There are certain games designed to make people feel things. We have comedic RPGs, like Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. People who go through a Call of Duty might feel themselves getting pumped up by the action. But, sometimes we stumble across one designed to encourage a sense of melancholy. Sometimes, we get a game like Valkyrie Profile. This PlayStation Classic is designed to make you feel for all of the virtual characters you encounter. It’s one of the more touching games out there, and people who give it a chance might find themselves falling in love with almost every character.
The Goddess of Death
Valkyrie Profile is inspired by Norse mythology, which helps provide a bit of context and an excuse to see firsthand some of the most depressing stories ever. People follow Lenneth, a Valkyrie tasked by Odin with collecting the souls of fallen human warriors to boost the ranks of his army for Ragnarok, an impending war that could end the world. She’ll see people on the verge of death or who have just died, watching their final moments and battling through dungeons to see their story. Then, she’ll train them for Ragnarok, occasionally sending warriors who fit Odin’s immediate needs to aid the war efforts. Each person gets their due, showing a lengthy glimpse at what tragedy brought them to an otherworldly army.
This makes for an interesting sense of progression. Every chapter, Lenneth will need to search the world for souls crying out in despair. When you find one, you see their story. You get to watch them when they were alive, interacting with your people. You get to see just how human they are, as in many of the cases it is some mortal failing that results in their untimely demise. (Though, a few people are just a victim of circumstance, like Yumei the mermaid.) After you fight them, you gain a new warrior. You then have to go into dungeons across the map to improve them, spend points you have earned by staying in Odin’s favor to craft equipment for them, and make them better people. Lather, rinse, and repeat until the world ends.
But What About the Goddess Herself?
While someone might expect the Valkyrie to be above other people, due to her being a goddess and them mortals, Valkyrie Profile is unique in its execution. That’s because Lenneth’s story is just as tragic as the ones of the people she recruits. What happens to a Valkyrie when Odin doesn’t immediately need her? Especially since there are three of them? Well, she essentially is put to sleep.
Lenneth has something of an existential crisis in Valkyrie Profile, and the game never shies away from exploring that. Once she finds out how she is treated, what happens to her during the phases when she’s not in Odin’s active service, and what happened to her immediately before her current “shift” at work, something dangerous happens. Lenneth begins getting attached. In fact, the game is at its most interesting when you start pursuing the ending that causes the various seals to break and see how finding out you might be more of a “tool,” rather than a valued member of the pantheon, affects a person. This route is challenging, demanding, and requires perfect timing, but it makes a great game even better.
Laying a Memory to Rest
Valkyrie Profile is a bit of a tragedy. Unlike many of the PlayStation Classics we talk about here, there is no digital version available for Sony systems. Yes, there is a mobile port of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth out there. However, the original PlayStation game was never released as a PlayStation Classic for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation Vita, and the PlayStation Portable version only appeared on UMDs. For a game about preserving warriors’ souls, you’d have thought it’d have been treated with a little more reverence!