You'd think I would've learned long ago not to judge a PC Engine game by static screenshots.
After all, though I originally turned up my nose at titles like Gokuraku! Chuka Taisen, Mr. Heli no Daibōken and Obocchama Kun due to what I considered to be their far-from-catwalk-ready looks, I changed my tune on each of those HuCards (as well as a number of others) after sinking a bit of time into them.
The thing is, I didn't much like Valkyrie no Densetsu--Legend of Valkyrie in English--even after a few go-rounds with it. I guess I didn't find its gameplay all that appealing during those initial forays. Or maybe I just couldn't get past its rough-hewn graphics.
Granted, calling Valkyrie no Densetsu's graphics rough-hewn seems downright generous at first glance. Its enemy sprites in particular are nightmare fodder thanks to their surprisingly crude designs that stand in stark contrast to those of the game's adorable protagonist and most of its backdrops.
I say "most" here because, well, some aspects of this Namcot-made title's environmental graphics also aren't what I'd call pretty. A case in point: a lot of the trees you saunter by during the adventure at hand look as though they could've been tended to for a few more hours (if not days) before earning the company's seal of approval.
All that said, if you're anything like me, a surprising number of the components singled out for complaint so far will grow on you--at least a bit--over time.
Seriously, at the moment, when one or more of the game's imp or ogre baddies skitters into view, I now look at them with more than a smidge of admiration rather than the tight-lipped frown of disgust that used to greet their appearance.
Is that because Valkyrie no Densetsu's a blast to play? Honestly, I don't know. I mean, the game is pretty fun--it basically feels like an antiquated precursor to The Legend of Zelda, even though it was released three years later--but I'm not sure I'd say it's such a blast it would cause me to forget about eye-searing graphics.
No, I think the only acceptable explanation here is that I've somehow come around to Valkyrie no Densetsu's awkward aesthetics.
Which is a very good thing, as Martha Stewart might say (if she enjoyed video games). There's a lot to like in this 1990 release. Although its adventure is stubbornly straightforward--no real exploring or even backtracking is allowed, although forks in the road pop up now and then that let you switch paths--the scenery changes frequently enough that you're unlikely to become bored.
Also, new enemies, obstacles and situations--like rescuing a captive child, or stumbling upon a hidden shop--are introduced at a fairly nice clip, and that helps liven up the proceedings as well.
Valkyrie no Densetsu's controls deserve a positive nod, too. Some may describe Miss Valkyrie as a tad sluggish, especially when she has to make a leap, but I disagree. Or I'd disagree if those same folks implied her somewhat languorous movement holds back the game in any meaningful way.
In fact, the single knock I can aim at this surprisingly adept arcade port is that the boss monsters you encounter every once in a while aren't the most interesting of adversaries. That's basically the only complaint I have at the moment, though, which I guess goes to show how much it can help to give games that don't click with you at first a second chance.
Have any of you played Valkyrie no Densetsu? If so, let me and others know what you think of it in the comments section that follows.
Note: photos via thebrothersduomazov.com and videogameden.com