Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Dissection and Review (Page 2)
by Polly

Hey, you made it! Nice work! You're getting the hang of this whole "internets" thing. Alright, so where were we... Oh yes, I remember!

Our new spell is... delightfully fucking pointless! It shoots two small tornadoes to Yuko's front and back sides just like the boss did. Once again, the MP cost doesn't justify its use at all and you'd be hard-pressed to find any legitimate uses for it. Boy, the magic in this game blows...

Stage 5: The Temple.... Thing...

I... got nothin for this one.

A deadly temple awaits us on our way to collecting the fifth FANTASM JUELY and thankfully it's a bit of a step-up from the previous stage's lack of challenge and creativity. On top of that, there might even be a hint of things becoming just a teensy bit more challenging.

The Temple area features a lot of the creepy crawlies I guess you'd be accustomed to finding in a place like this. We got our typical two-headed snake that just slithers around on the ground toward Yuko becoming only a minor pest at best. Then there's Pac-Man on fuckin steroids and with those teeth, I'm guessing he's also British in this incarnation. You guessed it! Another "floaty head" type only this one seems to lose interest quickly. You can run behind him, slide under him, jump up in his face and yell "SUP, WANNA SEE MY TITS?" and he'll just continue on his way without giving you much thought.

Fuckin' Metroids are also up in muh Valis, only bigger and slightly more retarded looking. They're content to hover overhead, stopping at random intervals to shoot down a beam of lightning toward the ground, praying that you'll be there when they do. But you won't be. You'll never be. And of course EVERYONE'S heard of flying sky-fish! This stage's second take on the "floaty head" (Shit they must have REALLY been burnt out by the time they got here) floats back and forth like Pac-Man and does somersaults in the air for no reason whatsoever! He'll dive at you from time to time too, but it's fairly easy to see coming and not much to worry about overall. The Temple Knight dude is the stage's most worthy adversary. He's sort of like the Knight Dude in Stage 2, but puts up a barrier that blocks attacks from both sides and he's got a ton of health. Have fun fighting these fucks in this stage's sometimes cramped areas.

This new area also grants us access to a brand new Valis Sword power-up. The Homing Arrow Blade! I bet it's got a better Japanese name.

This one's kinda clunky to get started with. You only get two arrows and their range is balls. On top of that their targetting is quite erratic at times. Once powered up to the second and third levels, however, it becomes a fairly formidable option. It's noticeably weaker than the other swords you've had access to up to this point, but you can fire the little fuckers off pretty fast, which helps balance it out a bit.

Thankfully, this stage is much longer and a bit more of a challenge than what we've seen up until now. The outside areas are fairly cut and dry, but once you hit the inside, you'll have to be careful of the ol' falling bricks trick as pieces of the narrow corridors you're in will begin to fall. You can tell which ones will fall by watching the lowest row of bricks very closely. As you move forward, the dropping blocks scroll a little strangely. You'll see what I mean if you're playing. You'll actually face many enemies in these tight quarters, so you may actually see your life gauge dip down below ten bars. Shit, she has way too god damn many HP. You can completely skip the second inside area of this stage if you're careful to watch the ground. You can stay top-side and have a much easier time of things without having to deal with the narrow corridors and have a nice and stress-free jog into the boss' chamber.

This guy's a bit of a challenge in the wrong kind of way. Both heads flail around up and down while randomly shooting out blue cheerios. Unfortunately, though Cheerios are healthy, they do not replenish Yuko's health meter AT ALL! Fucking rip-off. Basically, the only real strategy for this guy is to just get in close and slug it out and whoever wins pressed the attack button faster. With Yuko's awkward jumping and slide mechincs, she really can't dodge any of this shit with any consistency. Other than slugging it out, my best advice would be to have full MP when you come into the boss room and have Earthquake equipped and when you notice your lifebar getting low, start spamming the fuck out of it as you're invincible in the casting animation and you may get lucky enough to take out one of the heads making this fight much easier, or maybe both! There's a hidden MP replenishing jewel in the top left of the screen too. Seems like they had this planned out...

I'm in ur templz takin ur JUELYZ.

Our newest MP-sucking and worthless spell reminds me a whole lot of The Joker's big lightning attack at the end of the Batman game on NES. Talk about a far-off reference... Yes, it's the same attack the Hydra used against you and it's a whole 14 points of wasted MP potential. Once again...Earthquake and you'll be fine. Sigh...such wasted potential here.

