This is my favorite video game of all time, and I don't say that lightly. The scale of this game is absolutely epic. From the start, you are aware that the end of the world is approaching, which in Nordic mythology is the last battle between all the realms, their gods and armies. From the start, there is a countdown of time periods until Ragnarok, ensuring the end of the world is always in the back of your mind. You are a Valkyrie named Lenneth, and it is your job to recruit worthy souls to fight for Asgard and Odin in this last battle. Lenneth has premonitions about worthy souls that are about to die, and can visit their cities and recruit them. You are not a goddess of death (it is not your job to assign when people will die), but more like a goddess of the afterlife. Death is a constant theme, however, since you know that every mortal you are drawn to is destined to die. Every soul has its own story, resulting in the character's death. Obviously, the atmosphere of the game is quite dark, but it never feels hopeless. While epic, the story never feels overwhelming, since it is more about the individual lives of mortals, not all of which are human, and the hidden backstory of Lenneth. There are multiple endings, depending on how well you perform as a Valkyrie and how much of Lenneth's past you uncover. The gameplay is highly original. You can freely fly above Midgard (Earth) and decide what towns or dungeons you want to visit, and visiting them will consume time, making your decisions about where to go next very important. Battles are turn-based, but require skill as well, since you can coordinate your party's attacks to stun enemies, unlock powerful finishing attacks, and yield experience-enhancing crystals. Timing is extremely important, as are the particular weapons you pick. For instance, some have less attack power but more attacks per turn, or an attack that launches an enemy into the air, which can be capitalized on by your allies. After recruiting a soul, you can choose to send them immediately to Asgard or keep them with you to fight in your party, or train them for a while and then send them to Asgard to improve their chances of surviving in the battles of Valhalla. There are forerunners to crafting and skill trees in this game as well. You can transmute ordinary items into more powerful ones, and use points to improve your allies' combat abilities or their ability to survive in Asgard. The music in this game is the best I've ever heard in a video game, Final Fantasy included. If you like classical music with strong, slow, haunting melodies, then this soundtrack will likely become your favorite, too. Even now, just a few notes can bring back memories of some of my favorite characters or places. Even better, the entire soundtrack is available from the start of the game and can be listened to from the opening menu. The graphics are the weakest point of the game, since they are relics of an older age (layered 2D animations and sprites), but I still find them gorgeous. All environments are detailed and atmospheric, and it feels like wandering through the sketchbook of a highly talented artist. The world, dungeons and towns are not nearly as large as modern RPG's, but it never feels like they need to be. The replayability of this game is quite high because of its multiple endings and difficulty settings. There are more items, weapons, and a couple of extra characters in "hard," plus you can unlock the post-game dungeon "Seraphic Gate." There are fewer characters in "easy," plus you lose the possibility of getting the best ending. There is quite a lot of content in this game, and it will take serious investment for completionist runs. All in all, this is a game that will stick with you long after you've finished playing it. I think it's a shame there were so few copies made for the US, because it might have become much more popular. If I could only pick one game to play for the rest of my life, this would probably be it. It's the sort of game you can come back to every few years to refresh your memory and enjoy all over again.
yes: I recommend this product