Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume: Searching for Vengeance

By Jenni . March 31, 2009 . 3:33pm

The Valkyrie Profile series has gone the way of most all successful Square-Enix franchises – it has spawned a strategic RPG. Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume returns us to the game’s universe in a prequel that has players trying to get revenge on the valkyrie Lenneth.

 

Wylfred is a young man in the clutches of grief and depression who happens to be looking for someone to blame. His father died in battle. This caused his family to fall into poverty. His sister died from starvation. His mother went insane from grief at the deaths of her husband and daughter.

 

When Wylfred’s father Thyodor’s body was found, a single white feather was by it. This was a sign that the valkyrie found him worthy and made him one of her einherjar. While his colleagues saw this as a blessing, his family saw it as a curse. Wylfred determined that the valkyrie was responsible for his father’s death makes a conscious decision to kill her.

 

After nearly dying during one of his first mercenary missions, Wylfred gets his chance. Hel, the Queen of Niflheim, has taken an interest in him. She gives him a plume and tasks him with collecting sin and turning the plume black. If he succeeds, she will give him power and the chance to enact his revenge.

 

The plume is an interesting battle mechanic. You get the opportunity to use it once in a mandatory battle, and after that can use it whenever you wish. You can use it on party members who aren’t guests, and it unlocks that ally’s potential. They become incredibly powerful for one battle. After that battle, they die. The plume becomes more tainted as a result, and a new tactic ability is unlocked for Wylfred.

 

Its usage also determines what ending you get and what characters you can recruit. It can be used a total of three times in the game. If you use it all three times, your game is over. Depending on which chapters you use it, and how many times, you’ll get different characters in Chapters 3 and 4. An enemy in one playthrough can be an ally in another.

 

It’s really an interesting concept, and even though I really wanted to get the good ending my first time through, I decided to cave and use the plume. There’s a New Game + option after you complete a run-through, so you get to keep all the tactics you received by sacrificing characters.

 

Despite being a strategy RPG, the Valkyrie Profile battle system, where each attacking character is mapped to a different button returns. The goal isn’t to attack an enemy with one character, but to ambush and surround him with multiple characters. That way you can deal the most damage and garner the most “sin” in a battle.

 

The thing is, there are a few technical hiccups. For example, the transition from the battle map to an actual battle doesn’t proceed smoothly. It seems like it tries to transition, but white bars will briefly flash at the top of the screen when it jumps to battle. Also, the in battle character sprites movements can be jerky before and after attacking.

 

Also, the enemies aren’t the brightest mobs I’ve ever seen. Even in the hardest difficulty level, it seems as if they’re more content to wait for you to come to them, than hunting your characters. This means you’ll often have to go head first into a swarm of enemies, risking them mobbing you the same way you intend to mob them. A little more motivation on their parts would have been nice.

 

Yet, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume can be incredibly challenging. Especially if you choose the hard difficulty level. Some situations almost seem designed to force you to use the plume, or as though the game already assumes you’ve played before and unlocked a certain tactic.

 

The length of the game is surprising. I managed to complete my first playthrough (going for the “Normal” ending) in under nine hours. Typically, you expect a strategic RPG to take you at least 20-30 hours to finish. I’m thinking this is intentional, and that Square Enix purposely kept the length in check to try and encourage players to replay the game, so they’ll earn more party members, see all the endings and unlock the Seraphic Gate section.

 

I found myself feeling nostalgic, in a way I didn’t when I played Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria. Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is one of my all-time favorite games, and while Silmeria was good, it somehow didn’t feel like part of the same series at times. Covenant of the Plume definitely feels like a Valkyrie Profile entry, with familiar music, faces, atmosphere and drama. I almost started thinking of Wylfred as an anti-Lenneth, where Lenneth was rounding up souls to give them a bit of a second chance and Wylfred was rounding up occasionally doomed people to use them as potential plume fodder.

 

Food for Thought:

 

1. Difficulty option is determined by what location you choose to travel to at the end of Chapter 1. Hroethe Walk is the easy route, Aullewyn Keep is intermediate and Camille is hard. Depending on which location you travel to, you’ll recruit different characters and see different sides of the story.

 

2. Keep an eye open for Gandar cameos – he shows up in the game. He appeared in Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth as an opponent and einherjar.

 

3. The Seraphic Gate mode returns again. In order to unlock it, beat the game with the Bad, Normal and Good endings. As usual, once it’s unlocked, there are secret characters available.

