We’re back with yet another collection but don’t worry! This isn’t your average Switch ensemble piece! A while back, Edia Smart Media Company bought up the rights to Telenet and along with it, the rights to the Valis series. We covered their first release, Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection (review here) and they’ve gone and done it again with a follow-up: Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II!
Now that might not be exciting to you if you aren’t familiar with the Valis games, but the first collection featured the first three games, all starring the young heroine Yuko Asou. What you might not know however is that in Japan there was also a fourth game with a new protagonist! But Valis IV is not the same game as Super Valis IV released domestically on the SNES. That version is a pale shadow to the original, which is only now finally seeing an official translation!
Edia did an absolutely fantastic job on the first Valis collection and Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II is no different! Naturally, what you’re probably waiting for is the conclusion to the series and you definitely won’t be disappointed. As with the previous games in the series, Valis IV is a fantastic translation that preserves the original cinemas and script in glorious HD with a solid English translation overlay. But the gameplay here is particularly interesting as well, with three playable characters and a more pressing need to swap on the fly between them. Each character has noticeably different attacks, jumping abilities, and powers and you’ll have to swap freely between the three to proceed. It’s a fun way to play through and action game and keep in mind, this was a pretty uncommon mechanic way back in 1991 when the game was originally released.
Edia has cleaned the game up tremendously without sacrificing any performance however, and Valis IV plays like a dream. The game is tough as nails of course, but there’s a rewind built into the entire collection (you’ll need it). It’s a shame that the rewind isn’t a bit smoother but it works fine enough to manage and the plot behind Valis IV is a solid one, taking place 15 years after the events of the last game and introducing Lena Brande to take the place of Yuko (you’ll see why). With an astonishing amount of dialogue and cinema cut scenes, Valis IV is an outstanding throwback to the height of 90s action games and well worth your time even if the precise controls might drive some players to frustration.
Don’t worry, you get the hang of it after a bit and this is honestly one of the most faithful games to the original source material in terms of control response that you could hope for! In comparison with the previous games in the series, Valis IV is close behind Valis III in terms of gameplay and really manages to pull the player in with that ‘just one more stage’ style of design. Stages are less linear than other games (aside from Valis III) but the refinement isn’t quite what the series is capable of. Magic is easy to pull off, swords and other weapons are intuitive and honestly, one of the only issues aside from vintage ‘90s difficulty spikes is that most of the time, the enemies go down too easy!
But Valis IV is not the only reason to pick up Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II! In addition to Valis IV there are three other titles here! One in particular, Syd of Valis, is not only surprising but fun too! If you’ve never heard of SD games before, it stands for Super Deformed. And that’s what Syd of Valis is – an SD amalgamated overview of the Valis series! Not only does it poke fun at the series but Syd of Valis has its own unique mechanics and personality. The gameplay is surprisingly addictive too, but the collision detection compared to the sprite size leaves something to be desired. Due to design issues, the gameplay is a rather painful and while the SD graphics are funny, they’re also not that great compared to other games from the same era. Sure, Syd of Valis is a mess, but it’s kind of a fun mess, especially with rewinds allowing you to monkey about. Is it a great game? No, certainly not, but it’s a silly fun game that modern tech gives a bit of redemption too. It’s definitely a fun little inclusion.
Now, you might be wondering why Edia put two more copies of Valis on this collection. After all, we’ve already gone through Valis I-III on the first collection and Valis IV here. But Valis I was also released on the Sega Genesis and for archival purposes, it’s included here. Sadly, there are some hinky things going on with the sound and flickering sprites that really knock this version of Valis down a few pegs. The game controls more smoothly than the original at least (rivaling Valis IV and just below Valis III) and while it isn’t all that complex and certainly doesn’t have the detailed cut scenes of the PC Engine version of the game, the text speed and translation are noticeably improved. Valis for the Sega Genesis certainly won’t be for everyone but for the hardcore fans, it’s nice to at least see it included, even if it could use a bit more work.
Last but not least, there’s a second version of the first Valis game included here, in case you haven’t gotten enough with the PC Engine and Genesis versions, namely the MSX home computer version of the game. Honestly, it’s great to see archivist principles in game collection, especially ones as obscure as the Valis series though, so this is a welcome addition. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself is not nearly as welcoming with low quality 8-bit graphics, an auto-attack and fire when you power up, and stuttering, hard-to-see enemy sprites that make the game a terribly, messy experience. It’s true to the source material and even boots up with MSX keyboard prompts, but it’s certainly not the shining star of the collection. The music is pretty rough as well, and aside from archival purposes, there’s not really much purpose to playing through this version of Valis.
Of course, Edia did a fantastic archival job here outside of the games themselves too. Each game’s menu allows you to listen to all the music from the game, tinker with control schemes, and even watch all the cutscenes! You can view the manuals as well and even watch the credits if that’s your thing. The music for every game except MSX Valis is actually quite good too, so you’ll probably want to give some of it a listen! The only thing missing from the menu system is screen options, but three different view options are available in-game for each title, so anything you could want is basically at your fingertips. Every game has save states at the touch of a button too, allowing you to progress regardless of skill level. From a gaming standpoint, few collections are as thorough as this and it’s a refreshing change.
While it doesn’t quite top the first collection in terms of sheer gameplay and cohesive design, Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II is a solid collection that completes the franchise for Switch gamers and does it with class. Valis IV is the shining jewel this time around, but Genesis Valis I isn’t half bad and even Syd of Valis manages a few fun moments and some excellent music. Only MSX Valis I is kind of a waste here and it’s important to have it here for archival purposes at least. Edia put a lot of polish on these games, and even though they didn’t all deserve it, the love shines through and true Valis fans appreciate the care that has been taken to preserve the Valis franchise! While it’s a bit pricey at $45, a copy of Valis IV and a Turbo Duo to run it on would cost you a good $500 and that doesn’t even include the other games on this collection! Regardless of the cost however, this is a fun set of games that you’ll get to enjoy for years to come! Go check it out!
This review is based on a digital copy of Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II for Nintendo Switch. It was played on a Nintendo Switch in both docked and undocked modes and played equally well on both. Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection is a Switch exclusive.