Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Dissection and Review (Page 1)
by Polly



Valis is a series of anime-inspired side-scrolling platformers. Though the series is in no way Genesis exclusive, I've chosen to tear apart the three installments that did appear on the Genny, because I remember having a particular fondness for them back in the day, as I rented them quite frequently. Guess I was a bit of a weaboo tardmo back then to some extent as well, but that's not important!

Don't stop me if you've heard this one before, because, I'm gonna keep typing anyway... The story follows the exploits of a Japanese schoolgirl named Yuko Ahso. If it's anime-inspired, it's got schoolgirls, just deal with it. You like them sera-fuku kawaii desu ne kekekekekeke anyway... oh god... Aaaaaanyway, little Yuko ends up being one of the lucky 800,000 schoolgirls in Japan a year who are greeted by a mysterious being from another realm and given magical girl powers, because she's been chosen to be the protecter of the Earth and also tasked with the safeguarding of the Dream, and Spirit worlds as well. Talk about being busy. I'm sure this is sounding all too familiar already, so if you think you've heard this story before... you have.

If you just can't get enough of these stories, I'll help you out. Below you'll see I've so generously re-constructed the entire opening scene from this game in Flash. I'll be doing this throughout the rest of these little dissections with all the cutscenes, because we all know the story is extremely important in games like these.



Yes, I'm sure it's just as gripping as you were thinking it was going to be.

While we're discussing the story and cutscene bits, I'll take a moment and discuss them in more detail. My prior experience with scenes like this was the Ninja Gaiden series on NES. The story's no prize pig there either, believe me, but as I mentioned in my Ninja Gaiden II review, it was such a cool thing to see close-ups of what had only been little blocky sprites moments before. Obviously since Valis is on superior 16-bit hardware these scenes are going to look a lot cooler. There's even brief moments of full animation here and there and even though the story in this game is hammy as all hell, these scenes looked pretty damn cool back then. I was playing a cartoon! (some anime-tards just died inside a little...I love it!)

Pressing the start button throws us right into the game. Nothing to read or skip! We need more games like this these days...


Stage 1: Da City Wif Da Monstars!



We start our adventure in front of Yuko's high school where we meet the game's first two enemies.



Flying tentacle head...thing and spear fireball guy! If it's anime, it's got tentacles! Anyway, these guys are your typical fodder enemies and don't provide much challenge other than the fact that Yuko's non-powered-up Valis sword is a physical attack with incredibly limited range. Well, maybe I wouldn't call it limited, probably just broken.

Allow me to slip into "review mode" here for a few moments and discuss the game's often strange and plain broken at times collision detection and other oddities.

You'll notice a lot throughout the game that you may not be able to tell whether you're actually damaging an enemy or not. Sometimes you'll even ask yourself HOW you hit the enemy and be even more bewildered by how they hit you. I can't explain how hit detection works in this game at times. It's some kind of strange voodoo programming magic that'll either be fighting for you or turn the fist of a somewhat flustered, but never really all that vengeful gaming god against you.

Yuko's slide move for instance. In most action games you'll typically use a slide to quickly get yourself out of harm's way or to get through narrow passages. The slide in this game is meant for the same purpose, but the wonky hit detection rains on your happy sliding parade. Trying to slide under enemies or attacks that you can clearly see pass over your character in the slide animation will still hurt you, rendering the slide as a defensive maneuver almost useless. Another collision oddity involves attacking while you're crouching. Typically, in these games, this is a great means of counter-attacking a projectile hurling enemy. In Valis, you absolutely MUST NOT attack while crouching and a projectile is flying over your head, because the game registers it as a hit and you take damange. Very sloppy stuff and at later points in the game, can become straight-up annoying.

Back to the adventure, though. You'll find the opening area of the game to be surprisingly large. Yuko can not only handle the assault from the ground, but she can also make her way to the top of buildings in the area (jumping higher requires you to jump with C while holding up on the d-pad). It's certainly not Metroid-level exploration, but there are lots of power-ups to be had with a good bit of searching. Including blue jewels which replenish Magic Points... which I can't even use yet. The rooftops also have the added benefit of providing you with as little challenge as possible! You'll hardly be attacked up there, so go ahead and enjoy a nice rooftop jog. Girl's gotta stay in shape, ya know!!

