene in 2000 for the original PlayStation, and it was later ported to the PSP in 2006. Both versions were widely praised for their engaging story and non-traditional battle system. A sequel was produced in 2006 to critical acclaim, but sales were not that enthusiastic. However, a very devout following began to emerge, and the series cult status was all but affirmed.
For the third entry in the series, developer Tri-Ace is trying something new. Instead of debuting on a major console, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume will be heading for the DS. However, this handheld takes a lot of its content from its console predecessors and is one of the most technical-looking handhelds I have ever seen.
The storyline in Covenant of the Plume picks up on the series recurring Valkyrie theme, which involves vengeance on the Gods. In this tale, a young man named Wylfred seeks revenge on a Valkyrie who selected his father as a mystic warrior and took control of his soul when he fell in battle. When Wylfred finds out that he is to share his fathers fate, he believes that by becoming a legendary warrior, like his father, he can become close enough to the Valkyrie to exact his revenge. The story, while it does contain several elements of previous installments, will stand on its own, and it should be very accessible to those who have not had experience with its lesser-known predecessors.
One of the first things that will set Covenant of the Plume apart from most handheld titles is the graphics. Early video shows the game having a very cinematic style, with extremely crisp cutscene animation. The cutscene quality is very close to console-level, and it looks like the DS hardware is being pushed to the limit in this aspect. Another facet of Covenant of the Plume that adds to its console-style visuals is the presence of cinematic-style attacks. These attacks, while common in console-based RPGs, are several seconds in length and showcase the games impressive graphics engine. Although most other aspects look pretty standard in the visuals department, these two areas definitely stand out as exceptional.
In addition to the graphics being unique among its handheld peers, the battle system is also going to be quite complex for a handheld system. This entry will still stay true to its predecessors in terms of using strategy, but instead of having a grid or turn-based system with graduated attacks, the battle system will have a very character-focused approach. Each party can have up to four characters, and each one will have their actions tied to one of the DS four face buttons. This will allow for speedy character deployment and more focused tactics. Characters will have a very small attack list, which will have to be set prior to battle. Depending on the attack, each character can also initiate an over-attack system, where you can chain together multiple attacks to unleash special moves and vanquish enemies.
The battle system seems to emphasize quick action rather than methodical battle strategies, which could be a very interesting take on the genre. Although some amount of battle planning will likely be involved, the over-attack system will reward those who can think fast, and this title looks to incorporate several action elements into its RPG style of gameplay.
However, the strategy comes into play when deciding how to incorporate different attacks. Each character will have a set number of attacks they can perform during a battle. These attacks can be performed at any time and in conjunction with any other characters attacks. So, for instance, if you wanted to use each characters attack during a single turn and chain together a huge over-attack, then you could. However, if you wanted to save your characters SP and only attack once or twice during a turn, this is also possible. Weighing the different strike combinations and the time spent between them will make up the majority of this titles strategic base. This system definitely is fresh, and hopefully it will yield some memorable gameplay.
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume looks like it is shaping up to be a very big game, despite being released on a handheld system. Although previous entries in the series have not been very successful beyond a cult-level, this one may be the title to finally break into the mainstream. With a very action-oriented tactics-based battle system, amazing cutscene graphics, and what is sure to be an interesting story, Covenant Plume is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing RPGs of the new year.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor