Valhalla Knights 2: Battle Stance
PlayStation Portable
Reviewed: 2/13/2010

One fine Thursday, the PlayStation Store had its usual update of trailers, demos, crap, and a few game releases.  Among them was Valhalla Knights 2: Battle Stance, a PSN exclusive release. Curious about this strange new entry into the Valhalla Knights series, an investigation was launched to find out more information.  Short version: There is almost no information.  Xseed has a press release on its website declaring that the game is available and a briefing of what Battle Stance is about.  This is the sole provider of information beyond the description given when purchasing the game.

Battle Stance is a remake of Valhalla Knights 2 with extra quests, items, armor, plot, and all the other goodies designed to make a game worth buying again.  Unlike other remakes, Battle Stance goes a long way to make the game more accessible.

The plot revolves around a goddess descending from the heavens to wipe out the assembled races in holy wrath.  One of the world’s most powerful beings fights back and manages to stave off the apocalypse by wounding the goddess.  The goddess retreats to hiding, and turns a very large portion of the viewing populace into monsters in her wake.  The goddess is promised to return, and the world unifies under one banner in order to seek out and destroy the goddess.

None of this story matters, as the point of the game is to become an unquenchable engine of death.

I’ve never killed so many children in my life

Battle Stance will try to make the story matter.  The game will try really hard.  Instead of the flowing narrative used in most games, Battle Stance uses missions to tell its story.  The missions are fairly stereotypical; go here, fight X number of monsters, listen to NPCs whine about their jobs, etc.  The game has a thankful lack of escort missions where you have to protect an individual while they do nothing.As a mission-based game, the story gets broken up rather easily.  While missions are often successive in terms of plot, the narrative will often become disjointed.  The game will also attempt to lure the player with tragic characters, but the lack of introduction and build-up will render these attempts useless.  It is hard to consider the suicide of a little girl tragic after three fetch quests and no interaction on the part of the player.

The player character in the game is created via the character creation tool before the game begins.  The character creation is more in-depth than one would think, and Battle Stance adds some more character options over Valhalla Knights 2.  Players choose from one of five races: Elves, Halflings, Humans, Dwarves, and Akatoki.  Each race meets the standard Dungeons and Dragons requirements; Elves have better magic, Halflings are better rogues, Humans are the baseline for everything, Dwarves have high resistance, and the Akatoki have the best fighting skills in the game.  Females tend to have better stats than males, except in regards to strength.

After a character sets their physical attributes, a job is chosen.  Beginning jobs are Fighter, Priest, Mage, Thief and Monk.  Five additional jobs are available throughout the game.  Two of these jobs are meant to replace the initial jobs.  The other three are specialized classes meant to be used in conjunction with other jobs.

For all of this character creation, the main character is a mute hero who rarely participates and is given very limited dialogues choices.  Occasionally the hero may ask questions to find out more information regarding a request or move the mission along.  More often the player will hand over items and be talked at, further lessening the impact any plot twists may attempt to have over the player.

Finally, while the script is not rife with inaccuracies and spelling errors, there are plenty of instances where words are left out or spelled differently from a previous way earlier in the game.  The ‘Prophecies of LaVey’ quest has the spellings of ‘LaVey’ and ‘LeVey’ featured numerous times.  All of these add up to make what could have been an interesting story into what is ultimately a forgetful endeavor.

Fight unto death, and then keep fighting after that

Combat and exploration are the keys to working through Battle Stance.  New missions open up by entering new levels, and further missions become available once the initial missions are complete.  If a player runs out of missions to accomplish, then a new area has not been uncovered.  Missions are only available at the guild, though the course of the mission may change in a dungeon.  The maps for these areas range from a few screens to dungeons of almost labyrinthine design.  While the world tends toward plain and uninspiring, the maps are of decent size and offer lots of obstacles and twists.  Exploring can be fun in Battle Stance, an effort which is due to the first big addition to this remake.

Battle Stance adds warp crystals to the levels.  Just about every level has a warp crystal to be found, and once found the player can warp to any other crystal in the game, as well as the inn.  This eliminates a lot of traveling, and makes the game infinitely more accessible.  Without this function, Battle Stance would not be worth playing.

The second biggest change from Valhalla Knights 2 to Battle Stance is the reduction of party members from six to four.  At first glance this seems to be a questionable change, but the game would be frighteningly easy if two more members were available.  With four players, the game seems balanced and at times can offer a challenge.

All enemies are visible on the screen and can be avoided if the player wishes.  Combat is handled on a separate screen and occurs in real-time.  Players are unable to pause during battle, and the fight must either be won or fled from in order to proceed.  Combat skills, such as magic, can be chosen through a long series of menus or added to a shortcut menu.  Players can chain attacks into combos by rapidly pressing the X button.  There are two separate battle gauges as well.  Most jobs have a special attack bar that fills up a little with each hit given or received.  Pressing the Square button unleashes the attack.  Timing this attack with regular attacks becomes critical to defeating harder enemies.  There is also a ‘raid’ function.  By pressing the O button, the character in control initiates a raid.  Once the party’s raid meters are filled up, a bar appears at the bottom of the screen and begins to fill.  By pressing the O button for each character as the bar hits the center, the entire team unleashes a special attack.  This is not as useful as it sounds.  After the attack the party defaults to their starting position, which will give the enemy more than enough time to heal up since the enemy is more than likely at the other side of the screen by this point.  During the last third of the game, every enemy can heal, making raid attacks useless against them.

