Welcome to -- RETRO GAME DAISUKI ! -- a blog about the wonderful world of Japanese retro video games (ARCADE / PC-88 / X68K / MEGA DRIVE / SATURN / PlayStation / PC-ENGINE). Re-live the strangest games from the 80's and 90's. Retro games were our youth!
Author : HERZOG
-- Playing video games since the 80's ! --
Still trying to translate all the posts from my old blog. Please see this post for more info.
Also, please excuse any grammar and any other related errors you may find on this blog, as English is not my first language.
The original PC version of VALIS : THE FANTASM SOLDIER was one of the benchmark action titles of its generation. But just how well does it fare for nowadays retro game standards?
● Title: 夢幻戦士ヴァリス ● Genre: Action ● Release Date: 1986.12 ● Developer: WOLF TEAM ● Publisher: TELENET JAPAN ● Media: 5" 2D Floppy Disk x2 ● System Specific: SHARP X1
When VALIS was released in late 1986 it practically became an instant classic and a notable success for its publisher TELENET JAPAN. And really the game had a lot going on for it back then.
For the 8-bit PC game standards of the time it was a very competent action game with detailed graphics and smooth scrolling.
The emphasis on story and the use of cinematic cutscenes to carry on the plot was something never seen before in an action game, or in any other video game genre for that matter outside of the adventure genre.
Lastly the game was in line with the whole「high school girl action heroine」trend that was all the rage in the mid 80's.
■MAY THE VALIS BE WITH YOU !
VALIS follows the story of highschool student YUKO ASO whom was chosen to become a FANTASM SOLDIER at the request of Queen VALIA of the dream world of VANITY.
YUKO is given the titular mystical sword 「VALIS」to protect the three existing worlds : the real world (EARTH), the spirit world, and the dream world (VANITY, from the ambition of the Dark Warlord 「ROGLESS」who threatens to engulf the three worlds into darkness.
It's important to note that back in the mid 80's teenage-oriented TV action drama series were at an all-time high in popularity. And specially those that revolved around high school girl heroines.
At the time of VALIS release TV shows like the SUKEBAN DEKA series and REBEL ALLIANCE : SAILOR SUIT were dominating Japan, and thus they were a major source of pop-culture influence.
VALIS main character YUKO is essentially a blue haired version of「YOKO MINAMINO」in her iconic role of SAKI ASAMIYA in SUKEBAN DEKA II.
I think WOLF TEAM were very clever to come up with a good original story that followed very closely the trends of those TV action dramas. They basically gave people more of what they wanted to see ■AMAZING NEW・BIG・ACTION
VALIS is a side-scrolling action game, though in reality it plays more like a shooter. While you start the game with only your sword's melee attack, you will soon find various power up items that will grant your sword the ability to shoot magical bullets.
The stage design in the game is... different. Instead of using the traditional linear stage structure used by most 8-bit side-scrollers, WOLF TEAM opted for huge maze-like open areas where you have to follow this guide arrow around until you reach the boss.
The problem with this design is that it doesn't give you a clear sense of progression. Most of the time you'll feel like you're only wandering around aimlessly, and this only gets worse late in the game where stages drag on for what it seems like forever.
The level up system is also no less peculiar. Basically defeated enemies will drop jewels that you can pick up to go up in power level. Your power level also serves as your HP so whenever you get hit your level gauge will go down.
Because enemies will never stop coming and every other one will drop a jewel you will gain a lot of levels very fast.
For most of the game you will probably feel night-invincible. And really it's not until the late game bosses (which get incredibly cheap) that you will finally feel threatened.
But unquestionably the biggest and most annoying design flaw in VALIS is the way YUKO gets pushed back whenever she gets hit. This practically exposes you to get juggled around to no end by the enemy, and which can make traversing certain stages a royal pain in the ass.
BULLET (LV3), HIGH BULLET (LV6), SPECIAL BULLET (LV12), FIRE BALL (LV18), LASER(LV24), BEAM (LV30).
Weapon power ups have a set level cost that will be discounted from your total level. Be careful not to pick up a weapon if you lack the necessary level or you will be killed!
VALIS BRIGHT (HEART), VALIS MIND (ARMOR), PROTECTION OF VALIS (HAWK EMBLEM), REFLECT OF VALIS (DOUBLE CIRCLE).
Defensive items will grant you 20% damage protection. Note that defensive items can't be carried over to the next stage.
VALIS was originally released on December, 1986 for the PC-88, SHARP X1, and MSX/2 computer systems.
The MSX version (released in ROM cartridge format) is pretty much a slap in the face and should be avoided at all cost. Not only does this version looks and performs terribly, it's also missing half the stages and has no cinematic sequences.
The MSX version also uses a password continue system instead of the save data feature found in the other versions.
The PC-88 version for some reason is slightly more difficult than the X1 version. Jewels give you less experience and the enemy count is also lower making it more difficult to level up.
There's also this landing animation that's strangely missing from the X1 version.
Unfortunately the PC-88 suffers from some noticeable sprite flickering and screen tearing issues which can be distracting.
VALIS was certainly one of the most notable PC titles of its generation. But more because of how awesomely trendy it was at the time than for its qualities as a competent action game, really.
It were details like its story driven scenario, the way the game over screen resembled the closing credits of a TV drama, and how YUKO changed clothes when she becomes the Fantasm Soldier that made VALIS so memorable.
It was just stuff that people had never seen before in an action game, and it was awesome.
And of course the music in VALIS was also great. The ending theme 「A SMILE FOR MISS BLUE」is one of my favorite ending themes of all time.
Like it was customary of WOLF TEAM at that point in time, they made a buch of questionable design choices that just didn't worked right. However unlike it was the case with FINAL ZONE this time around the pros overcame the cons.
WOLF TEAM basically took some of the stuff that people loved about TV action dramas and shaped it into a video game. And for the most part they did a good job.
hm, so it plays smoother on x1? that seems to be the case with a lot of action-heavy pc games from this time, i recall hearing the same story with the first thunder force game. i always assumed yuko's inspiration was from genmu senki leda/fantastic adventure of yohko, but i guess these themes have deeper roots.
Well, VALIS came out when SUKEBAN DEKA II had just finished, so back then it was more than evident YUKO was based on SAKI ASAMIYA down to the hairstyle. I guess nowadays it may not be so clear due to the rudimentary character artwork, but the later designs from the Mega Drive version make a better portrait of YOKO MINAMINO than most of the official memorabilia from the SUKEBAN DEKA II series.