Review: Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume

Valkyrie Profile has always been quite the revered RPG franchise. Beginning with the coveted, gorgeous, and brilliant original game, Square Enix has nurtured a legend over the years with subsequent entries to the series. The last addition to a long line of quality games is now Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume. Finally, DS owners have been treated to one of the most engaging franchises that RPGs of gaming have to offer. This is a beautiful, strategic triumph for the Nintendo handheld, and RPG/SRPG fans should have much to enjoy here.

While Covenant of the Plume is a bit of a side entry to the series in the manner that it plays out, the ambience and philosophical language of the other games is retained. The story is a rather grim one: players have made a pact with the devil prior to entering the plotline. Because of this devious pact, they must “overkill” enemies in order to commit proper sins. You’ll enter the shoes of one Wylfred, who is seeking revenge on Lenneth, a valkyrie who previously chose his father to become an Einherjar – a soldier recruited to fight against the Vanir who would penetrate Valhalla (yes, the story is rife with Norse mythology.) Lenneth retrieved Wylfred’s father’s soul when Wylfred was but a child, leaving him fatherless throughout his crucial years. Growing up as a mercenary, Wylfred seeks to become an Einherjar himself in order to reach Lenneth. After being offered a feather shed by Lenneth near his father’s dead body, Wylfred discovers through a series of unfortunate events that putting this mysterious feather to use has devastating consequences, though he may finally obtain the ability to kill Lenneth once and for all. That is where the intrigue truly lies, and Covenant of the Plume boasts a riveting story that will keep you guessing.

As the story progresses, you’ll be able to branch off into several different paths, meaning there are various friends and enemies along the way. By investigating towns, taverns, and other areas outside of battle, you’ll find many allies who will be willing to join you in battles. Covenant of the Plume is a strategy RPG of the most traditional kind, so if you’ve played games such as Disgaea or even Final Fantasy Tactics, you should feel right at home. However, while most games allow you to drag an excess of units into battle, you’re limited to four here. This should be of no importance, however, as emphasis is placed on multiple units teaming up to destroy enemies via “overkill.” This involved going above and beyond the call of duty by demolishing enemies’ hit points, then beating them senselessly from there. You will often receive Sin quotas to fill, which you will do so through overkilling enemies. When this is accomplished, your characters will pull off flashy special attacks in order to send those baddies straight into oblivion.

Each member of your team is assigned a different face button on the DS, adding a bit of real-time battle mechanics to each scuffle. The game feels significantly less slow and tedious as in other SRPGs because of this mechanic, and can be likened to The World Ends With You.

Covenant of the Plume does feature an actual feather – the one entrusted to Wylfred, previously belonging to Lenneth. Its usage can directly affect the ending to the game you will receive. You can use it in order to supercharge an ally during a battle, but afterward the character will die, never to be revived again. This makes for some interesting moral decisions, and strategic gameplay that will keep you thinking. Will you sacrifice a longtime friend in order to simplify a tough battle or will you stick it out even though the odds are against you?

Thankfully, the DS’s biggest gimmick hasn’t been exploited – full touch control. Instead you make good use of the face and shoulder buttons and the game turns out beautifully because of this. We never needed newfangled touch controls in the past with our SRPGs!

Aside from the intriguing plot and battle system, there are some equally gorgeous musical tracks. There is little voice acting aside from the occasional lines spouted by party members before or after battle. The voices chosen for the characters are done quite tastefully, and I have no real complaints in this department for once. It’s always an ordeal to find a game with tolerable voice acting these days. As far as graphics go, gorgeous and painstakingly-detailed character portraits appear alongside narration. The sprites are well-done and colorful, journeying throughout some truly breathtaking environments. Covenant of the Plume is a treat for the eyes.

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is an excellent addition to any DS library. With polished presentation, intriguing storyline, action-packed battles, and branching paths, this is an entry to the series that is quite worthy of bearing the Valkyrie Profile name. If you’re an RPG fan or a connoisseur of great games in general, this game belongs in your collection. Give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.

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