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CONSOLE: TurboGrafx CD DEVELOPER: Telenet PUBLISHER: Turbo Technologies Inc.
RELEASE DATE (NA): 1992 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Do not take Valis if you have a pre-existing heart condition.

I've skipped over the Valis series for ages, even though that darned Super Valis IV cartridge keeps looking at me with those sad eyes, begging to be played, begging to be enjoyed. I'll be checking out Valis III today, though, because I'm cruel to my game library, and because it was strongly recommended. So, now I have invested a good chunk of my life into Valis III, and I'll say this: people recommend strange things.

But first, a little history lesson for those unfamiliar with the Valis series, which is pretty much everyone at this point. The Valis — or Mugen Senshi Valis — series follow the adventures of Yuko Aso, a high school girl whose hometown is overrun with demons and devils and the like. You know, the usual. To help combat this excessive unhallowed immigration problem, Yuko is given the Sword of Valis by Queen Valia of Vecanti, who believes her to be of sound enough body and mind to defeat the evils around her. Yuko then becomes the official Valis Soldier and, equipped with the Sword of Valis, roughs up monsters like a wolf at a steakhouse. The series saw four main games across the more popular consoles of the era (PC Engine CD, MSX, Famicom, Sega Genesis, SNES), but by 1992, Valis IV marked the end of the series. At least until someone tried to resurrect it in 2006 with Valis X, a rarely spoken-of game that replaced the weird charm of the older titles with extreme hentai and rape scenes, thus ending the Valis legacy on a low, low note: with tentacles.

As soon as you pop in the disc for Valis III on your Turbo CD (or PC Engine CD, if you're living in Japan), you'll probably wonder what the heck is going on. First thing I noticed: characters don't really like to move more than their mouths as they stare vacantly in the distance (and that the antagonists lack pupils in their eyes). Second thing I noticed: in the English localization, they pronounce Valis as "phallus". That's, um... that's slightly distracting.

And the third thing I noticed? Although the little cutscenes are cute and quirky enough, the actual game itself is about as generic as black label apple sauce. You start off with just the sword-wielding Yuko — who gets her sword stolen at the beginning but takes about three minutes to get it back — but soon have the ability to switch at will between her and two other travel companions: the Belmont wannabe Cham with whip in hand and the magic user, Princess Valna. Each of them can use different spells that correspond with the elements, and though your regular weapon can get you out of most jams, you'll need to make use of at least one elemental spell to get through this game (the ice spell, which freezes enemies as usable platforms).

The controls, though not terrible by any means, have a couple of noticeable blips. One I can live with: if you want to jump higher, you have to hold Up while you jump. It's slightly jarring to have to stop before a jump, but it's reminiscent of other games such as Code Name: Viper that do the same thing. One I can't live with: having to press Down and the Run button (the TurboGrafx's equivalent of a Start button) to slide. That just boggles my mind for reasons far beyond my comprehension. I can't even think of another game that would use its controller's Start button to perform a move. I'm glad I could check the manual, or else I would have not passed the first stage because you NEED that slide to get by.

Oh, the generic places you'll go. (And yes, she is indeed sliding in mid-air on the left...)

Do you want this to get even more bizarre? Yuko uses the slide function to CROSS GAPS. That's right: for chasms that cannot be cleared by a jump, you actually slide across thin air to make it to the other side. I... wha... that doesn't even make sense logistically or even in the context of a platformer.

Valis III's game balance is deplorable. The stages themselves are pretty simple and easily navigable without significant trouble, even up to the very end. Each stages ends in a boss battle, and that's where the trouble will hit. You have to have the reflexes of a steroid-injected tiger to get through some of these without barely scraping by on a tiny amount of health. And don't even think about beating the final boss... ever. Considering how much he lops off when you get hurt, combined with the undodgeability (yes, I'm making up a word) of his attacks and the number of hits he has to endure to go down, and you're looking at an unfinishable game on your shelf.

The graphics in the platforming sections are fairly bland and play it safe, but I'd say more focus went into the rather awesome anime-style cutscene imagery, which gives this game some much-needed character. As I mentioned before, though, only the mouths move during cutscenes, so don't pop this disc in anticipating any marvels of animation. The monster design is also really weird. Why is a full set of angry teeth hunting me down in a forest? Why are there double-horned minotaurs wandering randomly in a tower? Why are snowflakes trying to kill Yuko? Might have to call in a modern philosopher to figure out these testy mysteries.

Trodding along, the game's soundtrack basically just throws generic music at you. Granted, the quality is higher because of the CD format, but it's a shame the music is forgettable. I do like the boss battle theme, though; it gives a neat burst of energy to the gameplay. Also thanks to the power of the Turbo CD, Valis III is equipped with voice acting for all cutscenes! The game's voice acting reminds me of that of Mega Man 8: a cheesy effort with relatively little enthusiasm for the words being spoken, although the pronunciation is much more spot on, and the audio quality is far superior.

Valis III has its "fun" moments, but it's not exactly a game that is a must to play or a game that you'd want to come back to and replay over and over. It's not ravishing wonderful, but it wasn't horrible, either. I did enjoy traversing each stage. Every once in a while, a little simplicity never hurts. I guess the word I'm looking for to best describe Valis III is "competent". Good luck finishing it, though: that last boss will ruin you, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and any other ally you have.

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