Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume
|Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume|
|Genre(s)||Tactical role-playing game|
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume (ヴァルキリープロファイル 咎を背負う者 Varukirī Purofairu Toga o Seou Mono?, lit. Valkyrie Profile: The Accused One(s)) is the third installment in the Valkyrie Profile series of role-playing video games developed by tri-Ace. It was published by Square Enix for the Nintendo DS in 2008 in Japan, later released in North America, Europe, and Australia in 2009.
The story uses Norse mythology and involves a ten-year-old boy named Wylfred who becomes involved in a civil war that is at the same time a war with the gods. The game debuted at number two in Japanese video game sales, and was generally well received by critics who cited its dark tone but noted its high degree of difficulty.
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume's gameplay is presented mainly from an isometric view, similarly to Final Fantasy Tactics. The player's two-dimensional character sprites move about on a three-dimensional map akin to those of a tactical role-playing game. Characters can attack enemies individually or can actively support each other via the Mutual Assist system. When an enemy is in range of up to four characters, an exclamation mark will appear, indicating that the character is ready to attack. Up to four characters are mapped to the A, B, X, and Y buttons, which are used to attack. Each successful attack fills up the Attack Gauge; when it reaches 100, characters can perform powerful attacks called Soul Crushes.
The position of characters around enemies during combat can be exploited in a feature called the Active Formation system. Aligning characters in certain formations can increase the rate of item drops or speed at which the Attack Gauge increases. Active Formations include the Flank Raid with two characters on opposite sides of an enemy, Axis Raid with two characters in front of and behind an enemy, Trinity Fork where characters surround the enemy on three sides, and Grand Cross where characters surround an enemy on all four sides. Another new factor in battle involves the Destiny Plume. By invoking the power of the plume, the player can choose to temporarily grant an ally improved statistics and abilities but once the battle ends, the Destiny Plume overwhelms that character's physical form and they die permanently. Using the plume affects the outcome of the plot, leading to different branches of the story or even a Game Over upon overusing the plume in a single chapter.
Another aspect to combat is the accumulation of Sin. Sin is gained by inflicting damage against an enemy whose HP has already been depleted. Most of the battles in the storyline have a predetermined amount of Sin the player must harvest to appease Hel. If the appropriate amount of Sin is accumulated by the end of battle, the player will be rewarded with items and equipment but if the amount is not reached, the player will face a set of extremely difficult and powerful enemies.
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is based loosely on Norse mythology. The roots of the tree Yggdrasil contain the three realms of the world: Asgard, home of the Æsir and Vanir, Midgard, the realm of humans, and Niflheim, the realm of the dead where sinners suffer an eternity of torment by the death goddess Queen Hel. The souls of noble warriors who fall in combat are collected by Valkyries and brought to the Hall of Valhalla as einherjar to aid the Æsir in their struggle against the Vanir. The game takes place mostly in Midgard in the kingdom of Artolia, located between the neighboring nations of Villnore and Crell Monferaigne.
The story is based on the misotheistic idea of "vengeance on the Gods". The protagonist, Wylfred, holds a grudge against the Valkyrie Lenneth, who chose his father Thyodor to become an einherjar. Without a provider, Thyodor's family is left impoverished, for which Wylfred blames Lenneth. Wylfred becomes a mercenary, hoping to one day meet the Valkyrie to exact his revenge. A dispute between the princes Kristoff and Langrey over the throne of Artolia provides Wylfred with the chance to carry out his plan.
Ten-year-old Wylfred lives in the village of Tourque with his friends Ancel and Tilte, sister Elsie, mother Margot, and father Thyodor, a soldier. One day, Thyodor's friend Duwain arrives with news that Thyodor has fallen in battle, a Valkyrie's plume on his corpse indicating he was taken as an einherjar, which Duwain gives to Wylfred. Thyodor's death leaves his family in poverty, Elsie dies of starvation, and Margot goes mad from grief. Wylfred becomes bitter and cynical, vowing vengeance on the reaper of his father's soul.
Years later, Wylfred leaves his mother and becomes a mercenary, hoping that he may also become an einherjar and get his revenge on the Valkyrie. Ancel follows him, hoping to divert him from his quest. During a battle at Aullewyn Keep, Wylfred is mortally wounded and hears Queen Hel's voice, asking if he will do anything for revenge. Wylfred says yes and awakens to find the Valkyrie's feather in his hand, not fully understanding what he has done. Wylfred and Ancel are called upon to fight again and, outnumbered and outmatched, Wylfred invokes the Plume upon his friend. The incantation increases Ancel's strength and they defeat their opponents but Ancel dies afterward. Hel then delivers to Wylfred a woman named Ailyth, who is to accompany him and act as a contact between Wylfred and Hel.
