Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria - hands-on

What is it about princesses? They have this bizarre tendency to be the center of trouble. Fortunately, Valkyrie Profile 2 doesn't make you rescue one. No, it's much weirder than that: Princess Alicia's body has two souls in it. One is a meek young girl. The other, Silmeria Valkyrie, is an immortal warrior goddess rebelling against the powers of heaven.

This causes Alicia more than a few problems. It means that her life is far from her own. The gods of Valhalla are on Silmeria's tail - they want her back, at any cost... including Alicia's life. And wouldn't it just so happen that King Barbarossa - Alicia's father - wants to wage war with the very same gods?

So you could say Alicia is having a bad time. The good news is that you are very unlikely to, based on our playtest with the English version of Valkyrie Profile 2. It's an exceptionally polished and promising action-packed RPG that seems ready to leave most of Square Enix's efforts this generation in the dust.

Whether or not you've touched the original game, which hit the PSP last month, you'll find VP2 to be surprising in a number of ways. Though the graphics are full 3D - and we're not hesitant to proclaim them some of the very best we've seen on the PS2 thus far - the game takes place entirely from a side-scrolling perspective. The dungeons are interconnected, layered and tricky to navigate (thankfully, there's an auto-map.) Monsters roam freely, and you can avoid or battle them as you please.