The Sega Genesis didn’t technically get Valis II. Instead, it got the remake of the first Valis and Valis III. However, between these two games was a title that remained exclusive to the platform, and that was the bizarrely named Syd of Valis. The Japanese title makes more sense. It’s SD Valis, named such because it uses a “super deformed” anime art style, which might be better known in the West as “Chibi.”
Why? Fucked if I know.
Syd of Valis is presumably a play on the whole “SD” thing, but then the game goes on to refer to Yuko, the protagonist, as Syd, while the manual and box cover do not.
So, anyway, that’s a great start. Syd of Valis tells the same story as Valis II, but with smaller characters, essentially. And with a dumber name.
Syd of Valis came to me as part of a care package from Retro-Bit. They did a special re-release of the Genesis games in the series, and provided me with a set, so I’m playing through them. I summed this up in more detail in my article on Valis. Syd of Valis received the same impressively luxurious reproduction as the rest of the titles. I said this in the last article, but, damn, this is a nice-looking re-release.
However, like Valis, or perhaps even more so, Syd of Valis is a pretty obscure and niche title, so it’s interesting to see it be lavished with such a production. Despite this, Limited Run Games, who distributed the special editions, are currently listing them as sold out. So, I guess their business plan worked out, which is nice to see.
I love it when obscure games get a bit of the spotlight. I’m always digging through retro libraries to find games that – good or bad – I just haven’t played before. The Valis series is certainly fertile ground, so Retro-Bit dropping them in front of me was the only incentive I needed to pick them up.
Bonus or punishment
Syd of Valis is narratively similar to the first title. Schoolgirl-turned-dream warrior Yuko is called to save the dreamland of Vecanti after it’s been invaded by yet another jerk. This guy is Megas, and from the sounds of it, he’s having more success than Rogles.
In terms of actual gameplay, Syd of Valis is not very similar to the first Genesis game. The physics are completely different, as is the level design. You can swap out costumes and projectile types for an added level of strategy. Although, it doesn’t really amount to much because the hit detection is still butt, and the controls are very floaty and slippery. It also has that problem that some early platformers have, where rather than always center the camera on the player, there’s a dead zone in the middle of the screen. So, when you’re scrolling forward, you’re always closer to the edge of the screen, giving you less time to react to obstacles. It’s one of my pet peeves.
Worse, however, is that there are no continues. You gain lives every time you pass a score threshold, but if you run out, you’re done. It’s pretty frustrating since the boss battles are clunky and require a certain amount of pattern recognition. Just figuring out the best way to take down a boss will likely cost you lives, and if you spend too many, you’re back to the start of the game.
There isn’t a level-select password to help you, either. The best you get is an invincibility cheat that, hilariously, puts Yuko in a red bikini. I can’t tell if that’s supposed to be an extra bonus or if Syd of Valis is trying to punish you.
Revenge of the text crawl
Syd of Valis is just kind of… weird. I don’t dislike it, and I actually appreciate how it builds on the story of the previous game. However, it doesn’t take itself seriously, but only in, like, a half-measured way. Characters die, but then maybe they come back? And then Megas, he says the whole thing was a ruse just so he could fight Yuko, and now they’re friends or something. I don’t think that’s canon. Especially since he apparently murdered a whole bunch of people. Seems excessive if you just want to spar with someone, but who am I to judge?
I just don’t think that Syd of Valis is the best way for the story to be delivered. The excruciatingly slow text crawls are back. Now that I think of it, I’m unsure if you can just press a button to expedite the text. The first Valis game would just skip the whole cutscene, which I think taught me to be afraid of advancing the text, so I just never tried it.
However, as I pointed out last time, the Valis series started out on Japanese home computers but is best known for its PC-Engine Super CD-ROM² versions. To fit everything on the Genesis, they had to scale back the cinematics dramatically. Considering that was a large part of the appeal at the time, it gets lost in translation. Not sure what’s up with the chibi characters, though.
Yuko’s got a great sassy face, though. Props to Telenet for keeping it pasted to the bottom-left of the screen.
I once again didn’t dislike Syd of Valis, but I don’t think I particularly like it, either. I’ve heard from more than one source (including the comments here) that the series started getting actually good with Valis III, which is where I’m off to next. I don’t know. There’s a lot to like with these games, especially with how they adapt the era’s Magical Girl anime. I just wish they were more fun to play.
If you’re curious enough to want to try it out yourself, Edia has released ports of the games on Switch. You can buy them piecemeal or in two collections. Syd of Valis is part of the Valis: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II. Just remember that I warned you about it not having any continues. At least the ports have a rewind feature.