Valis III Dissection and Review (Page 1)
by Polly

We've arrived at last. Valis III. The final chapter of the Valis saga for the Sega Genesis.

This one, I remember a lot about, because I rented it quite a bit back in the day. I remember only beating it once and then once I did, I never played it again. That's how things were when we played games as young'uns. Finish it and move on to the next best thing. I snatched up a copy of it years later, but still never managed to play it much after buying it, because people just get busy, I guess. So, now will be the first time I've played the game in probably over 10-11 years. I'm interested in seeing just how well this game has held up over the years. Will it still be as awesome as my peabrained child-self thought it was all those years ago, or will the reality be yet another sobering experience akin to what happened with the first game? Take the trip with me and find out!

First up... my god... What the fuck is up with that boxart?

What...the fuck IS that? That's not anything resembling Yuko or even a woman for that matter... that's some kind of... some kind of... shit I don't even have words for it. It may not be up there with some of gaming's worst boxart ever, but that shit's just DREADFUL. I'd forgotten just how dreadful the boxart for this game was until I dug it out of the ol' vault again. How do you even go to market with a mug that ugly? How the fuck did I ever even decide to pick it up from the rental shelf when I first saw it? Shit.

It reminds me of some of the terrible hack jobs that Boris Vallejo (don't get me wrong, he's a great artist, unlike whoever whipped up this shit) did on tons of Genesis games back in the day, while getting all the details COMPLETELY wrong. My personal favorite is what he did for Phantasy Star II.

Swing and a miss there, Boris. Swing. And. A. Fucking. Miss. Nei DOES NOT AND HAS NEVER HAD horns and you missed Rolf's age by a good 80 years. I can see Sega simply not having the balls to tell him that he jacked it up or just not caring. Either scenario is fairly feasable. HUR-HUR FANTASY ARTIST DOING ART FOR A SCI-FI RPG BUT THE WORD "PHANTASY" IS IN THE TITLE, SO HUR-DEE-HURRRRRRRRRRRR!

Okay, okay, this isn't about Phantasy Star or Boris Vallejo. I was just trying to make a point that the boxart for this game is just fuckterrible.

So, what exactly is our favorite blue-haired and canary-clad warrior up to these days? Well, maybe the opening cinematics will give us an idea...

Stage 1: Big City Nights

Son of a motherfucker! Bitch just ran off with my god damn Valis Sword!

I'm all fine with horny elf girls sneaking into my room at night and all, but don't go stealing my stuff. That's not how that fantasy is supposed to work!

And just like that our magical jammie adventure begins! Yuko sets out to track down the thief who just pilfered the one and only item that makes her useful to anyone. The magical jammie adventure doesn't last all that long at all, which is probably a good thing since you can't attack or anything when in Jammie Mode. Running to the next screen forces a confrontation with Yuko's late-night visitor who identifies herself as Cham. She needs the Valis Sword for some reason or other, but before we get too far into the exchange...

A magical flying robed putz (who looks a lot like Rogles...) shows up and elf-naps Cham. As he takes off with her, Cham manages to release her grip of the Valis Sword and watches it plunge toward the ground. Sounds like the most safe thing to do to me. Who cares if there's anyone hanging around down there? Is it Cham's problem? No. Yuko, seeing the sword fall does the only sensible thing...

...and jumps off the fucking roof of the building after it!

She snatches it and flies back up to begin her new adventure safely, but I have a bit of an objection with this scene and think it should have turned out a bit differently. If she's going to be so wreckless and jump off of buildings to grab sharp metal pointy things, she needs to set an example that the kids can learn from..

Bet you kids are gonna think twice now before jumping off roofs after shiny metal things.

Now, obviously this would have made for an INCREDIBLY short game (and, lucky you would have already been finished reading here!), so it's probably a good thing I wasn't on the development team. I'd have just sat around eating their donuts and demanding more yuri scenes anyway, so meh...

Alright, now this is more like it. Valis III takes us back to the gameplay mechanics we knew and (most of the time) loved from the original game, only a few things work a bit differently now.

HUDs... boy I know this is all too exciting, but I'm going over it anyway!

First, we'll notice that Yuko has noticeably smaller HP and MP bars, thorwing the game a chance to actually become challenging. We'll see what comes of that. Under those we have the first new addition to the system, a strength meter. This bar determines how far Yuko's beam attacks go when she attacks. Every time Yuko attacks the bar depletes completely and charges back up. By collecting single sword icons, this bar gets bigger, giving Yuko more range. A crossed-swords icon will speed up the rate at which the bar fills and when playing as Yuko, having the bar fill up faster is ALWAYS a good thing.

The stave icon you see beside the health and magic meters represents the type of magic Yuko has equipped. The magic system has been overhauled a bit in this installment to work more like special items do in Castlevania games. You collect colored staves and each one gives Yuko a different spell. These power-ups are unique for each character and are worth exploring if just for the novelty of seeing what each character does with 'em.