Stage 6: Forest of Awfulness

Brief Forest introduction indicating that this stage is a forest. Indicate exactly how exciting it is, though it really isn't. They're not reading at this point anyway, so just fake it. If you type a lot here, it'll look like you actually described it. Final Fantasy Final Fantasy Final Fantasy Final Fantasy Final Fantasy.



Oh, hey look! Rock Golem Guy that slowly shuffles toward me and...whatever. And SON OF A BITCH, THEY'RE EVOLVING! This is some Metroid II shit, here! Another Metroid, only he's bigger and does the same thing as the last one. Chief Charging Bull there really only has one chance to be useful in the entire stage and I'll get to that and a moment. Finally, Crowssbow Bitch slowly marches forward while firing her crossbow. She can take quite a bit of punishment and that's about her only redeeming quality.

This stage grants us an excellent new weapon!

The V Is For Valis Blade! If you've stuck to the pretty bloo laser upgrade up to this point, there's absolutely no reason to skip this one. Sure, it's dinky and kinda crummy at level 1, but levels 2 and 3 completely make up for it. At level 2 the beam only gets larger, but at level 3 you gain a nice vertical shot as well that'll take care of any airborne threats for the rest of the game with ease. You can completely slaughter enemies with it at close-range because both beams will hit the intended target and they're quite powerful. It's very easy to upgrade this one to level 3 by the end of the stage and I highly recommend it...

The Forest gets back to the simple left-to-right progression and doesn't really switch things up too much. It's almost like there were two level design dudes with different approaches to how they did things. The first guy likes to adventure a bit and his stages offer a little more variety. The other dude just graduated from Level Design High and can't break out of that straight-line rut, but he managed to take a cue from the first dude with this one. The only unique feature about the entire stage is the little holes that you can fall into which take you through the underground portion of the forest, which offers a higher population of enemies and a couple of cramped spaces. Most players will jump the first hole, but the second hole is guarded by a bull enemy that charges out of fucking nowhere and just knocks you in. If you're lucky enough to avoid him, you won't have any problems staying top side and cruising through the level with very little difficulty.

There's really no indication here, be it via cutscene or spoken dialogue before the fight, but the bad ass bitch you're engaging here is actually Reiko from that intro a few thousand words back. So, you're really not clued in to who you're fighting until the scene after the fight, provided you survive the ordeal. The instruction manual makes small reference to the story (which is incorrect) in classifying Reiko as Rogles' boyfriend because he's cute. That and the "They already have their warrior" may be your only clue... Like it really matters.

Reiko plays from the same playbook as you. She fights you by sliding and jumping around the screen while firing a level 2 V Is For Valis sword and being a general annoyance. She's fast and hits you a lot, but that's really the least of your worries.

When she stops attacking and begins the spellcasting animation LAY THE FUCK INTO HER! She's about to cast the appropriately named Death Flash spell and it's an easy life-ender as it does an almost effortless 16 points of damage. That's HALF of Yuko's lifebar and in the midst of slugging it out with Reiko during the fight, it's quite easy to not have enough health to survive it. Coming into the fight with a level 2 or 3 weapon is pretty much required and a level 3 V Is For Valis sword will completely ruin her world if you just stick to her and don't let up for even a second. Just keep an eye on that lifebar, because she does drain health faster than you'd think.

When Reiko finally gives up the ghost we earn another FANTASM JUELY and a very appropriate screenshot.

Looks like things are about to get REALLY fun for these two. Oh, hey! There's a cutscene coming up too, so let's find out...

...Okay... maybe not quite as fun as I was imagining...

We've now hit the home stretch of our journey, as Yuko boldly ventures deep into Rogles' castle for the final showdown. Will Yuko avenge the death of her "best friends forever for 30 seconds"? Read on to find out!

Our last spell is Death Flash which, to me, is just a flashier and more expensive version of Earthquake. It's the same spell Reiko used to whoop my ass BAD, but you'll find it's not quite as bad ass in Yuko's hands. Never give the tanks magic...ugh...

Final Stage: Rogles' Pad

Here we are! The final stage. All that stands between Yuko and Rogles now are just a few more screens and the game's last pile of enemies.

A generally "alright" cast of characters help round out the final stage, ranking as the best set of enemies you'll encounter in the game.

