Review by CastleVanity
Anime blue haired heroine holding a magic sword. That's hot!
Yuko's back for the second true Valis game on the Genesis (Syd of Valis doesn't count.) For those not acquainted with the Valis series (I was only recently introduced to it myself), it's about a normal human named Yuko Ahso who was chosen to become to the Valis Warrior (and wielder of the Valis sword). She defends the Earth World and the Spirit World from any bad guys that happen to come from the Dark World. Most of the game's story is told through a series of anime-style cutscenes (which I happen to adore.)
This time, an even baddie named Glames has taken over the Spirit and Dark Worlds, and the Earth World is next. Not on that, but he has the evil counterpart of the Valis sword named Leethus, and he's not afraid to use it. A sprite little young lass named Cham (from the Dark World) tries to steal the Valis sword from Yuko at the beginning of the game and succeeds...up until she's captured by an evil henchman. Yuko, chasing after them down (in her nighties, no less) grabs the Valis sword as it falls through the air, and the game begins.
Yes, you can actually play as more than one character. As you play through the second level, you'll eventually release Yuko's twin sister, Princess Valna. After going on a short side-quest to full charge the Valis sword, the Intrepid Trio sets off to destroy Glames once and for all. Each character has their own weapons and own types of magic. You can switch them at pretty much any time, except for a few choice occasions where you have to play as just one character. They all share the same life bar, so when you change characters, you won't get a life meter refill.
The gameplay feels very similar to Valis 1 for the Genesis, but the weapons and magic work a bit differently. There's a power bar on top of the screen that determines how powerful the attack will be. Yuko shoots large waves out the Valis sword, while Valna fires out magical bullets of sorts (similar to Yuko's attacks in the first Valis.) Cham, on the other hand, wields a whip, so the length of her attack always remains constant no matter how much the power bar has charged (this is why she's my favorite character, hands down.) You can destroy orbs stationed throughout the levels that you can destroy to reveal a variety of power-ups (like many other action games, of course.) Some of these include symbols that lengthen the power bar, and ones that make the power bar fill up faster (as well as your standard life meter and magic meter refills.)
There's still magic to be found, and it works in the traditional manner of many action games. There are three kinds: Fire, Ice and Lightning. The magic abilities differ between the characters (Yuko's the weakest, Valna's the strongest), so the severity of the attacks changes depending on your preferences. None of the spells are horribly useful, since they're a bit slow to execute, but they come in handy when the screen's crowded.
Valis III's in-game visuals won't blow you over, but they certainly fit the bill nicely. Yuko even gets a change of costume mid-way through the game (but doesn't affect her abilities much.) The cutscenes are absolutely beautiful, some animated very nicely. The music's a split decision. While most of them are good tunes, you can't help but feel that the Genesis just doesn't do them justice (I haven't played the Turbografx version of this writing, but it's probably better here.) At least the sound effects are a step up from the first Valis.
The controls aren't generally bad, but you can't help but feel that there's something just a tad wrong with them. The game as a whole feels a teensy bit sluggish, but that's the way it was in the first game too. Play it enough and you probably won't notice. This is especially true when you execute a super jump (Up + Jump), it feels as if you aren't traveling the distance that you should. Plus there are WAY to many instances where using the Super Jump is necessary...if you don't remember to press Up when you're jumping, you could end up falling in a pit (the control there is a bit touchy.) Also, you now have to press Down + A to slide, since just pressing the A button alone will change characters. As long as you remember this, you'll be OK.
Valis III isn't horribly difficult, but the later stages get to be somewhat of a pain (especially the ice levels...just remember to kill enemies before you jump over a chasm, so you don't get knocked in.) There's really only about six levels total, and you get unlimited continues (although you're sent back to the beginning of the stage.) Often times you'll learn that different characters work best at different spots (since Yuko's energy waves are rather large, they're the best for destroying enemy projectiles, but it takes awhile to charge. Cham's the best for most bosses, because of her quick striking power, and Valna's great for doing quick damage if you have tons of magic points.) Just remember this, and once you figure out their patterns, the bosses can be fairly easy.
While the meat of the game isn't horribly different from the original Valis, the new characters (especially Cham) and improved weaponry make for a better game. Plus I absolutely love the intermissions...OK, there's not very many and the text still scrolls a bit slower than it should, but they still cool. And Yuko's still as cute as ever, especially when she charges her sword and changes her outfit (I have a thing for blue-haired anime chicks.) My advice is to check Valis III out, as it's certainly a worthy action title on the Genesis platform. Hey, there's MUCH worse out there....
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