VALIS: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II (Nintendo Switch)- Review

Title: Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II
System: Nintendo Switch
Price: Approx 6000 in Yen
Release Date: 9/22/2022 in Japan, TBD elsewhere


Story

Just under a year after the first compilation hit Japanese shelves, a second volume has emerged, with some very oddball picks along with the biggest missing game people had hoped for, with Valis IV being the headline game here. Still, is this bundle of odds and ends worth picking up for Yuko fans, or is this just meant to milk Valis fans dry?

Presentation

Like with the first set, you have your assortment of menu options and nice extras before booting up each game: full manual and box scans, OST and cutscene viewers, (though the cutscene viewer only benefits Valis IV here, with the Genesis games not having many cutscenes, and MSX having none at all) the usual. It still comes off as basic, but considering how a lot of emulation reissues I’ve dealt with lately don’t even bother to provide game descriptions, having the full manuals scanned here is real nice. (If the upcoming EN version is anything like Volume 1 however, then this’ll just contain translated versions of key pages)

FeWMsw6aAAI-JYA

Speaking of emulation, that’s the other portion of the package here, and yep, same screen options as before, all looking pretty nice. No borders here still, but that isn’t much of a loss. Even the Genesis and MSX titles look crisp. Yet again the PC Engine version skips past the BIOS by loading a save state after it, meaning in-game saves don’t seem to work and you’ll have to save state. The other games don’t really save though (MSX uses a password system but it’s so convoluted you really want the save states) and the Genesis titles even keep the Sega logo.

FeWMswlagAAXMfu

Valis IV otherwise plays fine, with the OST and visual presentation being emulated pretty damn well, and while that game’s OST is incredibly dull and generic compared to the SNES version, it’s still cool to see another PC Engine CD gem preserved like this. Syd of Valis (or Valis SD here) sounds pretty close to right, for better or worse, and continues to look and sound as hideous as it always has. MSX Valis looks and sounds just like it should too, but since it’s on the base MSX1 using stock hardware (predating the MSX2) the OST and visuals of that game are very, very minimal to begin with.

Unfortunately, the weak point of this compilation came from a spot I least expected: the Genesis port of Valis 1, a big shocker considering how I have this on three other methods (Antstream, OG Cart, and Evercade) and it plays just fine on those, to the point that it being messed up never crossed my mind as a possibility. And yeah, you boot it up and it looks fine, the cutscenes being a bit faster due to the Japanese text speed being better than the one we got in the US version, but the sound… Oh lord, the sound.

Just… Listen.

Yeah. It sounds like a dog barking. Somehow for whatever reason, specific audio samples got completely butchered in this game’s emulation, and just this game: considering how the OST is easily the best part of the entire game, this is an absolute travesty and I cannot believe nobody caught this before the game released. I can only hope it’s properly fixed when the US version comes out, but I also would like this JP version to be patched up nicely as well. Emulating the Genesis sound so badly in 2022 should not be acceptable, and what boggled my mind is that the cutscene viewer and the Sound Player versions of the songs in the menus sound just fine., so the actual game sounding all off is just incredibly depressing. Especially since out of the four games included, this is the best sounding one!

Gameplay

I already mentioned the bonus modes in the above section, and there isn’t much extra to note here outside of the return of the rewind feature, which works as it should.

With that done, time for the usual!


MUGEN SENSHI VALIS (MSX, 1986)- Would you believe that this was a stretch goal? Yes, somehow this was another crowdfunded compilation and for a while this very port depended on if enough people could raise money to include it. I assume it was to do with obtaining whatever MSX BIOS they used for the game here, but yes, this is pretty much the closest to the OG Valis you’re gonna get here, and it’s rather chaotic.

FdYf-2ZakAAdk2e

While I suspect the reason the PC88/X1 versions (the latter being programmed by the man who programmed Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, fun fact!) weren’t included is because they didn’t want to bother emulating such complex machines compared to the MSX version, that actually works in our benefit here since of the original Valis versions from 86, this MSX port is the best playing! …Not that it’s any more comprehensible. See, the main goal of this game is to navigate the labyrinths of each stage, defeat enemies to level yourself up, (which represents your health) and eventually find the boss and take him out. Sounds easy, but enemies flood the screen and bounce you around like a pinball, and there’s barely any invincibility frames to anything. Good when beating enemies up, but not good when they beat you up.

FeWMswbagAAvxNJ

Your weapon autofires, and you just have a simple jump and shoot, but besides that this is a game clearly made in an era where level design wasn’t exactly on the forefront of some of these companies, and that definitely applies here. I feel it’s very important and a good choice to have this version here for preservation sake, and while it loses a lot from the PC88/X1 ports (no cutscenes besides the ending, as the biggest change), it definitely is the closest you’ll get to this feeling like an actual game: at least until the remixed Famicom version, which is more of a stage by stage exploratory game.

VALIS IV (PC Engine CD, 1991)- The final entry in the Valis timeline! Valis IV continues the general mechanics from Valis III, with a new trio of playable characters to switch between, including the first and only Male protagonist in the entire franchise, a rather dull, bulky relative of the main bad guy, but one who packs quite a punch.

61dbh6IHvfL._AC_SL1280_

Like with III, each character has their own gimmick. Lena, the main character, has the traditional slide and attack that Yuko had, her sister has a double jump, but a very weak attack, and Galgear’s father has the aforementioned strength, leading to a decent variety in the gameplay. The stages are designed so that you cannot just stick to one character the entire time, and just like in III bosses have different reactions to each character they duel.