Yuko's set contains a homing fire arrow, a V Is For Valis Ice Beam, and Reiko's Death Flash from the first game. The homing arrows are decent at taking out pesky little enemies that may be impeding your progress, but don't count on them in a tight situation. They're mostly cool because when you cast them, they'll hover above Yuko's head until they find a target, rather than wasting the MP if there are no enemies immediately around. The V Is For Valis Ice Beam is a fast-travelling ice beam that can freeze opponents in their tracks. A great selection because of its speed and most enemies can't resist being frozen. The effect wears off after you strike the frozen target once. And lastly, the Death Flash is the same basic thing it was in the first game, only much weaker and not quite as expensive. Probably about as useful as Earthquake was in the original game, maybe less. I've never really relied much on Yuko's magic.

I feel this is also the most appropriate time time to mention the other things that are boring, that way we don't have to go over them later. This game improves on a lot of things from the first game. It feels a lot smoother, hit detection has been tightened up quite a bit, and it's not quite as sloooooooooooooooow. Still not at the speed I'd like it to be at, but much better just from the opening moments. Sliding is still a tad wonky, but it's actually useful this time around and much faster. And finally, an odd bug that carried over from the original is that you still can't attack when ducked and an enemy projectile is over your head. HOW did they miss this again? It never becomes TOO bothersome, but it's still puzzling as to how they missed it. I simply can't believe they wanted it to be that way... maybe...

So, can we talk about the stage now, Polly? Well... what little there is to talk about. It's really just a straight run to the right, get used to the controls stage. You'll dispatch only a couple enemy types while jumping over some pits that, yes, do kill you instantly this time. Really, nothing else in this stage is worth noting.

And here comes our first boss!

Like the entire stage this guy... just isn't all that interesting or difficult in the least. It'd be more difficult actually trying to die here than it is staying alive. He floats around and shoots out fireballs to either his left or right side which can be avoided simply by ducking under him or sliding out of the way and you can see his spiked ball attack coming from a mile away. Don't believe me that you can't duck and attack when things are over your head? Go ahead and lose a couple HP to the spiked ball attack.

All in all, a rather "blah" way to get things started. But it's a first stage! It's gotta get better from here!

Stage 2: Run Through The Jungle

Out of the city and POOF! Into the jungle! But hold on a second there, bucko. We just got something kinda neat and NEW to the series! A new ally!

After saving her hot little ass and making her feel like the scum of the earth for stealing Yuko's beloved Valis Sword, Cham has now officialy joined our ranks! We can (and should!) choose to be her at any time during the adventure now by pressing the A button. This kinda screws up sliding, as we were able to do so by pressing A just the same, but sliding gets bumped to A+Down now, so get it right.

Cham comes equipped with her great looks, a horn on her forehead, standard issue elf ears, and a bad-ass whip with a pitchfork-type thingy on the end. I'm sure there's a legitimate name for it and fuck if I know what it is. It kinda resembles Robo-Smoke's harpoon in Mortal Kombat 3 if you need a reference. Unlike Yuko, Cham doesn't have to rely on the strength meter for range. It never seems to change. In fact, Cham doesn't seem affected by the strength meter whatsoever. I could be wrong, but her attacks seem to do the same damage and have the same range at all times, so I guess if you're a Yuko fan and lose a life (whicn kills your strength meter back to its default maximum), you could switch over to Cham until you grab a few power-ups.

Cham also gets a decent set of spells to go through. Her fire snake is a lot like Yuko's fire arrow attack. It has homing abilities, but is overall fairly weak and isn't really a great fallback. Cham's ice spell can prove quite useful when enemies surround her on all sides as she has the potential to freeze two at once. They still recover after only one hit, but this gives Cham enough time to clear one side for some breathing room. Her lightning spell covers a decent area and does okay damage. If you're surrounded by weaker enemies, you could consider it a "panic bomb" of sorts to get out of any trouble she may be in.

The Jungle stage gets things started off decently. You'll encounter multiple flying DRACULA MOUTHS! Very smoothly animated flying DRACULA MOUTHS! You know, those fake teeth they have out at Halloween? Kinda like those. They're flying all over the stage for whatever reason. There's a lot of 'em and they're always spawning in providing a brief distraction at best. We also have...*dun dundundundundundundundundudn*

...The one enemy that will prove to be the only thing in this write-up Kjilly cares about! NOODLE NINJA WITH RAW SPAGHETTI STICK! These guys are always running in and jumping at our heroines, ready to put some pasta into their lives! Calories be damned, these guys want you to eat your pasta and they want you to do it now! I don't know about you, but when a noodle man comes up to me and starts telling me to do shit, you can bet your ass I'm gonna. Noodle Men are the wise sages of our times, didn'tcha know?

