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Valis (1986 - 1992)
Valis: The Fantasm Soldier, Valis II, Valis III, Super Valis IV and Syd of Valis. There were also countless ports and remakes of varying degrees of success.
Originally released as an MSX game in 1986, Valis follows an attractive school girl who is forced to postpone her studies and save Earth, the land of spirits and a dream world from invading demons. It turns out that Yuko is the prophesized savior of a fantasy dream world, which means that she has been given the Valis sword and has billions of people counting on her. Along the way Yuko meets up with Cham, Valna and other heroes looking to help our school girl warrior. Eventually the demons are defeated and the Valis sword disappears once and for all.
Always Best on the TurboGrafx
Although Valis and its sequels have appeared on a number of different game consoles, the best versions were always tied to NEC's TurboGrafx/PC Engine. Perhaps it was the ease of programming on the console or the freedom
of CD-ROM technology, but all four of the games were significantly better on a platform few people owned. And with no compilation disc to speak of, the TurboGrafx remains the definitive location for Yuko, Reiko and the Valis sword.service.
Despite having a competent staff and powerful hardware, Telenet Japan kept shooting themselves in the foot at every opportunity. The 8-bit Famicom port, for example, has very little to do with the MSX original and is nearly impossible to beat. On the other hand, the Genesis port felt rushed and lacked fluid animations. This also happened on the Super NES, where Telenet Japan was forced to make deep cuts that angered fans. Worse yet, most versions had overly loose gameplay that turned ordinary platforming challenges into grueling fights for survival. Yet on the TurboGrafx the games were polished and full of exclusive cinemas.
It Had the Worst Voice Acting of All Time
Released early in the TurboGrafx-CD's life, Valis II was able to do something neither Nintendo nor Sega could even imagine: Lengthy cinemas featuring full voice acting. Thanks to the invent of CD-ROM technology, NEC and its third-parties had a nearly unlimited supply of memory to fill up. Unfortunately, Valis chose to fill up that CD with some of the worst voice acting of all time. But you don't have to take my word for it, check out the audio sample and experience the pain firsthand.
Without coming off as a Valis apologist, I would argue that the developers were not fully at fault. For one thing, this was done by the much smaller localization team who was forced to work on a game for a system few people owned. One has to assume the budget was microscopic, which might explain why it sounds like they let just about anybody act in the game. It wouldn't surprise me if they pulled in janitors, office assistants and anybody else who had dreamed of becoming an actor. Thankfully their awful performances didn't stop other companies from experimenting with voice acting in their games.
"Syd of Valis" Was Borne Out of a Typo
To fans of the series, Syd of Valis is nothing more than a cartoony remake of Valis II. With bright colors
and fatter than normal characters, this 1992 release was hoping to draw in younger fans of the Valis series. In Japan this process is known as being "super deformed," so the game was originally titled SD Valis. Curiously, when the game made its way stateside the title had been changed to Syd of Valis. It turns out that this was the product of a simple typo; a translation mistake that the company decided to stick with.
To make the title make sense, Renovation inexplicably decided to change Yuko's name to Syd. Normally this wouldn't have been a big deal, as character names are routinely changed when making the trip across the ocean. But by the time Syd of Valis came out we already had three installments where the heroine was named Yuko. It would be like changing 007's name to Harold Bond in Thunderball for no reason.
Super Valis IV Was Needlessly Butchered
Fans of the series have always compared Valis to Konami's Castlevania. And while Yuko's journey involved fewer werewolves and vampires, it's easy to see the connection to older 8- and 16-bit Castlevania games. The two franchises feature similar gameplay, boss
fights and ambitious storyline. Heck, Valis III even lets you take control of three people, not unlike Dracula's Curse. Unfortunately, there's one connection Valis fans wish didn't exist. Much like Dracula X on the Super NES, Super Valis IV was hacked to pieces and left for dead.
For years Castlevania fans raved about Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, the little seen PC Engine CD game. Despite all of the praise, you rarely hear anybody talk about the 1995 Super NES port. That's because the game is horrible. The same can be said about the Super NES port of Valis IV. In order to make the game work on a 16-meg cartridge, Telenet Japan was forced to remove the cinemas, amazing music, frames of animation, levels and bosses. But the butchering didn't stop there. They also ripped into the item system and reduced the amount of characters the player could control. In other words, they ruined Valis IV. This was not the right way to end an otherwise stellar series.
It Understood the Target Audience
Like any game starring a hot high school girl fighting demons, Valis was bound to pick up some less than desirably fans. Whether intentional or not, these four games certainly rubbed at least creepy fetish. But the developers didn't seem to care. If anything, they fed into this sub-section of fans by including racy nods in the cinemas. Notice the shots they chose in the introduction video of Valis: The Fantasm Soldier for the PC Engine.
Years after Telenet Japan quietly killed the franchise, another developer stepped in to turn the game into a perverted mixture of demon fighting and tentacle rape. While earlier iterations only hinted at the underlying sexual themes, Valis X takes that way over the line with all kinds of full frontal nudity and teenage girl sex. That's definitely one way to take the series. I dare you to look Valis X up on Google Images with safe search turned off. I DARE YOU!