E3 06: Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria hands on

Square Enix may have wowed us with Final Fantasy XIII on the PS3, but they are far from giving up on the PS2. Due out this September, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is a gorgeous RPG with a fast-action core.

The game picks up before the original Valkyrie Profile, which was released for the PlayStation and has a remake due soon on the PSP. The story concerns a young princess who becomes possessed by the spirit of a valkyrie, a battle maiden from Norse mythology sent to Midgard (aka Earth) by the god Odin.

Valkyries have the power to raise dead warriors, and that's how you recruit new members to your adventuring party. The battles are action-based, but you can move around the battlefield freely and even split your party into two chunks to get on either side of an enemy, attacking simultaneously once you get into position. Each character in battle is mapped to one of the four face buttons on the PlayStation 2 pad, so it's extremely simple to let loose a huge combo attack involving all of your party members in seconds.

As exploration goes, you'll visit towns and talk to characters, as in most RPGs. Every environment is packed with detail, and the graphics have a sheen not seen in many other PS2 games, packed with little detailed touches and effects. The game's style is a hyper-realistic and extremely beautiful one, with forests, dungeons and stone town buildings looking too good to be true.

Dungeons are viewed from a side-on perspective even though everything is in full 3D; your character can jump and shoot crystals. These can freeze enemies, and provide ledges so you can make tricky jumps. You can even switch places with a crystal to make your way to places you couldn't naturally - it all plays very easily, like a side-scrolling action game. But when you touch an enemy, you're launched into that separate battle screen.

Taking the pedigree of the underrated original, and the extreme graphical sheen and innovative gameplay of this demo, we have high expectations for VP2.