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Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth Review

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On a console starved of quality RPGs, this is one of the finest adventures money can buy.

★★★★

With copies of the original PSOne game changing hands on eBay for £100 - only a handful of copies were released outside Japan, and then only in North America - the PSP version of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is the perfect opportunity for role-playing aficionados to try their hand at one of Square Enix’s forgotten classics. And on a console starved of quality RPGs, this is one of the finest adventures money can buy.

Taking the role of a mythical Valkyrie charged with building an army to fight at Ragnarok - the battle at the end of the world from Norse mythology - players must use the heroine’s spiritual powers to find soldiers who are close to death, then travel to the earthly realm to judge whether they’re worthy of a place in Odin’s ranks.

While waiting for your quarry to pop their clogs, players get to explore dungeons that feel like levels from a traditional 2D platformer, where hopping between perilous ledges is the order of the day and the heroine’s ice shot can be used to build platforms and reach inaccessible areas. And while your Valkyrie appears alone on the screen, in reality she’s accompanied by a party of warriors collected along the way, these heroes in turn helping her battle dungeon-dwelling beasties in tense, turn-based battles.

As well as a beautifully written script packed with big themes – and a non-linear structure that allows you to tackle the quest in any way you see fit – Lenneth also boasts a gripping combat system; each of your heroes can be assigned to one of the PSP’s face buttons, and timing your button presses unleashes devastating combos that can juggle your enemies in the air for maximum damage. Managing your team of warriors, and deciding which ones to keep and which ones to dispatch to the Ragnarok task force, also brings an extra layer of strategy to the traditional RPG exploration and character development, and the game is also given a dramatic sense of pace as you only have a limited amount of time before the final battle begins, whether your ghostly battalion is ready or not.

The game’s relentlessly morose tone, twitchy platforming controls and reluctance to give players much guidance in what the hell they’re supposed to be doing often drag down an otherwise stunning title, but Valkyrie Profile is still the best role-player on Sony’s beleaguered handheld.