A cute trick in games lately is choosing the good or evil path, being an anti-hero in a shade of grey of your choosing. But what if you were a confused good guy trapped on a path of evil? That's the interesting scenario for Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, an all new DS strategy spin-off of the cult RPG series.
The main character is Wylfred, a hero so emo that he not only wears all black and has white hair, but bears two ponytails stacked vertically (perhaps to differentiate him from Final Fantasy VII’s uber-baddie Sephiroth?). Anyway, Wyl's not a bad guy, but he wants to kill the Valkyrie - normally the main character of VP titles - who guides the spirits of the newly dead from the battlefield to the afterlife, blaming her for his father's death and the grief it caused his family. Helping Wyl is a powerful and probably evil god who enables him to gain the power to complete his task.
That power comes from the plume of the title. It refers to the single Valkyrie feather Wyl has that is slowly infused with dark energy. One way to collect that energy is through "sin," which you get for causing extra damage after defeating an enemy. Another way is to invoke the Dark Plume on one of your allies, making them a total badass for awhile, and then, like a candle burning too bright too fast, they die, with their pain and suffering empowering your master. Sounds fun, huh?
Well it has been so far, thanks to its deep and varied strategy-RPG combat. With a map layout and battle function similar to the Final Fantasy Tactics series, you take four characters from your troop and move them about the field. Once the battle starts, Plume shows its engrossing addition to the formula: each attack is player controlled in real time, with each of your four characters mapped to one of the four face buttons, so you have to be aware of your choices throughout a skirmish. It means the difference between missing a few attacks and getting off a sweet combo to invoke a Limit Break-type finisher. And you're going to need those, because some of the levels we played didn't take it easy on us. In fact, they’re downright brutal.
We're not sure how our choices to kill or spare teammates are going to affect the story, or if it doesn't really matter outside of making a battle easier and losing a character you leveled up a lot. That's probably the most evil thing about the Dark Plume's power - it only works after you've worked with another character enough to gain their trust. We'll let you know how many we choose to stab in the back when the title comes out in mid-March.
Feb 20, 2009