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[ Writer ] = Sol Sadguy
[ 09/18/05 ] = Valis 3

I'm pretty sure that at least a few people have seen this game sitting forlornly on the shelf at the game store "back in the day." It was miserable, sitting there all alone, with the goofy cover and the big, golden blocky lettering that loudly proclaimed that the game inside was "Valis 3." The cover art was kind of an enigma - who the hell is the chibi chick in the bikini armor, and why the hell is she smashing that guy's ball and chain? Who is the snotty bitch up in the corner, looking quite pleased with herself, as if she'd just got done painting the bathroom an atrocious color that her husband would scream about? Who was the wizened old man in the corner, who didn't seem to be paying ANY attention to the epic ball-and-chain smashing that was happening below? Was he looking at something else - perhaps another bikini clad warrior who was done fighting and preparing herself a hard-earned bath? All these questions and more lingered in my mind as I plucked the game off its lonely position on the shelf at the local rental store. Also, at the tender age of 13, I was impressionable and quite open to the idea that, while not giving any outward appearances of being such, this might be one of those crazy games from Japan where you could have sex inside a noodle house with girls dressed in bunny costumes.







My first hopes were sadly dashed as I slammed the cartridge home and flicked on the power button. There were no naked ladies here. No bunny girls bouncing merrily. I decided that, since I'd already spent my five bucks allowance on this I might as well make the most of it. I soon came to realize that not only had I gotten my five bucks worth, but I'd also unknowingly sparked an obsession with fantasy and wonder that still carries me to this day. The void where my sexually deviant hopes were was suddenly filled with the strange sense of intrigue that Valis instilled in me.

After the title screen, you get treated to the backstory on the world of Valis. It was surprisingly deep, and made me wonder about our mysterious young maiden-at-arms, Yuko Asho. This being the first time a game ever tried to tell me a story, (outside of role playing games) you can probably imagine I was caught quite off guard by the still-scene cinematics that told the tale of her reluctant heroism, the sacrifice of her friend Reiko, and the ever growing battle for Dark World. Thus primed, I hit the start button and dove into the world of fantasy action platforming that is known as Valis (1-Player, published by Renovation, and developed by Telenet).

After another cinematic that introduces an unlikely thief named Cham who steals your powerful sword, you set off after her on the rooftops in hopes to catch her before something nasty happens. The nasty something DOES happen, as she's taken captive by the evil king of Dark World, Glames. Cham freaks out and drops the Sword of Valis, and Yuko, being the ever-brilliant heroine that she is, jumps OFF THE DAMN ROOFTOP in order to reclaim the sword. She must live REALLY high up, and following the jump is a freefall that would make Evil Kenival piss his trousers.



After reclaiming the sword, you begin your quest. My initial impressions were that this game was really, REALLY difficult. It's easy to get knocked off the rooftops, and the enemies are placed at the most irritating of potential spawn points. In later levels, there are places where you must jump, slide, and attack in tandem to keep from getting knocked off your precarious perch. In the first area, you're definitely introduced to the slide technique, as you can use it to easily skirt the rooftops without taking a plunge. I eventually got to the end of the level, beat the boss, and was treated to another cinematic, this time Yuko chastening Cham to taking the sword and Cham telling her why she did it.

The gameplay of this game is a strange crossbreed that lies somewhere between Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania. Platforms are everywhere, as are powerup crystals that hold magic spells and magic points. Unfortunately, there really aren't a whole lot of different enemies to fight, and you usually end up clobbering one of 4 different types of enemy on your trip through any given stage. From stage 2 on, however, you can switch between Cham and Yuko, each female warrior having their own unique attack properties and magic effects. In the next level you get a third character, Valna, who can shoot projectiles from her magical staff.

To be perfectly honest, I play the game now and can admit that the actual gameplay is a little lacking in variety. The platforming is a hit or miss situation - you'll either love making death defying leaps from place to place or you will hate it. The combat is very cut and dry - very few enemies require any sort of strategy whatsoever to defeat. Bosses, on the other hand, are quite difficult and will require several attempts before you can finally nail their pattern and give them the deep six they so desperately deserve. The in-game graphics are a little bland and grainy - most levels revolve around a specific palette, and the backgrounds aren't terribly inspired. It's definitely the cinematics that require all the applause, however, as during these days of 16-bit gaming, such a concept was relatively unheard of.

The controls are a bit sluggish when using Yuko, as it takes a split second for her to swing the sword after you press the button. Cham plays like a female Belmont, complete with a whip and a kinky leather costume. Valna is a fireball sniper (maybe she's related to Ryu? I dunno) who can take out enemies with her powerful magic attacks. The music in this game fits the mood perfectly, trilling up and down the scale as the sound effects, while slightly garbled, belt out as you kill things. For me, the music enhances the fantasy setting VERY nicely. I will never forget the music that plays when the Valis sword is being evolved by the elder, Nizetti.

I love almost every game in this series, and it's not surprising that this series is also revered in Japan. For the Turbo CD system, they even have a visual collection that is chock full of eye candy goodness, and since I'm rather broke I can't see myself owning it anytime soon. Most of you dear readers are probably a little too old to feel the wonder and awe that I did when first playing this game, but give it a shot and try to remember when this game came out. If you place it among the platformers of the time, Valis 3 will undoubtedly reign as goddess supreme among the other mere mortals of the 16-bit age.