VALIS / Renovation / Sega Genesis

I think Valis was originally released on Japanese computers, but the primo port seems to be the PC Engine CD version, which had anime clips developing the story between levels. Of course that's way too much for the ol' Genny, so instead we get cutscenes with talking heads and a tiny bit of motion here and there.

                                 "Oh no, I'm in one of *these* animes!"

The main girl is actually named Yuko, and she's just chillin' outside of school one day when demons suddenly attack. Fortunately, she finds a badass sword and immediately starts carving demons up like an old pro. After the first level we learn that there's some cosmic war on between Good and Evil and for whatever reason it's going to be settled by each side choosing a random teenage girl as their avatar and putting her in a metal bikini.

The gameplay takes you through seven side-scrolling levels that are fairly standard. There's maybe just a little taste of Castlevania in the gameplay and atmosphere, but I stress a *little*. The whole thing moves along at a slow pace, and hit detection is really iffy on some enemies, you have to hit them in one finicky little arbitrary spot to do any damage. But the game is also quite easy as Yuko is a tank, there's never any insta-death pits to jump and once she gets her sword powered up all the way it turns into a death-dealing full-screen spreadshot. Did they purposely make the game easy because they were so proud of their cinematics?

Well, the cinematics are a bit of a problem. First of all, they're unskippable. And for whatever reason the text scrolls INCREDIBLY SLOOOOOOWLY so that they seriously take nearly 10 minutes each to complete. I can't imagine having to sit through that every time you play the game, though really there's no reason to play it more than once, and it's so easy you'll probably march right through on your first try anyway.

The one thing the game does really well is look nice. The animation is nothing special, but there's better use of color here than in most Genesis games. Wish I could say the same for the music, but aside from a couple decent opening tunes, it tends to be repetitive to the extreme. The fire level is literally a five-second loop that just keeps repeating forever.

Valis managed to go on and have sequels just because this sort of thing was actually novel in the West in the early-mid 90s. Anime didn't have the cultural saturation here that it does now, it was still a fairly niche and rare thing, and I'm sure the gratuitous metal bikinis didn't hurt for the adolescent boy demographic that was supreme on the Genesis. I don't know if the original versions were better, but based on the gameplay merits of this port alone it probably shouldn't have made it past this opening installment.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video