Sadly, compared to Valis III, Valis IV is a pretty forgettable game, being a lot like PCE Valis II in a lot of ways. Yes, the stages are more varied and not the straight line snorefest of that game, but compared to III’s fun stages, the ones in IV are just really dull and the character switching can get a little obnoxious at times, with a slide here, a double jump there, and a lot of jank. Sliding on slopes is just a nightmare. Compared to Super Valis IV, the SNES remix, Valis IV on PCE is average, but rather boring, and I can’t help but feel that the SNES port ended up being the better one in the end, even though this PCE version is the superior one when it comes to the story, as it does have some surprising twists and cool boss fights you might not expect! (The plot here will be translated for the first time ever, fan or officially, come the US release of this set)

Valis (Genesis, 1992)- Dear lord! What should have been the slam dunk of the set, ended up being the biggest disappointment. So yes, that OG Valis we played was an interesting, chaotic experiment, but level design wasn’t really a strong point. Well, Genesis Valis fixes a lot of things, and it actually is a separate remake from the PC Engine Valis from Volume 1, so even if you played that this game has completely different level designs and enemy layouts.

FeWNAkhaAAA-enT

The controls are fine, building off Masayasu Yamamoto’s work from Genesis Valis III, and while he didn’t work on this one, it does feel like the next evolution of that game, so if you liked how Valis III controls, this pretty much is the same except without character switching. You have a variety of magic to cast, obtained after defeating each boss, and the game is a lot easier than the PC Engine version, which may be a benefit to those who didn’t like how tough that game could get.

61jgoXoOt4L._AC_SL1280_

The US version was notorious for text so slow, it would make Gates to Infinity look like lightspeed, but this Japanese version is actually at a much more reasonable speed, and I kinda hope they do what they did with the first compilation’s localization, and just overlay a translation on this Japanese text, since it makes the cutscenes a lot easier to sit through. Otherwise if they use the US ROM, get ready for a long read!

FeWNAkZakAAtbTR

Sadly, that aforementioned sound emulation issue really, really killed the experience in this compilation for me. Even reverting back to the patch post-launch, the sound emulation was still broken, and as of right now, there’s no patch out to fix this in the Japanese version. Considering how again, the godly OST is easily the best part of this remake, it’s super depressing to see the game carelessly dumped in the collection and shipped out like this. The in-game sound test just shows how horribad the sampling emulation turned out.

SD VALIS (Genesis, 1992)- Somehow, despite Valis MSX being the chaotic mess it is, I was at least able to appreciate it for ambition and for having OK ideas for the time, but this game? Hooooo, there’s a reason SD Valis, AKA Syd of Valis has shown up on many, many worst of all time lists for the Sega Genesis, and there’s good reason, though this being the JP original, it’s less to do with the shoddy localization (since these are all in JP only on this import, thanks Limited Run/Edia), and more due to how SD Valis just flat out sucks in every way.

FeWNLhTaEAErzHL

Horribad music? (So bad there’s a cheat to disable BGM outright, that doesn’t even work for more than a stage?) Check. Slippery, ungodly controls? Check. Unbalanced gameplay with laughable moments to cheese some bosses, only for some enemies and level design to be ungodly frustrating? Check. A hideous art style that looks as if someone’s kid became the lead artist? Check.

To make things even more sad for me, this is the Valis II representation on this set, and if you remember from the last review, Valis II was the weakest game on that set too, but despite this one coming out later than most other versions, SD Valis is just a complete nightmare in every possible way, and while it is playable and it is very beatable, you absolutely need to abuse that rewind feature a lot here just to keep yourself sane.

Considering how the most story rich Valis game in the franchise is the MSX/X68000 version of Valis II and it was yet again skipped over in the collection for this abomination, I struggle to wonder what purpose reissuing this game was, besides solely bringing it out in the open for more money, since the Genesis Valis I included here and Valis III on Genesis (a perfectly acceptable substitute for this game, if they had to stick to console ports!) are both excellent platformers that show that Valis on Genesis is a great time. But this? This should be titled Sin of Valis, because this game’s very existence and returning from the dead feels like a huge sin in and of itself. Literally one of the worst video games I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime, and even with MSX Valis being held together by glue, I’d rather play that since at least it had a hell of a lot more passion put into it and somehow controls better.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Valis Collection II is a huge disappointment over the first set, and definitely feels more like a cash grab than the original package: one extra game that’s a very important curio, sure, but one of the worst games I ever played being included, along with a horribly emulated version of one of the best Valis games, just leaves Valis IV as the game of the set… Which should have been on the first set, in all honesty. At the very least, I’d have liked it more if instead of SD Valis, we got MSX2 Valis II, or even Famicom Valis I.

Hell, if patterns are any indication, we’ll probably end up getting a third set next year to milk us even more, and I can’t say I’d be too thrilled if they go that far, especially if they don’t even fix the bugs from this original set with Genesis Valis. At the very least, I feel a third set with Valis II MSX2/X68K, Famicom Valis, and Valis III Genesis/Super Valis is literally the extent I can take before I begin to think this is unacceptable.

Hopefully Edia releases the games included here standalone later down the line like they did before, so you can just nab a translated Valis IV for $15 and call it a day. As it stands now though, Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II is definitely a rougher package than its predecessor, and the frustratingly terrible FM sound emulation on the original Valis for Genesis, while SD Valis somehow came out unscathed, definitely did a lot to kill the package for me, leaving me with crushing disappointment.

I give Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II a 4 out of 10.

Thoughts on the Review?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.