Soon you'll come across the first of many Valis sword power-ups! This red one lets me fire blue projectiles, giving me a ranged attack that's altogether 100x more useful than trying to slash enemies up close.



The game has just become 100x easier! I'll find two more of these power-ups in this stage which will ultimately give me a nice 4-shot projectile spread, with each fireball counting as a hit. Yes, you can see how this just got 100x easier now, can't you?



Before we're finished mopping up the streets, we'll run into our final new opponent for the area...



The no-armed and horned demon with a shell who farts supersonic waves at Yuko! For some reason I can not imagine this guy living too fun of a life. What's it gotta be like when all you can do is walk around and fart at people? Let's ask decoy someday! Maybe with that shell to score dates he can be like, "Hey baby, I'm luggage too!" Not the best pick-up line, but you gotta work with what the devs gave you.

Now that she's finished taking care of the demons that plague the city streets, Yuko now has to venture into every Japanese school girl's absolute favorite place to be...



THE SUBWAY! Japanese girls LOVE the subway!

In this sub-section of the stage, we'll find the same enemies that Yuko dealt with top-side, only they'll immediately be joined by a couple others.



First, we have Cartwheel Moron. That's all he does! He cartwheels toward Yuko to his certain doom. And then we have another tentacle guy! Surprising, I know. This guy just hops around the stage like an idiot shooting fireballs randomly. He can be avoided completely if you stay down on the lowest part of the screen and just run. By the end of the stage, I venture to guess you'll maybe HAVE to kill one or two of them, but you'll have a fully powered Valis sword by then, so they're cake.

The subway area is fairly straightforward, providing little challenge and still overly generous with the power-ups. Specifically a 1-up that you won't need until MUCH later because this game is fuckeasy!



Once you reach the depths of the subway, you'll run into the game's first boss.



This guy can be a bit of a putz or annoying depending on how you decide to fight him. He starts the fight by shaking the screen, which is supposed to represent an earthquake, but the first time I played it, I thought the game was graphically glitching out or something. The trick is to just keep jumping and if you can time it right you'll only have to jump three times before the fucker starts throwing rocks at you. This is when you'll land and go all Contra on his ass, as your projectiles can destroy the rocks he throws. He'll then roll to the other side of the screen to repeat the pattern forever. Since his attacks do very little damage though, you don't even have to fuck with strategy. Just stay close to him, take the hits, and unload with your fully-powered Valis sword for the easy victory.

And a...FANTASM JUELY!!! Julie? Jewely? Jewelry? Nope...JUELY!



What does a FANTASM JUELY do, you ask? Well, you'll have to sit through another cutscene before you find out...



I am SO glad that's the last fucking cutscene for a while. You have no idea how tedious those things are to make, but I do it for you because I know you need flashy and pressy things to keep your attention longer than 16 seconds.

So now we got ourselves some new duds, which really don't do a damn thing other than make Yuko look MUCH YELLOWER than before and our first FANTASM JUELY.



With this shiny new doodad to hold on to, we now have access to our first magic spell under the start menu, Earthquake. To use spells all you do is open your start menu, point the cursor at a spell to equip it and then back out. Pressing Up+B uses the selected spell. Earthquake is pretty difficult to show off in just screenshots or video, because all it does is shake the screen and damage (in most cases completely kill) normal stage enemies. Even when they're in the air. They gave us a really useful one right off the bat! Neat! We won't be needing it in this stage, though. And yes, as you probably have guessed by now, completing each stage grants you a new FANTASM JUELY and spell. I'll outline each new one as we obtain it.


Stage 2: Cool!



As you may have discerned from the cutscene above (and my EVER SO WITTY STAGE TITLE!), we're now in the game's ice stage. For a second stage its even more straightforward than the first stage. The entire path through the stage is all left to right and you're only exposed to two areas which aren't all that long or populated with too many enemies. But enemies there are, and I shall point them out, because I need to write SOMETHING about this stage!



Sing it with me!

o/~ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER
ONE OF THESE THINGS JUST DOESN'T BELONG o/~

First up, we get another floating head thing, only this time it actually resembles a head. These guys' flight patterns are kinda wonky and I think it may be due to some code buggery. They're not too much to try and handle. They slowly home in on your position and fire aimed shots in your direction. You haven't lost a life yet and you still have your fully-powered Valis sword. They're cake.