At any rate, the Jungle area of the stage is decently long and turns up the difficulty only a tiny bit. Most enemies here still only take one hit to kill, but there's a lot of em constantly jumping in and out, so I guess they're trying.

The next part of the stage... oh wait a tick...

Heeeeey, there we are. As I was saying, the next part of the stage has our newly-formed duo of unwitting world saviors crossing a giant lake on a boat to an island in the center. On that island is a tower where Yuko's "twin sister" is being held captive by somebody for some reason. The catch to this part of the stage is that you can only bring one person along, and you'll be using that character for the rest of this stage and the largest chunk of the next. I suggest Cham, because Cham is AWESOME! I think she's just better at dealing with the next stage too.

The boat ride is pretty uneventful. Along the way you'll come across about 16 bajillion MP power-ups and little hoppy guys that jump out of the water and throw fireballs. Kinda like some other game... There's absolutely no reason you should be taking any damage here, though. If you do, just turn the game off now. It's too braindead easy and you should consider yourself braindead if you take damage.

Predictable as ever. The ferryman wants his money and you ain't gonna give it back. So, what's he do? Well, he turns into my FAVORITEST TYPE OF ENEMY EVER! The ol' snake/worm boss that floats around and homes in on me randomly.

Now, this guy can't be put anywhere NEAR a level close to anything resembling him in Syd of Valis. This guy's actually not too hard and at most can just be mildly annoying. He doesn't stuff himself up your ass for the duration of the fight landing cheap hits until you're dead. No, this guy seems to have a bit of an aggression deficiency instead. He's pretty happy to just fly around the screen attemping to stay out of range of your attacks while he spits little slow moving yellow rings at you. Occasionally, and I believe it's completely random, he'll make a dive toward the boat and possibly try to slip under it to the other side of the screen. This is the easiest opportunity you have to kill him, especially if you have Cham's Ice spell equipped to freeze him in place, then attack. You can keep doing this until she's out of MP and probably wipe him out. Otherwise, just try to jump high and use air attacks to deal with him.

Stage 3: The Prisoner

After defeating the boss and with absolutely no fanfare or much of an indication at all other than the changing surroundings, we're briskly whisked into Stage 3. I consider this to be the "real" first stage of the game, because it's the first to offer up any kind of challenge and is decently long.

It's a long trek up for whoever you've chosen. As I mentioned earlier, Cham seems to have a much easier time getting through this area due to not having to wait for the strength meter to restore once she's attacked. Most enemies in the area take two to four hits to take care of and Cham can make damn short work out of all of them. Her Ice spell will also be of great use in taking care of the knight-type enemies.

Maggot spitters and the flying bugs are probably the worst part of the stage as they come at you from out of nowhere a lot of the time and can land really easy hits if you're not paying close enough attention. Nothing in here is ever cheap, it's just put together well enough so that the enemy set works together really well with the layout of the stage.

Throughout your ascent to the top of the tower, you'll encounter other prisoners in the area as well, but FUCK RESCUING THEM. You're just here to save a little princess and her dinky little subjects can go fuck themselves! One of the prisoners is a bit of an oddball as he hangs out below a glitched platform that can only be dropped down to by kneeling on a specific block, but you'll find he doesn't have much to say. Lord knows why he'd be put in such an odd position. Maybe he got caught sniffing Valna's panties or something... Then there's the out of fucking nowhere 1-up I found by ATTACKING THE AIR! EVERYTHING about this game is magical! I lurve magical girls!

Let's move on, then...

As we exit the tower's inner-workings, we find ourselves in a nice and very pretty outside area. Mop up a few more annoying baddies and THERE SHE IS! Our maiden confined within the crystal! I could probably hock this thing for a decent wad of cash. Come on, a perfectly preserved maiden in a very pretty crystal? That's gotta fetch a good price in those "I'm so rich I buy shit just to have shit" circles. You know, the type who buy $16,000 umbrella stands? Ah well... Valna's just DAMN lucky that me freeing her from this crystal entrapment is the only way that the game will let me advance to the next area. If I had a Game Genie right about now... shiiiiiit... On top of that, it's probably too damn heavy and getting it down that tower again would be fucking crazy. Then there's getting the damn thing on the boat without sinking... Lame.

Once we finish rocking the chains that bind our distressed ruler of Dreamland, the little bird joins our struggle to save the realms as the final new permanent party member.

She's a magic-hucker and a gosh darn adorable one. Come on, she's got the cutest and daintiest running animation ever! Maybe not Final Fantasy III, female Shaman adorable, but there's elements of that charm here. Like Yuko, Valna's attacks rely on the strength meter for range. When the strength meter is at its full power, Valna also gets an extra projectile to her attack which shoots upward to help her deal with airborne threats. Unfortunately, her magic fireballs are the slowest attack in the game and the range really isn't all that great, even with a maximum strength meter.

