After finishing (and loving) the first Valis on Genesis, I decided to give the rest of the series a try. First I ran through a few levels in Syd of Valis (aka SD Valis). Essentially a remake of Valis II (which the Genesis did not receive), the game takes place after the original, but the presentation is much brighter and the characters are now bizarrely super-deformed (and in the case of Yuko, renamed). After spending some time with the game, I found I just couldn’t get accustomed to the controls, so I shelved it in favor of Valis III.
(Genesis, 1991. Developed by Telenet Japan, Published in North America by Renovation)
The first thing that struck me as odd about Valis III was the fact that it came out the same year as the original on the Genesis in North America. As it turns out, the Valis series had a pretty convoluted release schedule. With this short (if any) gap between releases, the visuals of the game have not seen significant improvements. There are however, quite a few changes in this sequel.
The game begins with the player controlling Yuko in her pajamas (rather than the schoolgirl outfit she sported at the beginning of the original). After a jaunt across Japanese rooftops, Yuko becomes reacquainted with the Valis sword and gets back to demon slaying.
At risk of being a boring retread, Valis III changes things up in a variety of ways. For one, the player can switch between three characters, Yuko, Cham, and Valna at (almost) any point in the game, ala Castlevania III. Cham actually wields a whip, making the Castlevania comparisons even more apt.
The game’s story lacks some of the emotional resonance of the first, but is still quite interesting. Basically, villains are trying to invade Earth not necessarily to rule, but to simply exist, as their demon world is being dissolved into the nether. Though not particularly well-told, the narrative is actually pretty involved and explores themes that most games of this era (especially in this genre) were not touching. The primary antagonist, Glames, is the sort of complicated villain that Japan seems to pull off really well in games, and I definitely enjoyed that aspect of the storytelling.
Probably the most jarring change from the original Valis to III is the increased difficulty. There is now a time limit in levels, and your hit points don’t refill after each one. There is also some pretty tricky platforming and “cheap” enemy placement throughout. The last two levels took me probably as long as I spent on the entirety of the first game, simply because I had to retry so often. Luckily, Valis III’s soundtrack is just as good as the original’s, so I managed to stay suitably stoked enough to handle the hardships.
Despite some frustration towards the end of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed Valis III. I’m glad I found this series, even if I was 20 years late, because they represent some of the most endearing and solid 2D action adventure games on the Genesis (or any other system for that matter).