Super Valis IV
Box Shot
Super Valis IV - Fantasm Soldier : Mighty Maiden
Platform: Super Nintendo
Publisher: Atlus
Designer: Telnet
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1994
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

"WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YUKO?" That was the first thing I said when I played Super Valis IV for the Super Nintendo. If you've ever beaten Valis 3 (which of this writing, I have not, but I know what happens) you know that Yuko ascended into the heavens. Well, she's now the Goddess of pretty much everything. But the Reddish Moon (oooh...sinister) has appeared and the evil king Gallagher is out to destroy all of the worlds that Yuko had previously fought so well to defend. A new warrior, Lena, is chosen from the Earth World to become the new Valis warrior.

This is obviously a bit of a disappointment for Valis fans. Yuko now merely appears at the beginning and end of the game. Cham from Valis 3 is nowhere to be found (except for a quick mention as the "leader of the rebels" in the manual.) Neither is Valna. In fact, anime cutscenes as a whole are pretty much gone. Instead of actually introducing the characters (like when monsters first attacked Yuko and the sword was handed to her way back in Valis 1), it's given your standard quickie narration at the beginning with only a few nice pictures. Throughout the rest of the game, the only thing you get is one still picture when you beat a level. There IS no story. The only thing that even resembles the cutscenes is right before the last boss, and even that is quick. This wouldn't have been a problem had this been any other game, but these anime cutscenes and their storyline gave the Valis series a unique charm that really couldn't be found anywhere else (the closest I can think of are the Ninja Gaiden series for the NES.)

And not has this changed, but the actualy gameplay had changed quite a bit too (and some of it for the better.) There are no orbs to strike to gain power-ups. No longer does your sword shoot bullets, nor must you wait for your sword to charge. Instead, Lena has a short Strider-like weapon to slash things. You CAN throw fireballs an unlimited amount of times as the default magic attack (Up + Attack...with all of the buttons available on the SNES controller, I really wonder why companies don't move away from this silly 8-bit tradition.) You can also find other magic spells scattered throughout each level. Lena can hold about six at a time. Cycle through your inventory with the L and R keys, and press Y to invoke it. Then you can use that magic the predetermined number of time (there's no magic meter like before.) I like this method of spell casting, but there's one silly little thing...if you have one spell invoked and you choose another, the first one is lost. It's a waste. And when you have something like the healing spell invoked, you can't throw fireballs until you use it up.

Although there's only one character to play as here (WAAA! I MISS CHAM SO MUCH!), you DO have that nifty Valis Warrior suit that you can change into as a magic spell. Unfortunately, the only thing it really seems to do (other than making Lena look sleek and sexy) is to absorb a few hits.

On the other hand, other than those few quirks, the game controls beautifully. Lena moves, responds, and attacks quickly, and just feels smoother than the other games in the series. You can't slide anymore, but you can run.

Super Valis IV is also a bit harder than the other games. You only have one life, and dying sends you way back to the beginning of the level (unlimited continues though.) Your life meter is also a bit short, but it increases as you get more points. This is pretty much moot though, since you lose your score when you die, as well as your extended life. Some of the enemies can be real bitches and take away plenty of life, so be prepared to play levels over a few times. There's no real time limit, but the level boss grows stronger the longer you take in a level (its life bar is on the bottom of the screen, but don't worry...it doesn't increase fast.)

The Japanese version had an easy mode with an always-max life bar, resurrections at the beginning of each section (rather than the beginning of the level), full magic at the start, and easier enemy attacks. I can understand why they took it out...it's almost TOO easy, at least until you get to level five. But it's still accessible in the American version with a code.

The game is a really big disappointment when it comes to graphics. Lena looks nice but the enemies are bit dull. The biggest offender is the background graphics. Almost EVERYTHING looks the same. As a result, most of the levels end up being a lot more boring than they should be. In level 6, there's a nice swirling background, but since there's no variety anywhere (not even in the floor) it makes the level very confusing (it doesn't help that you pretty much have no clue where you're going...you just sorta stumble through it.) Many other levels are poorly created as well...it just seems as if the level designer was asleep at the wheel, and created long flat areas with the a bunch of enemies. The lack of any different backgrounds make it worse. And some graphical effects are just lame. The fourth level boss has a static tower with the background moving, to simulate that the camera is "moving" around the tower. Unfortunately, the effect was done MUCH better with the third level boss in Castlevania Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis. Sad, sad, sad.

The music's a bit better, at least the first level tune is memorable. But again, most of it's a bit of a letdown. The boss music is irritating, and don't get me started on the final boss tune...it just drags on and on and on (it doesn't help that Gallagher is one of the most annoying bosses in video game history. It takes forever to beat him, even though he isn't really THAT hard. The music just helps make this sequence all the more unbearable.)

The programmer definitely had his heart set on creating the ultime Valis game, and it shows. It's a very smooth action game that plays like a dream. But apparently the rest of the team was too drunk to do anything with it, and as a result, botched the game somewhat. Super Valis IV is a decent game and fun to play, but could've been better.