Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SD Valis ~Pocket Review~

   A remake of the second installment of the Valis series in super-deformed style; Syd of Valis was released in February of 1992, developed by ISC CO., Inc. and published in North America by Renovation Products while Shin-Nihon Laser Soft (a subsidiary of Telenet Japan) published it in Japan originally. ISC CO. is a rather obscure game developer responsible for only a handful of titles during the mid eighties to early nineties. Of these titles, D-Force  (which is a top-down, vertical shooter)  seems to be the only one that saw a release in the United States.

The only normal boss(?)

   It's title, as it was released in North America, is a mistranslation. This failure of localization also resulted in the main character Yuko being renamed Syd. As far as I know, no other characters have had their names muddled. This blunder may be forgivable now, but it is a dark portent for things to come within this game as it suffers from other problems as well.

   So, as you might have guessed, all the ultraviolent cutscenes and nudity have been removed and the game has received a complete graphical overhaul making Valis SD/ Syd of Valis more child-friendly but I implore you to keep this game away from your kids as it will corrupt them. It will turn them into controller-smashing, foul-mouthed devil worshipers and we can't have that. In case you can't tell - I'm joking. It's not that bad of a game, but you have to play SD Valis like SD Valis. The only challenge is in mastering it's controls.

Another blogger's feelings about SD Valis.

    It's gameplay is pretty standard - you go from left to right, mow down enemies with your sword's beam attacks which you receive upgrades for after you defeat a boss at the end of each stage (they also have three levels of power), well, sometimes. There sure are a lot of bosses and mini-bosses in this game. You also get different armor upgrades as well. You even get a skimpy bikini armor for Syd/Yuko. It was probably more of something to be desired in the original Valis II (which saw a release on multiple platforms such as the TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD-ROM², the NEC PC-9801, the Sharp X68000, and the original MSX), but in this game it just seems a little bit extra creepy - and it's status benefits are ineffectual as the armor preceding it has much better stats in my opinion. I don't understand why anyone would want to increase their speed stat in this game, unless you like to bounce around all over the place like a moron, then by all means; have at it.

   Now, let's talk  more about these armor upgrades. Most offer a variety of status boosts for attack, defense, and speed - but therein lies the problem. The first armor upgrade you get makes your speed erratic, almost nearing unmanageable. After defeating Necrodepto (whom appears at the beginning of the third level) and receiving the first golden armor, I sped to the right and did an incredibly impressive double-jump - plummeting to my death, then had to fight Necro again.

I can beat the final boss without taking any damage, yet this guy will score at least two hits on me.
   Fortunately, some of the later armor upgrades balance out the speed and make basic movements like walking less touchy. It would seem the benefits Yuko/Syd receives from being a "Fantasm Soldier" is that she is no longer governed by the laws of physics as we know them, leaving inertia by the wayside.

It never ends.
   The only thing difficult about each stage is how the screen scrolls; resulting in you taking unnecessary hits from enemies that pop out from the right. You have little to no time to avoid them even though you may be spamming your attack just because of how close you have to be to the right for the screen to move with you. Sometimes this works, but enemies in the later stages can take some abuse before they croak.

Another "normal" boss. Still tedious.
    "Hey, these bosses look easy, you just suck at games!" is what you might be saying/screaming/composing as an angry comment - which is half true; I won't say which part but, if you go at each boss like a normal action platforming game; you will most likely get your cute, super-deformed ass handed to you. Now, this is untrue for some of the bosses - several adhere to the basic rules of a side-scrolling action game. Others seem to have patterns that will almost always result in you getting hit like Necrodepto above and the other, (possibly) nameless boss at the end of that level.

  Most of them, give or take a max amount of two, have a pattern that you can lock them in. Even the final boss is a victim of this programming. The first boss you fight is laughably easy. If you stand on the ledge you enter the battle in you can just spam your attacks as he hovers in the air and that's that. It even gives you a China Dress and Wide Shot for defeating him. There's another boss later on in that level that's much harder to avoid and you receive nothing for. It's a mess.

-Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead-

The challenge is being human. That and large hit-boxes.
   The boss in the animation above has several forms. In his first he goes underground and then resurfaces, then begins spinning around. His second and third forms are aerial - and like most of this game's flying enemies, he swoops down every so often, which is almost unavoidable. If you crouch down where the blocks that compose the entrance to the building is above and spam your triple shot attack - you can lock him in an endless half-swoop and beam attack. It's a good thing that your attacks will cancel out his - but it's all a matter of patience.

   It's so boring how rigid this strategy is, but there's almost no other way I have found to move forward. The boss that precedes the one above is even more annoying and can also be locked in it's pattern. The ratio of "Boss Fight" to "Platformer Level" is way out of proportion in this game - but I guess even that aspect is super-deformed.

   I mentioned flying bosses and their swooping attacks, well; the semi-final boss is the biggest offender. It hovers above the platform you are ascending on, shooting fireballs at you, and every so often it takes a quick dive towards you and if you're too close to the edge it will knock you right off, leaving you to return to the start of the level. It also comes out of nowhere. The final boss on the other hand makes his attacks so incredibly obvious - but this one will fake you out.


   The final boss, Megas' first form is only difficult if you haven't mastered the controls. If you're even a pixel off, you will take severe damage from his rays which you have to get in between to avoid. This is his only attack and it's rather underwhelming, considering he looks kinda cool in SD form.  His second form is even more awesome, but as aforementioned - he's ridiculously easy. If you manage to squat in the right place you can avoid the two rings of energy balls he fires at you, and double jump over his second fireball. I managed to lock him in this attack by staying to the far left and blasting away at him. What a boring way to save the realm.

   All in all, Valis SD/Syd of Valis is a flawed game. I wouldn't say it's broken - few games actually are, but these flaws can be used to take advantage of it for sure. It's only difficult when you try to play it like a normal game, or when you're unaware at how touchy the controls are. It's SD style looks cute for sure, but some enemies look rather plain and ugly. There are also too many bosses and mid-bosses and it's unclear which are which. You receive weapon and armor upgrades for some that are too easy, and some don't give you anything but a sore thumb. It's music is so-so and it's few cutscenes are boring. I can't recommend it other than for the novelty of an "easy" Valis game, or for it's, dare I say, wonky controls when equipped with certain armor. Other than these faults, the game is playable at times, but it just doesn't deliver what one would expect and for this I give the developers at ICS Co. this gold star, emblazoned with an apt assessment for their attempt with this game.