Third game in the series, three playable characters. Makes sense!
This art is, uh… not like the Japanese cover.
DEVELOPER: Nihon Telenet
RELEASE DATE: 03/22/1991 (JP), 06/91 (US)
Let’s get one thing straight: no, Valis III is not based on an anime/manga, but I forgive you for thinking it is. Especially since March 1991 was apparently the month for anime/manga-based games released on the Mega Drive (see: Mamono Hunter Yōko, Fushigi no Umi no Nadia).
Valis III is its own anime-inspired creation, filled with surprisingly long cutscenes and an over-the-top plot that involves saving not just one, but multiple worlds from imminent destruction. But, of course, there’s a III in the title, which means that this is the third game in the series. Since Valis III‘s opening cutscenes are kind enough to give the player a little series recap, I shall do the same for you.
Don’t see that every day!
In Valis I, main character Yuko Asou is a normal teenage school girl (as per usual) summoned to a journey greater than herself by Queen Valia of Vecanti. Yuko must wield the famed Valis sword to save Vecanti from the evil demon lord Rogles. In the process, Rogles brainwashes Yuko’s best friend Reiko. Yuko eventually defeats Rogles, but Reiko is killed during the skirmish. Valis III was the first in the series to be released for the Genesis, but the original Valis was remade for the console and released later in 1991.
That’s some cold-blooded cracker jack there, Rogles.
Valis II keeps it in the family. Megas is a new tyrannical ruler looking to rule Vecanti, and turns out, he’s Rogles’ brother. Megas and Roglas didn’t see eye to eye, however, and rather than convert Rogles’ followers into faithful puppets, he kills them instead. Yuko is brought into the fray when some of Rogles’ minions try to steal Valis from her. Yuko also finds out that she is the daughter of the Queen of Valia and that she has a twin sister named Varna, who’s set to rule Vecanti after the Queen. Oh snap! As with the first game, Yuko saves the day, but not before Queen Valia, the mother she never knew, dies. A SD (super-deformed) port of Valis II made its way to the Mega Drive/Genesis in 1992, and supposedly, it’s awful. I am not looking forward to playing it for Sega Does.
Gasp upon gasp!
Valis III kicks the series up a notch. Here, King Glames, ruler of the Dark World, has to save his people from destruction. Rather than asking other worlds nicely if he and his people can be refugees (which, admittedly, rarely goes well), he decides to invade both Earth and Vecanti and take them over instead. Glames has an ace up his sleeve, the Leethus sword, which acts as a sibling sword to Yuko’s own Valis. He also resurrects Rogles and Megas to do his dirty work? Glames is one bad mother. In the midst of this madness, Yuko rises up to meet the challenge, Valis in hand.
Hmm, mass genocide or anything else?
Within the first couple levels, Yuko meets Cham, a demon girl born in the Dark World, and rescues her sister, the new Queen of Vecanti, Varna. Both Cham and Varna become playable characters and you can switch between them all at any time by pressing ‘A.’ Yuko is a strong head-on fighter with limited magical capabilities. Cham has a long-range whip and slightly increased magical powers. Varna is a straight up sorceress, limited in physical attacks, but skilled in all the magics. They’re all solid characters, but (slight spoilers), once the full power of Valis is unleashed, I stuck with Yuko.
Yuko-chu, I choose you!
Valis III most resembles Castlevania in its structural composition. Both games are mostly action with a dash of platforming. Your characters share an HP bar and an MP bar for magic attacks (the MP bar functions as the hearts do in Castlevania games). Magic attacks are essentially secondary attacks: the more you use them, the more your MP bar drains. Item boxes literally hang around each level, again a la Castlevania. Once destroyed, they provide extra MP, different magic attacks, additional health and charging speed for your primary weapon attack. Certain enemies in Valis III even have similar movement patterns to enemies like the Medusa Heads from Castlevania.
Veins A-Poppin’, the new Valis-inspired musical!
Where Valis III differs from Castlevania is its feel. The latter submerges the player within standard gothic horror tropes, whereas the former mixes action, horror, fantasy, and science fiction into a bizarre anime stew. The level design ranges from basic forest areas to scaling the heights of castles to factories to ice caves. You’re not always sure why Yuko and the gang are where they are, but the variety keeps the game interesting.
Well played, Telenet!
Yuko, Cham and Varna all control relatively well. Combat and magic attacks are a cinch to pull off. Sliding – a necessary technique, particularly in later stages – is easy to grasp, as is double jumping. My only real complaint is the heaviness of the characters. As in Mamono Hunter Yōko, all these slender female characters control like they’re large men with too many muscles. Yuko and Cham are wearing armor, true, but in typical anime fashion, the armor only covers the “female essentials.” Varna’s wearing a cloak, no excuse.
“Ladies please, you can all be in my harem!”
Strangely, Valis III starts off too easy before becoming incredibly challenging. I beat the first five levels, including the bosses, and only lost a single life. This changed in level 6, the ice cave. Here, there’s a long section where you have to jump from platform to platform (some of which are moving) while avoiding spikes and not falling to your death. No easy task. Level 7, the final level, has you moving up through a tower filled with floating eyeballs, alien knights, worms that emit magnetic flames, and bugs that try to knock you off the stage. I’m all for challenge that steadily builds, but I’m glad this bipolar “first it’s really easy, then it’s really hard” nonsense died with earlier gaming generations. Thank God for save states.
Mr. Freeze takes the night off.
The Genesis port of Valis III looks comparable to the TurboGrafx-16 original, but it’s missing many cutscenes and even a few stages. The Genesis version does get a single new stage to make up for the loss of the others’, which is nice. Still, if you’re looking to play the complete Valis III, seek out the TurboGrafx version instead.
Is… is that you, Optimus?
Valis III is a competent action platformer by way of an early 90s OVA series. While the Castlevania-inspired gameplay doesn’t advance the genre, the game feels good to play and the cutscenes held my interest throughout. If you like freewheeling anime plots and you’re down to control a small army of female teenage warriors, give Valis III a whirl.