First up we have Red Death guy, who floats around and shoots what look like doggie treats at you at first glance. He's the "floaty head" type enemy of this stage if you haven't already guessed. They're generally too slow to catch you off guard unless their buddies are around though. The spider there is about the equivalent of a Thwomp from Mario, only not quite as heavy. They're content to merely crawl up and down their web. Perhaps they should have studied under the spiders from Castlevania II and learned how to shoot at me or something. Snake Armor Dude just slithers around on the ground and extends his neck to bop you with his head. They tend to get in your way quite often, so watch out!

The next enemy will probably seem kinda neat to those who have already played Valis III. They possess the same weapon as one of the main characters in that game and use it just the same. Shit's got a hell of a reach so watch your range with these bitches. Finally, we have Big Knight Dude. These guys can take a load of punishment and can deal a good amount of damage over time. Their sword swing has a pretty decent range to it, but cap that off with a boomerang-style blade they shoot forth from it and you've got yourself one of the game's very few viable adversaries.

It's not a bad lot to round out the last stage. This combo of enemies actually works well together, providing a decent challenge as you make your way through the expansive castle.

In the final stage of the game, we're also given access to the best Valis Sword upgrade! The BOMBU SWORDO!

This upgrade doesn't fuck around. Yuko shoots bombs from her Valis Sword which explode either after flying a short distance or coming into contact with an enemy. Each level of the upgrade adds one more explosion to the end of the attack making it even stronger. Best weapon in the game by the time it's upgraded to level 3 and you won't have any trouble at all doing so, as the upgrades are generously handed out during the stage.

Why couldn't all the other stages in the game have been this good? The one stage in the game that really does everything right is the last one. There are four sub-sections with each having its own distinct look, a couple areas with multiple paths to take through them, and a fairly decent ascent toward the final boss' chamber. Had the whole game been comprised of stages like this, I'd have certainly enjoyed it much more. It's not like this stage is the epitome of level design, but there really is so much more to it that other stages that lead up to it are lacking. It really is a shame, now that I get to this point and realize that this game could have easily been "saved" with stages that had simply had a little more thought put into them.

A cool little feature exclusive to this stage only occurs when Yuko hits 10 HP or below. When this happens a new and more intense "the fight of your life" battle theme will begin to play. I found it to be a pretty neat little effect, if only cosmetic.

And here, ladies and gentlemen, we have the one and only Rogles! The final boss fight of the game better be a damn good one, right? Well... unfortunately, it kinda falls flat on its face only scoring the "E for Effort."

Rogles begins the fight by flying around the screen quite unmenacingly for about ten seconds before calling out a little fire snake that's easily dealt with using any projectile in Yuko's arsenal. When the little bugger is dead and buried, just lay into Rogles and after a few rounds of dancing with the snakes he continues to call, you'll then face his second form.

The second form sticks to the skies for most of the battle, flying back and forth overhead and shooting blue cheerios from his feet. And, wouldn't you know it, just like the stage five boss, NO HEALTH BONUS FROM CHEERIOS. But, I guess I should expect as much from the main villian.

When he does land, it'll always be on the left or right side of the screen, which will be followed by him throwing out a large energy wave which you must duck. Crappy game mechanics rear their ugly head for this attack as it's not possible to attack Rogles when the beam is passing anywhere over Yuko or you'll be hit while you're ducking.

There's not much standing between Yuko and victory at this point. For our efforts, just one final (SHORT, FUCK YES!) cutscene.

And that's the end of our first Valis adventure!

Going back and playing through this one after so many years of not even touching it has proven to be a bit of a slap to the face that knocks off the ol' nostalgia glasses. The game's not terrible, it's just terribly average. All of my gripes with the game's crummy level design, wonky character movement, and hit detection could have easily been smoothed out to have made this one a bit more enjoyable and perhaps memorable. Then there's the issue that the game's just too damn easy. Yuko doesn't need 32 Hit Points almost EVER! Only one boss in the game stands a chance of even coming close to putting her on her back (yuk, yuk!). Perhaps a levelling up system or hidden items could have been implemented into each stage that could bump Yuko up to 32 HP/MP by the end of the game. Having those things alone would have went a long way toward making the stages more fun to play and explore and provide extra challenges for those who'd want to try and go through the game with the least possible health amd magic. The magic is utterly useless most of the time and let's face it, the enemies need to be more than cut and paste clones of the enemies you fight in the first stage.

But, at the end of the day, even with all my complaints I still find there's fun to be had with Valis: The Fantasm Soldier. Don't go in expecting brilliance or anything spectacular that'll blow you away and you may find a game that's not a bad way to waste about an hour or less playing through.

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