Valkyrie Elysium Could Reignite the Glory Days of PlayStation JRPGs

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While there are a smattering of great Japanese Role-Playing Games on other companies’ hardware, it seems that Sony has had the monopoly on the genre for a while now. From the wonderment of Midgar in Final Fantasy 7 to the lesser-known story in Breath of Fire 3, the JRPG experiences on the original PlayStation were a-dime-a-dozen, and more often than not were far more than the sum of their parts. Sony’s exclusive offerings are often criticized for their one-note approach to AAA game design, with third person action/adventure being the flavor of the generation, but the recent announcement of Valkyrie Elysium could be a catalyst for real change.

Being the latest installment in the long-standing franchise, Valkyrie Elysium has plenty of history that it can tap into to ensure it’s a critical and commercial success. JRPGs are fewer in number today than they were in the late-1990s, and while much of the reason for this is due to other genres gaining popularity and widespread attention, titles like Final Fantasy 16 and Tales of Arise show that there is a thirst for more spiky hair, turn-based battles, and elaborate villains among gamers in 2022. Valkyrie Elysium may very well end up being just another game to satisfy JRPG fans exclusively, but it’s in prime position to do much more.

Valkyrie Elysium is The Latest and (Hopefully) Greatest

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Officially unveiled at the March 2022 Sony State of Play, Valkyrie Elysium is the fifth entry in the series, and while it shares similarities with what came before on a mythological level, it’s likely to be very different to its predecessors. Instead of a turn-based combat system that was beautifully implemented in 2000’s Valkyrie Profile, the new game seems to have more of a resemblance to later Tales games, with timing attacks and building a combo meter being far more important than selecting the right option on a menu screen.

This is a stark contrast to earlier entries and could be a change that existing fans of the property will take a while to get used to. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria utilizes a different system still, so Valkyrie Elysium‘s fresh mechanics don’t feel as though they are uprooting something tried-and-tested that fans have loved for years. Set in Norse mythology, which was recently popularized by God of War, Valkyrie Elysium could provide familiar elements to those who haven’t even heard of the property, meaning the mere whisper of characters like Odin, Thor, Baldur, and Freya could be exciting to those who usually don’t find enjoyment in the JRPG genre.

PlayStation Was a JRPG Machine

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Though Japanese Role-Playing Games may have roots firmly set on the Nintendo Entertainment System with Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest releasing on the console, it wasn’t until later that the JRPG formula was truly perfected. Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Final Fantasy 6, and Super Mario RPG were all significant SNES improvements over past offerings, and plenty believe that this was the generation that wielded the best games in the genre to date. However, the jump to 3D environments

was a leap that Nintendo struggled to make work for JRPGs, which is where the original PlayStation flourished.

It’s no secret that Final Fantasy 7 has visuals that leave much to be desired today, but its gameplay was everything that fans loved about RPGs on the Super Nintendo. Later entries in the Final Fantasy series saw improvements in aesthetics, and the PlayStation gave Square Enix as well as other developers the room needed to grow and improve, whereas the Nintendo 64 simply didn’t have the sufficient power to do so. Valkyrie Profile was one of many exceptional JRPGs on the PS One, sharing the limelight with Wild ARMs, Vagrant Story, and Xenogears, among others. Valkyrie Elysium being under the same banner could make it a suitable re-entry point into an ecosystem that was densely packed with great RPG titles, and better still could provoke higher emphasis on like-minded games in the future.

JRPGs’ Declining Popularity Makes Valkyie Elysium Unique

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In the years that followed the original PlayStation, the volume of great JRPGs dwindled, and never reached the same heights again. There were outliers, as Rogue Galaxy and Dark Cloud carried the load on the PlayStation 2 as well as some truly great Final Fantasy entries on the system, but other genres seemed to take precedent. Killzone and Call of Duty sparked an interest in first-person shooters on Sony’s system, and 3D platformers of quality were releasing on a regular basis. The PlayStation 3 and 4 began the popularity of third-person adventure titles that Sony’s first party has become synonymous with, meaning iconic JRPGs were even fewer in number.

Valkyrie Elysium has the opportunity to do the same thing that Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Persona 5 did for their respective systems, being the entry point to an entire genre for a new swathe of fans. The PlayStation 5 has a litany of upcoming titles that re anticipated by many, but the brand’s rich history with Japanese Role-Playing Games means that a great, new one should never be far away. Square Enix’ relationship with Sony is stronger than ever, as The DioField Chronicle looks set to capture some of the Fire Emblem magic and Final Fantasy 16 remains a PlayStation exclusive.

Should Valkyrie Elysium reach its potential, there’s every chance it piques the interest of casual audiences like Persona 5 in 2017, but with the context of games that came before it, Valkyrie Elysium could be the final piece of the puzzle to reignite the same level of love for JRPG games that was commonplace over 20 years ago. It’s a huge ask, as the original PlayStation was a significant hardware upgrade over the previous generation, but if Japanese Role-Playing Games are going to thrive at the same level, they need one great title to light the fuse.

Valkyrie Elysium launches September 29 for PS4 and PS5, and on November 11 for PC.

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