Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume Review for Nintendo DS

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume Review for Nintendo DS

A Complicated Covenant

Although Valkyrie Profile has not been the most prominent series in recent years, its plot-heavy entries on both the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 have garnered this series a cult-like following. The third Valkyrie Profile game, Covenant of the Plume, is the first handheld entry in the series. Although this title sticks very closely to the series’ established narrative, Covenant of the Plume takes several risks with the battle system, and the results are hit or miss.

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume screenshot

The story in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is probably the best reason to play it. It continues the series’ theme of seeking vengeance on the gods, involving a young man named Wylfred, whose father was taken in battle by Lenneth Valkyrie. After his father’s death, his family fell into financial ruin, leading to his sister’s death due to starvation. At that moment, Wylfred made a promise to his mother that he would get revenge on the Valkyrie at any cost.

This is where things get interesting. As Wyl gets older, he is approached by a nefarious queen of the underworld, who gives him a powerful magic plume that can unlock hidden potential in Wyl’s friends. The only catch? is that after Wyl invokes this plume, his friend will die. The plot thickens as it is revealed to him that the plume needs blood to survive, and Wyl must either sacrifice his friends or use The Power of Sin in order to stay alive and continue his quest. This leads us to the battle system.

The Power of Sin is a lot like the rules system in the Final Fantasy Tactics, and it involves getting a certain amount of Overkill. Overkill is defined as successive hits gained after a foe’s HP has reached zero. The Overkill hits must be taken in the same turn as the fatal blow, and they must reach a certain amount of negative HP to fulfill each battle’s Sin requirement. If the Sin requirement is not fulfilled, a series of suped-up bad guys will be sent after you, and you will probably die in the process.

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume screenshot

The sin system is a little bit on the complex side, and it really defines the way you use the tactics in Valkyrie Profile. Unfortunately, I don’t think its effect on the gameplay is very positive, as I frequently felt like I was being punished for dispatching enemies swiftly or leveling up mid-battle (as this would cause my single attacks to be too powerful and kill enemies without gaining much Sin.) Although you can circumvent the sin system altogether, fighting the enemies that follow if you fail is extremely arduous, and it is usually better if you just restart your system after failing, which is a huge gameplay hindrance.

But, aside from the overly complex rules system, the combat in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is actually very good. The battle system is very unique and involves using a single button to control up to four playable party members. Each character can have up to three standard attacks, as well as a singular special attack, which can be equipped before each battle. Once the battle commences, each character has a dedicated face button, and once characters move in range of an enemy, an attack mode starts up.

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume screenshot

In the attack mode, you will use the button that is assigned to each character to attack the enemy. So, if you have Wyl assigned to the DS’s Y button, and you have equipped him with two sword-based attacks, you will have to press the Y button twice to unleash these attacks. If you are performing a group attack (which the game heavily emphasizes), then you will be able to use each character by pressing the button when you want to attack. There are rewards for attacking at different times, or attacking together, so pressing the buttons in a certain sequence is a good idea. Of course, pressing all the buttons at once is not exactly a bad strategy either, but if all of your attacks kill your foe, but just barely, you could get in trouble for not having enough Sin, which undermines the entire battle system.

Although I do take issue with the rules system presented in Covenant of the Plume, I have to say that the simplistic control scheme and semi-active battle mechanic were a good fit for the handheld. Despite menu-based gameplay being quite familiar and natural-feeling for RPG enthusiasts, I was happy to find something unique, which gave me the freedom to plan my tactics in advance yet attack on the fly. This is one of the best facets of Covenant of the Plume, and though the single-button controls make take some time to get used to, the simplicity certainly makes the gameplay interesting and I appreciate this unique approach.

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume screenshot

As far as graphics are concerned, Valkyrie Profile looks about average for a DS game in terms of in-game visuals. Characters are represented by little sprites onscreen, and the different environments have a nice 3D look to them, reminiscent of older Valkyrie Profile titles. However, where this title knocks it out of the park in terms of visuals is in the pre-rendered cinema scenes. The opening cutscene was quite impressive and has to be the most visually impressive opener I have ever seen on the DS. Characters were modled with an amazing amount of detail, and the animation was top-notch. Although the opening cutscene does create quite a discrepancy between itself and the in-game graphics, I am always excited to see the DS hardware pushed in terms of graphics, even if it is only for a few minutes.

The sound in Valkyrie Profile is also very good. The music certainly fits the game’s moody elements and the dark, melodic theme music is quite catchy. Although character voiceovers are sparse, when you do encounter them, they are nice and authentic-sounding.

Generally, there are two things that make an RPG successful: story and gameplay. These two elements go hand in hand and as long as they are balanced and work together they will create a memorable experience. However, even though Valkyrie Profile: Covenant has a great story (one that is well worth experiencing) some of the more obtuse elements of the battle system (particularly the out of place Sin system) keep it from being a truly great RPG. While it is a shame that I can only really recommend Valkyrie Profile based on its narrative, the story is good enough that by the fourth or fifth hour of gameplay you probably won’t even care about the issues with the battle system. I’m not entirely sure if that is a good or bad thing, but with more than 20 possible endings, knowing what will happen next definitely kept me in this game, and I am sure it will hold the interest of anyone who picks this title up as well.

Pre-rendered cinema scenes are amazingly detailed. In-game graphics are not as impressive, but satisfactory nonetheless. 3.9 Control
Button-based battles are fun and the controls are simple to learn. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is pleasant to listen to and voiceovers are nicely interspersed, despite being somewhat infrequent. 3.6

Play Value
The story is the main reason to play this title, as the overly complex rules system makes battles a bit too cumbersome for any real replay value.

3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Brand-new Storyline Perspective: Follow Wylfred’s dark quest for revenge on the Valkyrie Lenneth.
  • Sieges: Earn greater spoils and fighting advantages by surrounding enemies.
  • Soul Crush: Perform powerful finishing moves by maxing out the attack gauge.
  • Overkill: Continue attacking enemies once they are defeated to earn Sin.
  • Ultimate Replayability: Discover multiple possible story endings as you decide the fate of your allies, with results that will change the course of the game.
  • Dynamic Dual Screen Presentation: Experience a beautifully rendered 3D world.
  • Seraphic Gate: Battle formidable foes as you recruit new allies in an unlockable bonus dungeon.
  • Over 20 possible allies to enlist.

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