Publisher: XSEED Games
Valhalla Knights 3 isn't the worst game on the PS Vita, but it certainly has a strong case for being the ugliest.
I'm not just talking graphically, either — though it's certainly eye-gougingly hideous. No, I mean that the game's whole attitude towards women is kind of appalling. When you're selecting and customizing your character, if you choose a female you can make her as busty as your heart desires — but no similar option exists for men and their pecs (or, I guess, their crotches). Within minutes of starting the game, a female member of your party is taken by force to be a sex slave; when you see her again a few minutes after that, she admits to being a little put off by the whole enslavement thing, but she's still happy to have found something she's good at. And, of course, there's the whole spend money on women to earn Sexy Time thing, which is just too bizarre for words (thought, thankfully, this YouTube reviewer made a valiant effort).
That said, I get that if you're not approaching the game from a liberal/feminist perspective, you probably don't care about any of that. And if you don't…well, you'll probably still find the game hurts your soul, just for different reasons. See, not only is the ideology problematic, so, too, is the fact Valhalla Knights 3 could very, very easily pass for a PSP game. The characters are all terrifyingly blocky. They move in a weird, herky-jerky manner, and the movement and animations all look incredibly stilted. The characters all shout out single lines before their onscreen personas launch into long-winded blocks of expository text. I mean, on the whole, Valhalla Knights 3 is clearly much improved from the first game in the series, but considering we're talking about games that are seven years and a generation apart, that's hardly something to brag about.
And speaking of the expository text…going by this game, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume the developers have never heard the phrase "Show, don't tell", because Valhalla Knights 3 features a whole lot of telling. Right when the game begins, you have to sit through a half hour of story and explanation before you very briefly get to move your character. After some very brief action, it's on to another half-hour or so of text before you again get to do anything. On my first playthrough, when I was taking the time to read every line and screen of dialogue, it took just under 90 minutes before the game opened up and I was allowed to do anything. Of course, "opening up" here is relative, since you still have to sit through walls of text during every new (and unskippable!) cutscene. I know that JRPGs are known for occasionally being a little on the verbose side, but this is kind of insane.
Also insane: the game's save system. Or, more accurately, its lack thereof. You can only manually save your progress, and you can't save during a fight. Needless to say, this makes it incredibly easy to lose an hour or more of progress here and there (though I'll admit, this is just as much on my own forgetfulness as it is on the game).
Having said all that, Valhalla Knights 3 isn't completely devoid of charm. In fact, it's actually a little goofy, all things considered. The aforementioned Sexy Time may be wildly offensive, but it's also kind of hilarious. Likewise, there are odd moments where characters freak out and the edges of the screen will start flashing, which is so incongruous with the game's otherwise serious tone that it's hard not to chuckle. And, I mean, one of the characters is accompanied by dancing henchmen whose moves are severely limited by the game's terrible animations. That's funny stuff, even if not for quite the reasons K2/XSEED Games had probably hoped.
On a more serious note, the game deserves some credit for its ambition. Even though Valhalla Knights 3 is set in a prison, the world feels enormous, and you're never at a loss for things to do. Whatever other faults the game may have, that certainly counts in its favor.
Of course, that's only a small point in Valhalla Knights 3's favor, compared to a whole bunch of points against. We are, after all, talking about a game that might have been tolerable a half-decade ago, but in present day looks woefully out of date in almost every respect. If you're really, truly desperate for a decent-sized Vita JRPG, it might help you pass the time until something better comes along (otherwise known as that glorious day when the new Ys game finally arrives), but otherwise, you'll want to steer clear.