I love Valkyrie Profile. Its battle system, characters, story, and use of mythology resonated with me. I’ve made it a point to play every game tied to it, even a more obscure title like Covenant of the Plume, and ones that call back to its concepts, like Exist Archive or Super Neptunia RPG. While I’ve enjoyed these, I’ve never found one that not only stood as tall as the original game I loved, but surpassed it until Lab Zero’s Indivisible. It is both its own entity, one which is clearly a labor of love, as well as a tribute that can surpass the game that helped inspire it.
It’s most evident with Indivisible’s battles. The original Valkyrie Profile was about knowing when to strike and with whom. Basically, you went in knowing if you were going to try for ground combos or air combos, then button mashing until you could pull off a Great Magic, Special Attack, or Soul Crush. Certain characters are definitely at higher tiers, like Brahms, Freya, Janus, Lenneth, Lawfer, and mages like Gandar, Lezard, Lyseria, and Shiho. (I would say Lenneth, Lawfer and two mages would be best.) In Indivisible, fights feel much more tactical and every possible character feels viable. Even people you are acquiring hours in or near the end could still be welcome additions to a party.
This is because things are more involved with Indivisible and it feels like there’s a better way to play around with characters different attacks. People have different sorts of standard, up, down, and Iddhi attacks, and the game is very clear about explaining what they are and giving you a place in Ajna’s Inner Realm to practice them. Even a support character, let’s use Ginseng & Honey since they are an early example, has some practical and damaging attacks, in addition to healing. While someone might have needed to level grind in Valkyrie Profile, that isn’t an option here. Instead, it comes down to knowing what your party is capable of, understanding the telegraphed strengths and weaknesses of enemies (like a color change for a shield), guarding when necessary, and using Iddhi to use stronger attacks more often. Each person you recruit could be as helpful and viable as another, letting someone build teams around designs or personalities they like.
But then, this talk about characters also goes into how well Indivisible handles its cast. Both Indivisible and Valkyrie Profile each have a large roster of people who fight alongside their heroines, though Indivisible doesn’t lock some of its characters away behind difficulty levels. Each has some characters who you may have to venture off the beaten path to meet. But with Indivisible, there’s this extra element of interactivity with all of them. With Valkyrie Profile, you’d recruit certain characters and… that would be it. Maybe you’d eventually send them up to Odin, but there wouldn’t be much further exposition for them unless they were someone special, like Lucien or Mystina. People matter in Indivisible. They’ll take part in conversations with Ajna and among one another. You’ll be able to spend time with them in the hub. It feels like a real evolution is made.
It also means that people have more of a chance to love these characters. Lab Zero’s Indivisible script is delightful. While in Valkyrie Profile, you might have felt like you cared about people because they had such a rough life or death. Here, the characters come alive with their conversations and personalities. Razmi, voiced wonderfully by Stephanie Sheh, will clearly be an early favorite, due to her darkly funny demeanor, yet still clear affection for Ajna. But, others are just as strong. Zebei is someone who is boasting and very sure of his skills, but Matthew Mercer also perfectly captures how there’s a bit of a blowhard element and someone who gets a bit flustered if people pry too deeply or take him 100% at his word. Baozhai is this incredibly fearsome pirate, one the Iron Kingdom greatly fears, but she starts blushing whenever she has to interact with Thorani. Meanwhile, Thorani is this wonderful, motherly influence for Ajna, who never had that. Naga Rider is delightful, due to him basically being an excuse to have Kamen Rider in the game, with an over-the-top performance.
Indivisible is also a better platformer than Valkyrie Profile ever was. In its time, Valkyrie Profile did dare to be different and unique, with maps that forced you to pay attention and crystals that you really had to learn to use effectively to reach new places. But Ajna’s skill set pulls from Metroidvania games to offer new alternatives to, “Maybe if I get a couple crystal shards right here, then stand on top of them, I’ll have enough extra height to reach that platform?” Getting new abilities that enable new actions, like the ability to spear-hop over areas, shoot an arrow to unlock things, or knock down a freaking wall, is much more satisfying and fits the overall premise.
Indivisible wears its heart on its sleeve. You can see Lab Zero studied and understood what made Valkyrie Profile a great game, then built on that formula to make their own RPG that has similar touchstones, but attempts to do more and tell a different sort of story. The result is something that can be really enjoyable, with compelling battles, lots of characters who feel unique, and a heroine you can’t help but root for.
Indivisible is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It will also be heading to the Nintendo Switch.