Extra party members can be recruited though the guild.  Quests will give players extra members, or party members can be created the same way players created the main character for a small price.  Players can control any character in the party, but combat will only be fought in one of two ways: beating things in the face or hanging back and shooting spells and/or arrows.  Combat is fairly quick.  The player controls one member at a time while the rest of the party is handled by the game’s AI.  The AI can be influenced by spending behavior points in the party menu.  Behavior points dictate the frequency of types of actions.  With no behavior points allocated, a party member will do nothing.  Behavior points are earned every few levels a character achieves.

Stats decide how effective attacks and spells are.  Players choose a job to start out, but the job can be changed at the guild for a small fee.  Leveling up different jobs is the key to success in the Valhalla Knights series.  Stats are not reset with every job, and each level gained by a character nets at least one stat point to distribute.  Occasionally, leveling up will net stat bonuses related to the job.  This makes it very easy to max out stats, and allows for a lot of customization.  Leveling up jobs also nets extra skills for that job, which can be used to some small degree by equipping sub-jobs.  However, the usefulness of sub-jobs is mostly limited to casting spells and wearing different equipment.

Levels are gained quickly in Battle Stance.  Thankfully, even if some stats are maxed out, the game can still offer a challenge.  This is primarily due to the status effects constantly afflicted on the party.

Status effects hit often, and leave just as quickly.  Only two status effects are very dangerous — fatigue and paralysis — and only because they do the exact same thing: the party member becomes useless.  The enemies just get free hits for a short amount of time, which is more than enough to slay a character or put them in a critical state.  Paralysis can be defended against.  Fatigue is linked to how much damage you take over a period of time.  Six enemies hitting a player at once will cause fatigue very quickly.  Status effects can be compounded, as well.  The flow of battle might be fatigue-paralysis-paralysis-fatigue-paralysis.  A running script at the bottom of the screen will tell players what is going on during the battle.  Sadly, the script is useless, as it is often far behind what is currently going on.  Once, after three members of the party had died, the script still reported their accomplishments in battle.  It took five seconds to catch up to the current situation.

Valhalla Knights 2 Battle Stance Screen
The most accessible game in the series so far.

This does not ruin combat.  As stated above, combat is quick and befits a portable title.  Even the hardest of battles will not take longer than a few minutes.  Slowdown is extremely rare in battle as well.  While there is plenty to explore, missions do not take very long thanks to the warp crystals.  Despite the annoyances of incorrect scripting and compounded effects, the fast pace of battles and the ability to skip unnecessary fights make for a combat system that does not get old.

Levels are not the only thing that matter in Battle Stance.  Monsters yield treasure very frequently.  Treasure will drop so often that it is a less likely a player will not receive treasure.  All treasure must be identified before it is able to be used.  The guild can appraise treasure, and there are items to appraise treasure, but the greatest asset will be uncovering the analysis spell and equipping it.  There are only 60 spaces to account for the mass amounts of dropped loot in the party’s inventory, and having items to identify items just takes up space.

All decent equipment and spells will be found on the map or through quests.  Outside of purchasing extra restorative items, the shop’s function is to unload the tremendous amount of useless crap the game will throw at the player.  Every now and again the player will find a decent piece of armor or a weapon, but for the most part stuff will be sold.  Even the restorative items, outside of the MP, Petrify and Rebirth potions, will be sold back to the shop as status effects last only a few seconds.

Treasure is often trapped, and the second most effective cause of player death outside of battle.  The higher the trap level the better the treasure, so it tends to be worth the risk in these cases.

Money is the chief reward for quests.  Between the quests and selling off the spoils of battle, a player should never be hurting for money.  Though the penalty for dying is losing half of a player’s cash; one or two quests in the latest dungeon will provide more than enough income.  With the prevalence of warp crystals, which also allow a player to save, death should only be a small setback.

Graphically, Battle Stance looks slightly better than Valhalla Knights. Many monsters and character designs are reused, though the resolution seems to have increased slightly.  While most designs are fairly typical of RPGs, some stand out among the crowd.  The vampires in the game resemble Bela Lugosi’s Dracula with broadswords.  The succubi seem to be an homage to Go Nagai’s The Devil Lady.  The Akatoki race appears to be a mishmash of martial artists and Yakuza.  The character designs are fun and animate well.  On the other hand, the music is instantly forgettable.  Despite the game loading from a memory card, there is frequent slowdown while exploring the dungeons.

Battle Stance has plenty of extras.  Files from Valhalla Knights 1 and 2 will allow players an extra free character to use in combat.  All the movies from the previous games are available to watch from the main menu so long as a save file from either game is present.  The game has endings for each of the races and genders which are put into the extras menu as they are unlocked.

The guild contains a coliseum where items are given for winning each ranking match.  There are plenty of quests to complete and areas to visit.  Even if a player beats the game, they are instantly brought back to the world to keep playing.  There are also multiplayer missions available via the ad hoc wireless connection in both co-op and versus flavors.  An actual internet multiplayer would have been preferable.  The Nameless Tower, a 10 floor dungeon in Valhalla Knights 2, is a 50 floor dungeon in Battle Stance.  Quite frankly, Battle Stance more than delivers in terms of stuff to do.  While there is no reason to replay the game from scratch, there is enough to pick the game back up after it has been beaten.

Battle Stance is well-suited to being a portable game.  Battles are fast, quests are quick, and grinding is much easier in this game than in most other RPGs.  There are lots of minor annoyances, but if Battle Stance suffers from any one major flaw, it is the game’s dullness.  There is nothing about the game that stands out among the RPG genre, and there are games much more pleasing on various levels vying for a player’s money. However, if a player is looking to get into the Valhalla Knights series, or is just looking for a decent and easy to get into grindfest, then Battle Stance is the first game they should look for.

-Russ Ritchey

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Below Average
Graphics Good
Sound/Music Below Average
Replay Value Good
The Verdict: Good