 

4. It’s a Square-Enix strategic RPG that doesn’t reuse sprites from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Hurray!



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  • http://www.trimetiquette.com Christian

    Hey Square-Enix! I’m one of the biggest VP fans and yet I didn’t buy this yet. Why? Because I believe your $39.99 price-point for a DS game is ridiculous.

    Here’s hoping it bombs so I can pick it up at a more affordable price.

    (thanks for the impressions – happy to hear it’s more like Lenneth than Silmeria in terms of feel and atmosphere)

    • Mr. Persona

      “Here’s hoping it bombs so I can pick it up at a more affordable price.”

      Ugh… Immature much?

      • http://www.trimetiquette.com Christian

        Immature? No. I simply don’t feel like I should have to pay $10 extra for a DS game just because it’s a Square-Enix game. I hope others feel the same way to SE drops the price and realizes it’s stupid to release a DS game at a $40 price-point.

        How is that immature, Mr. Persona?

        • philemon

          $40 ? I can’t believe it seems expensive to you. Nearly all DS games in Europe cost around 45e upon release. Now that hurts.

          • http://www.trimetiquette.com Christian

            Well it seems expensive because, typically, DS games are released at $30 or, even $20 here.

            In the long-run, I suppose it isn’t that much of an increase $30 >> $40. But I don’t really want to support that practice if I can’t help it.

          • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

            Keep an eye on Amazon Christian. Perhaps Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume will end up as a deal of the day and be $10 off. If I remember right, they did that with Chrono Trigger DS? Or was it one of the DS FFs?

  • http://www.nisamerica.com NickyD

    This really is a fantastic game. I never noticed the “white bars” in my copy, as was mentioned in the impressions, but then again, I might not have been paying attention.

    I don’t mind the enemies waiting until you approach a certain panel; it adds some strategy. It’s nigh impossible to pick off several enemies at once in this game (the battle before Lieselotte and the battle against her in the “easy” route towards the “best” ending will destroy you if you approach more than three enemies at once – comparatively, the Camille path was very simple to me; order of play, perhaps?).

    Uh, basically, this game deserves props. It’s definitely Valkyrie Profile. If you aren’t using several unions plumes per battle at the end of the game, it’s not a VP title.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I only noticed the white bars if I really paid attention. They flashed quickly by and tended to show up only when a lot of enemies were also on the field. It’s an easy thing to miss.

      It is a good game, and I agree – if you aren’t using at least union plumes, it isn’t VP.

  • http://www.liquid-crystal.biz/ kryptonics

    The ethical choices in this game are painful… except I found it not to be much of a choice… On several occasions, it felt like there was no way of winning without sacrificing a party member. In addition, the “chosen” one’s bonus often seemed perfectly suited for what the situation required (i.e. mute a group of magicians, freeze all nonhuman characters).

    Also, this is a good example of a mature game. It may not have the blood splashes or endless gore, but the ethical questions presented are definitely for an older crowd.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I definitely agree. And it is definitely the kind of game that can make you feel guilty. The sounds the enemies make when you kill them, the little scene that appears after you defeat an ally.

      I did like the little touch where you’d see a Valkyrie feather appear on people Wylfred had slain.

  • EvilAkito

    Hmm, how should I say this….

    I really want to want this game! Does that make sense? But the impressions I’ve read are so mixed. They range from great to terrible. The premise of the game interests me, but there are already two things working against it: Tri-Ace is notorious for creating games that frustrate the hell out of me, and there are very few strategy RPGs that I like. The odds just aren’t in this game’s favor.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I love Valkyrie Profile games. (The original VP was my favorite.) So naturally, I’d love Covenant of the Plume.

      The difficulty can be very frustrating. As long as you stock up on union plumes and do side quests, you should be okay. It’s easier the more times you play it, since you keep the items from each run through and the plumed abilities.

  • ryukyus

    This game could have been better, if you could learn flashy new skills like disgaea, beat the whole game in 30 hours, the best ending to me is when, he decided not to kill the valkyrie, instead change his mind about vengeance and did not go to hell, but my favorite part of this game is the gate, to me at least it’s kind still attach to the story, even if some people say it’s not, you get to play with any characters, and get additional ones

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      Well, you could argue that Wylfred learns flashy new skills, since he gets abilities when he plumes characters.

      I liked the normal ending best, simply because it ties in to Valkyrie Profile Lenneth.

      I still am one ending away from the Seraphic Gate. I’m looking forward to it!

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