The next two are kinda boring and offer about as much challenge as floaty head guy. Big Lumbering Snowtard and Purple The Useless Wonder Pup offer the same modes of attack in simply moving toward you and throwing easy to jump fireballs if they're actually on the screen long enough to use them.

The Head Sticking Out Of The Ground you see there was created with the same purpose in mind that EVERY SINGLE SONIC THE HEDGEHOG ENEMY FUCKING EVER was created for. "Here you are cruisin along and I'm just gonna pop up out of nowhere and hit you! HHAHAHA GOT YER RINGS!" He's just a pop-up turret. The fireball he shoots has weird hit detection where it can literally pass through your head and most of Yuko's upper body and not register a hit.

And finally, our odd man out. He just said, "Fuck y'all, I'm red." This enemy is actually the only real interesting one in the stage, because he's one of the few enemies in the game that guards against your attacks. In order to hit him you have to time your attack so that you attack immediately before or after he does. Or just jump over him and run like almost everything else in the game. Wheeeeee!

Without too much trouble, we soon run into the boobs...errrr....boss... bet them nipples are erect all the time thanks to the weather here... ahem... HOW BOUT THAT BOSS FIGHT?



This Ice Harpy doesn't pose too much of a threat unless you're low on health, and I honest to god can't think of a reason why you would be. She just floats around casting her little ice spell which typically fires off on both sides of you and rarely ever hits. You really only have to worry about her touching you... hmm... She swoops in quite a bit and lands hits quite often, but with that fully-powered Valis Sword you're good to go. She'll hit you once or twice but you'll be landing 4 hits on her every time you get an attack off. She sadly has a lot in common with men, because she won't last long and it's not a very fulfilling encounter.



For your efforts, ANOTHER SHINY FANTASM JUELY!!!



With this FANTASM JUELY, we're granted access to the Ice Feather spell. Aside from being pretty blue and having decent defense potential for Yuko's back side (Her subway rides just got 100% safer!), the spell's almost altogether worthless. I've never found much use for it and I find myself generally sticking to Earthquake for its tiny MP consumption and usefulness in clearing the screen most of the time.


Stage 3: Not Cool!



YES, SHE STRIKES AGAIN WITH THOSE EVER SO CLEVER STAGE NAMES!

Despite the fact that this is a fire-based area, unfortunately that slick new ice spell you just aquired won't be all that useful. Enemies don't seem to have strengths or weaknesses to elements. Coulda been another cool point in the game's favor, but oh well. So, how about the folks that live here? Well, I got 'em right here for ya, boyo.



No, the robo-dog thing isn't farting out a blue fireball, I'll get to him in a second. The blue fireball is this stage's "floaty head" enemy which surprisingly isn't a head this time! He's a bit more annoying than typical floaty head enemies because he flies in a circular pattern as he quickly homes in on your position. They can catch you off guard easily as they have the ability to float freely through all the various platforms in the area. If they're lucky enough to hit you, they can be a bit of a hassle to shake off. Robo armored dog thing or whatever, that I mentioned before, just patrols platforms back and forth slowly never really noticing you unless you're directly in front of him. He spits a stream of lightning that comes out of nowhere when he does notice you. Not too tough to deal with him.

Then we have Shmucky The Flying Demon Sperm. He's got a good bit of health so he can take quite a... beating... and he... spits... at you. Their flight patterns are fairly predictable and can usually be avoided, which is good since Yuko IS a girl and needs to take care of her nanomachines. The Amazon Swordbitch patrols back and forth on platforms and swings her sword which also fires out a crescent shaped beam making her a double threat. They always seem to knock you back JUST FAR ENOUGH to drop you down a set of platforms you just climbed. If you're too impatient, just Earthquake 'em and continue forward.

The last of the enemies is by far the most effective and annoying. The little fuckerfaces are EVERYWHERE and blend in perfectly with the stage's red platforms and walls firing streams of fireballs, but you're more likely to bump into them and fall down the stage rather than fall victim to their projectiles.

