Star Ocean: The Divine Force vs. Valkyrie Elysium: Which Revival Did It Right?
The return of JRPG classics!
In the conversations regarding Japanese role-playing games, the one developer that has produced sleeper hits throughout its history would be Tri-Ace. This Japanese developer has been a trusty partner to the biggest JRPG studio of all time, Square Enix.
Together with the JRPG giant, Tri-Ace has made a name for itself with the Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile games. The former is a space fantasy adventure in the same vein of Star Wars, while the latter is a Norse mythology-inspired epic.
While never reaching the heights of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile carved an action-RPG niche for themselves when they debuted on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the original PlayStation, respectively.
Both series are making a revival with Star Ocean: The Divine Force and Valkyrie Elysium, both releasing demos during last week’s Tokyo Game Show. Which of these two games managed to revive their respective franchises? Let’s find out.
The sixth game of the series, Star Ocean: The Divine Force will transport players to an expansive sci-fi fantasy world and take them on an exhilarating journey with fast-paced action combat, rich exploration and an original story.
The demo follows the story of Raymond, the captain of the space trading ship, Ydas, as he finds himself stranded on the underdeveloped planet, Aster IV. Here he encounters Laeticia, the princess-knight of a kingdom in Aster IV, along with her ward Albaird.
While not a complete open-world game, Star Ocean: The Divine Force does feature a lot of open areas for exploration. Verticality plays a big role as players are able to glide to higher elevations through the use of a drone, with plenty of collectibles to be found.
Combat-wise, the game features an improved and faster version of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness’ real-time battle system. The franchise’s penchant for combos and character-switching is intact, while the aforementioned drone opens up opportunities to get up close and personal with enemies in combat.
Overall, Star Ocean: The Divine Force is a natural evolution of what was seen in previous iterations. The demo is a good introduction to the core game loop of exploration and combat, though the story hasn’t shown any significant diversions from the typical JRPG formula yet.
Just like the previous Valkyrie Profile games, the newly christened Valkyrie Elysium draws on the richness of Norse mythology to present an original story set in a world on the brink of destruction, plus fast-paced action combat.
The demo has players assuming the role of a young Valkyrie, who is entrusted with the fate of the world by the All-Father. She will face various enemies on her quest and must utilise a variety of weapons, magic and the power of her allies to prevent Ragnarok.
So while the series was initially developed by Tri-Ace, Valkyrie Elysium was instead developed by Soleil Inc. Tri-Ace last worked on 2009’s Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume on the Nintendo DS.
The biggest loss that comes from this reinvention is that the original combo-based battle system is discarded in favour of a more conventional action-RPG battle system. The indie game Indivisible is still the closest thing to a modern Valkyrie Profile, while Valkyrie Elysium is more like Devil May Cry.
That said, a new method of summoning einherjar like the original Valyrie Profile games is implemented in Valkyrie Elysium, which can be used to deal elemental damage and prolong combos. Overall, it is a compromise that can still satiate the appetite of longtime fans.
So which did it better? Truth be told, it really depends on what the individual player is looking for. Star Ocean: The Divine Force may appeal to fans of Trials of Mana and Tales of Arise, while Valkyrie Elysium is more like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry 5.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force definitely serves as a stepping stone for the franchise to break into the next-generation, as seen with its emphasis on Xenoblade-like open areas. The in-game character models leave a lot to be desired, but they are characterised well enough as an ensemble cast.
As for Valkyrie Elysium, it is a stark contrast to games that came before, and is regarded as complete reinvention. While its real-time combo-based combat is enjoyable, it remains to be seenn how the game can be more than just a typical action-RPG.
Valkyrie Elysium will release on September 29 on the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 and on November 12 on Steam. Star Ocean: The Divine Force, meanwhile, will be available for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One on October 27.