Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

Action, intrigue and unusual characters - this moody RPG has all of the elements it needs to stand out

Alicia is a troubled girl. Though she's the princess of the kingdom of Dipan, she's been locked in a crumbling castle on her own. She talks to herself. Everyone thinks she's crazy. What they don't know is that she's possessed by the spirit of a valkryie - a warrior goddess sent from the heavens to commune with the souls of dead fighters. Worse news: the gods haven't forgotten. They want the valkyrie, called Silmeria, to return. Problem is, she has no intention of doing so. The game opens as Alicia flees from her palace prison and into the world to escape the wrath of the gods.

And what a world it is. Delivering a detailed fantasy world isn't simple. The Final Fantasy series is filled with unearthly locales that look plenty cool, but Valkyrie Profile 2 instead aims for a stately realism. What's shocking is that it seems as exciting... and fresher. The world Silmeria and Alicia inhabit is one of crumbling stonework, of tall ships in sunlit harbors, of forest paths choked with branches and leaves, of rooms packed with trinkets... all picked out in eye-catching detail. The characters that inhabit this world are just as well realized: from the gold piping on Alicia's cloak to the beads hanging from Rufus' hair, the game seems to squeeze out the last spurt of the PS2's power.

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