She's still not a bad character to use and helps round out the party, making all the player characters play a bit differently. Most would probably just want to stick with Cham as she's unencumbered by that pesky strength meter (and she's the hot elf girl!). Nice addition with that strength meter, guys! It makes two characters kinda crappy to play, but one almost completely broken because you kinda forgot to tie her to it!

I'll tie her to somethin'... OKAY, OKAY, I'M DONE!

Being a magic user, it should be no surprise that Valna has a decent set of spells at her disposal to balance her out a bit. Her fire spell is a throw-back to the first game. A shield of fire that spins around and protects her. It protects her for a decent amount of time or until enemies are hit or knock off both fireballs. Her ice spell is likely the most useful, because it fires four shots, has the ability to freeze up to four enemies at once, and it homes in on all available targets. This one can be really useful toward the end of the game. Her lightning spell isn't anything to sneeze at either. It spits out three large orbs that bounce raipidly around the screen taking care of almost any threat in the immediate area. The spell's duration isn't that long, but it's not all that hard to keep recasting it, because the game hands out MP replenishers like candy on Halloween.

Anyway, after Valna's rescued, she basically tells Cham and Yuko to go fuck themselves and that she's gonna go take care of this KOLILANBA by herself. Yeah, cause she did such a great fucking job of that to begin with. Getting captured was clearly her "JUST AS PLANNED" moment, right?

Valna takes on KOLILANBA by herself. I admire taking the initiative, but she coulda been a little less dicky about it. After a pretty good stage, the game follows up with a pretty crummy boss, but I guess this is just done for the fact that you just got control of Valna and the player needs to get used to her. He darts around the top part of the screen in rapid fashion, but can't really hurt the little princess when he does this. The only danger during this fight are fire pillars you'll have to jump over and the randomly scattered fireballs he releases when he darts back and forth. She should make pretty short work of this guy.

Stage 4: For Whom The Bell Tolls

With all three of our main characters together, Valna clues us in on the fact that there's no way Yuko can defeat Glames without a POWERED TO 9000 Valis Sword. So, it's up to us to make our way to Sutherland to track down that crazy Nizetti character, because only he knows how to unleash the sword's full power.

This stage starts out with a little trial. As you're told when you enter the room, you've gotta DING DONG that big bell in the top right of the room three times. To reach the bell, you've gotta hop up onto the moving platforms and navigate over to the bell. It takes seven or eight hits to RING-A-DING-DING it and once you do the platform you're on cruises off-screen and you've gotta get back to the first platform and wait for the second to cruise back on screen. This isn't as much of a task as it probably should be. The knights that patrol the ground are pretty slow and dumb and lack the health to be any kind of threat. The only minor annoyance is the little hoppy guys that pop out of the holes in the background far too infrequently to try and knock you off the platforms. It doesn't take much to clear this little roadblock so we can cruise onto the main portion of the stage.

This one kinda resembles Stage 4 from the first Valis game, which was mostly just a diagonal up-right run. It's not all that exciting of a level design and the enemies are on the "way too damn easy" side. They all take one hit to kill and they're all fairly easy to predict. One of the enemies in particular caught me off-guard though.

The Giant Rotating Coin of Company Self-Promotion! It's odd enough that we'd be in a stage that's tied to a somewhat serious portion of the storyline and be fighting giant rotating coins, but they're coins with the game's own company printed on it. Pretty sure it's just some easter egg they wanted players to chuckle at, and believe me, I did laugh when I first noticed it, but it seems like a complete waste of an enemy. I'm in STAGE FOUR NOW, HELLO! START CHALLENGING ME!

This stage does have a couple of cool little cameos though.

First, you'll run into Reiko! I wondered where the fuck you were, baby! You were just hanging out on this riduclously long climb with some rotating company coins. Further up the trek, you'll also bump into Valia. Each asks your character a question to which Yuko and Valna respond to in the same manner, but Cham answers a bit differently. Given that the sprites are a bit different, one might not notice these cameos and if you've been playing as Cham, she won't even mention them by name once they disappear. Yuko and Valna are the only two who will actually refer to these NPCs by their names. That makes sense, since Cham has never met either of the two. Pretty cool little easter egg, I think.

The boss of the stage... isn't really a boss at all. Remember those slow moving, fairly easy to defeat knights at the start of the stage? You now have to fight a whole boat load of them. 32 of them, in fact. Cham is the obvious choice here if you wanna just get it over with. Valna and Yuko will have a bit more of a challenge on their hands due to their attack speeds being much slower. That's basically the only way this fight is going to be a challenge. Come on, game! I'm ASKING YOU TO BE DIFFICULT NOW! PLEASE?

After this pitiful trial of endurance, we can now meet with Nizetti to fully upgrade the Valis Sword! WOOOOOOOO!

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