This stage actually presents a bit more of a challenge than the previous areas. For one, it's pretty damn huge and you may get lost due to the maze-y layout spread out over two large areas. There are also a number of areas that require tricky jumps or simple jumps that look tricky. The lava pits you'll encounter do hurt you and the game forces you to trudge through them at times, but the trick to avoid taking damage is as soon as you land in the pit jump once again and you'll avoid damage. It's tricky timing, but not too hard to figure out. A nice upping of the game's difficulty for this stage overall, but the background and music get kinda boring real quick should you end up lost.

At least there are some new power-ups in the stage to keep you company. Most notable among these is the new Valis Sword upgrade you'll have to go a bit out of your way to find (it can be powered to level 2 by the time you finish this stage). The Super Dooper Bloo Laser Blade-o!



This upgrade is definitely worth your time. It packs more destructive power at the cost of your 4-hit spread and a lot of range, but the final upgrade also helps cover Yuko's bee-hind from attack. This attack also has a slight cool-down as you can't expect it to fire everytime you press the attack button. Adjust your timing accordingly.



Flame Chick Person is the boss of this area and she's a bit of a pushover. Her pattern is fairly simple and there's really not many ways you can be at a disadvantage in this fight. Duck or slide under the kick, jump the fire wave she throws, attack, attack, attack. She puts up a temporary flame barrier before she jumps, but eh.



Another easy FANTASM JUELY! Another probably useless spell. Let's check it out!



o/~Well I cast me a burnin' ring of fire
It went round, round, round
MP consumption went higher
And it turns, turns, turns
This ring of fire o/~

And that's all it really does. It does provide Yuko light protection from projectiles and the like, but most enemies will charge on through it. Though they take considerable damage, the MP consumption really doesn't help make it worthwhile. Back to Earthquake! Well, maybe not for the next stage. We may have one good use for this one if only for a minute...


Stage 4: She Goes Up!



First and foremost, the first power-up you'll find in this stage is another red Valis Sword power-up. If you've gone with the Bloo Laser Valis Sword, DO NOT PICK THIS UP! It resets you back to lv1 Peashooter sword and is not a good trade-off at all. Remember this for when you decide to change swords in the future. They always reset to lv1 which can leave you completely screwed sometimes.

This stage is a bore-fest all-around. Probably the worst in the game. The visuals don't change at all and the music is a 20 second loop at best. That won't be a problem if you're awesome like me. But first, let's have the enemy roll call!



First up, we have Armored Centaur Ryu Guy. He simply marches forward, stopping to HADOUKEN any tresspassing magical girls. Pretty easy to deal with, but they can take more of a beating than you think. Birds...BIRDS, BIRDS, BIRDS, FUCK, BIRDS! Platformers love birds, because they're the one enemy you can always count on to be a fucking nuisence. They're the run of the mill "fly around and then dive bomb into you" birds you've dealt with in every other platformer and they always seem to be hanging around pits, ever so fucking eager to knock you in.

Next, we have the "Ribbed For Her Pleasure" worm. These phallic enemies crawl around the stage and randomly jump into the air performing a 360 before they land. Ribbed For Her Pleasure Jumping Twirly Dicks. Worthless Frog and Mer-crab Chick aren't any real threat. Froggy slowly trawls around on the ground and jumps randomly into the air and spits and I've only ever seen two of the Mer-crab Chicks in the stage total near the bridge sections. They shoot bubbles. Bubbles are fun, I suppose.

Thankfully, you won't have to deal with many of them at all. Hell, it's probably possible to go the entire stage without touching any of them. That brand new spell we got is great for cruising through this stage completely unharmed and leaving every enemy you come across in the dust. Don't believe me? Well, here's a video!



At least the boredom doesn't last too long, yeah?



The boss of this stage is kind of okay. Bubble Windmage (as I've so aptly named him), spends a lot of the fight floating around in a protective bubble being shielded from all attacks. During this time he'll decide to either stop in the middle of the screen and call forth two tornadoes from both sides of the screen that you simply jump over, or land on either side of the screen and launch a projectile attack that you can either destroy or jump over. Man, they really didn't think these bosses out enough, did they? You shouldn't have too much trouble scoring the victory here once you see each attack once and realize how fuckeasy they are to dodge and counter.






And with that easy victory, the fourth FANTASM JUELY and spell are ours!

We're now a good deal over halfway through our Valis experience. What new challenges and obstacles await our canary colored Fantasm Soldier? Find out by clicking the link below!






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