Friday, March 4, 2011

East vs. West: Valis II (PC Engine)

It's import gaming time again here at the Gaming After 40 blog.  This one came out in the US for the TurboGrafx-CD back in 1990; I owned a copy back in the day, but no longer do, so the international discussion on this one will have to be drawn from memory.  I recently picked up the Japanese version, so we're going to take a look at Sin-Nihon Laser Soft's side-scrolling pretty-soldier-with-a-sword action platformer Valis II:

This was the first, and arguably the weakest, of the four Valis games released on the PC Engine CD-ROM format.  Valis III and IV followed, with a remake of the original Valis: Fantasm Soldier actually arriving at the end of the line.  Later Valis games made better use of CD-ROM multimedia capabilities; this first title suffers from limited animation and small image windows.  At least the Japanese voice acting is much more sincere than the awkward American dub, and the anime artwork (extremely refreshing at the time, when the style was just making inroads in the West) remains attractive despite the limited resolution and massive green borders.

What I remember most about the US release is how little sense the story made to me as a Valis newcomer -- joining the saga with chapter II, I encountered a whole cast of characters that I was clearly supposed to remember but had no hope of assembling into a coherent storyline.  As I recall, Yuko sets out to kill the world-coveting Emperor Megas, while having conversations with various allies and forces of goodness that are so deep they are almost impossible for the uninitiated to fathom.  I gather the girl with the blue hair is Yuko's twin sister, but I've never been too clear on who the white lady is:

Yuko also spends a lot of time running around in a succession of schoolgirl and warrior outfits, swinging her sword against a colorful collection of enemies.

I include this image only to note that this enemy character looks like the illegitimate offspring of Skeletor and Mumm-Ra:

Yuko also fights her way through Megas' demonic minion bosses, each of whom introduces itself with a monologue full of bravado and braggadocio before serious battle commences:

At the game's climax, Yuko finally tracks down the Emperor, but is still saddened when he dies at her mighty hand.  It is a confusing plot development, but an oddly affecting moment:

Yuko's melancholy seems especially noble, given Megas' regular manhandling of her lifeless body in the recent past:

Valis II isn't a great game by any means -- its audiovisual panache just barely makes up for a host of gameplay flaws.  The level designs are repetitive and generic, and some of the later enemies are really annoying to deal with, dealing out cheap hits and making rapid attack entrances from offscreen.  But the graphics are attractive throughout, and the CD soundtrack features driving Japanese game tunes, providing rhythmic action accompaniment that isn't particularly memorable but works very well in-game.

Aside from the English dub, there are no noticeable differences between the Japanese original and the American version that I recall.  Most of the onscreen text is in English in the Japanese version; the biggest difference I could find is that only the Japanese manual contains a little Yuko paper doll, showing off her three normal outfits, plus a bunny outfit not seen in the game, complete with little tabbed ears.

I enjoyed spending some time with Valis II again, but having experienced the other Valis titles since, I would recommend any of the others over this one.  There's the germ of an interesting series here, and there are definitely less interesting games on the PC Engine, but Yuko's best was still to come.

This is one of the good ones, though it's the weakest of the four PC Engine Valis titles. You may be able to find a copy for purchase here or here:

Valis II 2 PC-Engine CD

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