Guilty over killing his friend, Wylfred abandons the keep and is ambushed by Cheripha, an Artolian assassin and deserter. The magician Lockswell tracks her down and after being defeated reveals that he is Cheripha's father. Father and daughter reconcile and decide to join Wylfred in his quest. Wylfred returns home to see his mother, though he does not tell Tilte about's Ancel's death.
A rebellion against Artolia's government begins in Camille. Wylfred must choose to side with one of the three factions in the rebellion, each choice leading to the deaths of the characters in the other two:
- the rebels, led by the peasant Natalia and knight Earnest
- the Artolian suppression force, led by Wylfred's old captain Heugoe and the sociopathic twins Mireille and Mischka
- the mercenaries Darius and Gwendal, sent by Villnore to assassinate Natalia and Earnest
In each case, the rebellion fails. The story then branches depending on how many times Wylfred has used the Destiny Plume: two uses results in the bad path, one use leads to the normal path, and no uses leads to the best path; future use also affects which path the story takes.
The recent death of the king of Artolia had led to a dispute between the Princes Langrey and Kristoff over the succession to the throne. Lord Cennair, archmagus of Artolia died mysteriously; the court magicians Rosea and Lieselotte accused each other of murdering him and both were banished. Meanwhile, Cennair's adopted son Ushio tried to track down Rosea and Lieselotte to avenge his death. On the bad path, Wylfred meets Rosea, who kills Lieselotte after Lieselotte attempts to assassinate Prince Langrey to avert a war. On the normal path, Wylfred meets Lieselotte, who kills Rosea. On the best path, Rosea and Lieselotte kill each other after being tracked down by Wylfred and Ushio.
With the death of his brother Nicolas in the fighting, Lord Valmur of House Haughn is pressured to support either Prince Langrey or Kristoff, giving one of them a major advantage. On the bad path, Valmur goes insane after his sister Phiona is killed and their parents Auguste and Reinhilde join Wylfred. On the normal path, Valmur and Phiona join Wylfred after Auguste and Reinhilde are killed. On the best path, Valmur's friend Fauxnel has him assassinated after he refuses to take a side in the conflict. Fauxnel reveals that he was the one who assassinated Lord Cennair so that he could redeem his disgraced House.
War finally breaks out between Langrey and Kristoff. On the bad path, Wylfred sides with Langrey and defeats Kristoff. On the normal path, Wylfred sides with Kristoff and defeats Langrey. On the best path, the Margrave Rouienbourg and Wylfred are forced to lead troops against both princes after diplomacy fails. They capture them both, though Rouienbourg is killed by Langrey, who later commits suicide in prison.
The climax of the story comes with the end of the war. On the bad and normal paths, Wylfred's actions have attracted the attention of the Valkyrie, who is sent to stop him. On the bad path, Wylfred defeats the Valkyrie and his soul is condemned to Niflheim to be devoured to suffer for all eternity. On the normal path, Wylfred defeats the Valkyrie but Thyodor's soul intervenes and takes his place in Niflheim, leaving Wylfred to contemplate his sins. On the best path, Ailyth reveals that she orchestrated the war in Artolia and that she is actually Garm, Hel's demon hound, and attempts to devour Wylfred. Ancel appears, having been allowed by the Valkyrie to assist his old friend and together they defeat Garm. Ancel forgives Wylfred for killing him, telling him to live a wonderful life before leaving him with a message from Thyodor to fix Elsie's music box. Wylfred returns home and finally tells Tilte that Ancel is dead and upon fixing the music box, Margot's sanity returns and the three live happily for years to come.
As with past Valkyrie Profile games, Motoi Sakuraba composed the game's musical score. The soundtrack was released on November 5, 2008. An arranged album was also released by Team Entertainment on the same day.
The game debuted on the Japanese sales charts at number two, selling 80,000 copies. It was the 97th best-selling game in Japan in 2008, selling 136,948 copies. As of May 31, 2009, the game sold 230,000 copies worldwide.
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume has received mostly positive reviews. The game's story was highly praised by reviewers; Daemon Hatfield of IGN termed it a "very mature, serious adventure" and praised the "very well written" script. Shiva Stella of GameSpot called it "fascinating" and very engaging, and Hyper's Daniel Wilks commended the game for being "very dark in tone". The gameplay was likewise praised; Kat Bailey of 1UP.com said that it goes "a long way toward restoring the fundamental character of the series". Hatfield added that "it's the battle system that really distinguishes Covenant of the Plume," and both reviews noted the Plume mechanic as novel and interesting. James Clark of RPGFan called it the game's "most dramatic and interesting gameplay feature". All three reviews also, however, called out the game's AI as lackluster. Bailey also criticized the map design as "a recurring problem".
The reception of the graphics was mixed: Stella of GameSpot praised the graphics, including the character sprites and animations, but RPGFan's Clark termed it merely a "decent-looking game", while Bailey of 1UP.com criticized the "pixelated sprites, [and] the ugly polygonal landscape". The music was criticized by Clark, Stella, and Hatfield for mainly reusing music from Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, but with worse sound quality.
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