The game features one of the largest casts I’ve ever encountered, with a full roster of 25. Many of them have welcome ambiguity to their personalities, but unfortunately, all are plagued by the sub-par, sometimes downright painful voice acting. You will only be able to recruit everyone if playing on the Hard difficulty, and you’ll have to send several characters to Valhalla to satisfy Freya’s requirements. Still, you can get them all back if you tackle the Seraphic Gate, an optional dungeon present in every VP game. Another peculiarity is that the recruitment of some characters is randomised, meaning that you may obtain them at different points in the game, which can affect your strategy. Most of the cast is made up of Einherjar, who are introduced via a cinematic sequence that explains how they died. Several of them also know each other. They are unequally subdivided into classes. The most numerous are Sorcerers, who can equip light armour and wands (and one sword). Although you have to wonder why about 75% of them are female…and yet, the only two male ones are still the most powerful of the lot. Anyway. All the other classes can equip heavy armour and include Swordsmen, who can use light swords; Archers, who can use bows and crossbows; Heavy Knights, who can use both light and heavy swords; Spearmen, who can use (*gasp*) spears; and Samurai, who can use light swords or katana. In addition, three special characters can be recruited in the Seraphic Gate, two of which have a class of their own. Apart from Sorcerers, each character has a unique Purify Weird Soul (shoddy translation ahoy!), or PWS, attack. Moreover, in some cases, if Lenneth revisits the place where she recruited an Einherjar, she may find a special weapon or an accessory.

Lenneth: Feather crownThe middle Valkyrie sister has long silver hair and blue eyes, and is one of the strongest, toughest female videogame protagonists out there. She starts the game as a dormant soul within Platina (who looks remarkably like her), and therefore has latent memories of Lucian, which prove crucial in the buildup to Ending A. When she awakens as a Valkyrie, these memories are sealed, and Freya gets her back into gear to provide fresh Einherjar for Odin. Each Valkyrie has a special power, and Lenneth’s one allows her to hear a potential Einherjar’s dying thoughts. This is a wonderful asset for recruitment, to the point that I’m not sure how her sisters do without it. No wonder she’s the most powerful of the three. Another power she does share with them, and that’s the ability to create crystals, which are a handy asset for the platforming elements of the game. As far as combat is concerned, she’s the heroine, and thus one of the best and most user-friendly party members. Besides, she’s mandatory. One piece of advice though: she’s proficient with both light swords and bows/crossbows, but the latter are more powerful. What’s more, she’s quite simply the best Archer in the game. So just give her a bow. Her PWS is called Nibelung Valesti, and differs in both appearance and power depending on which weapon she’s equipped with: at its most powerful (with a bow), it’s the second-best PWS in the entire game. She also has access to unique sets of armour. Personality-wise, Lenneth starts out cold, stern and no-nonsense, but as the game progresses, she shows increasing empathy for her Einherjar, gradually developing a humane quality, which eventually proves both problematic and salutary. She never stops kicking butt, though.

Jelanda: CurlsObtained alongside the mercenary Arngrim, as part of the longest recruitment sequence in the game, Jelanda is the blonde and blue-eyed princess of Artolia, and also the youngest member of the team. When she witnesses Arngrim insulting her father, she vows revenge on him and concocts a half-baked plan to hire him for a contract. She visits him in disguise, but Arngrim eventually figures out her identity. After she leaves, he understands the reason for her ploy and decides to apologise to her. However, the Artolian chancellor, Lombert, takes this opportunity to kidnap her in hopes of handing her over to the rival kingdom of Villnore. Arngrim is unwittingly hired to deliver the unconscious princess there, but the plan goes terribly wrong. Artolian forces intercept the cargo, but Lombert had planned for this eventuality. He supplied them with ‘medicine’ for the princess, should they find her; in reality, the mixture turns her into a demon, and she proceeds to kill everyone in sight, until Lenneth, alerted to her presence, shows up to help Arngrim eliminate her. She then recruits her, presumably for her pluck and determination. Jelanda is the first available Sorceress and thus the weakest. Moreover, since Sorcerers are otherwise a dime a dozen, sending her to Valhalla ASAP can be a good idea. Especially since she’s a spoiled brat. She does love her father and ends up changing her mind about Arngrim when she sees him ready to avenge her, but other than that, she’s haughty and snobbish, and generally a pain.

Arngrim: SellswordA recurrent character in the series, Arngrim is a brown-haired and blue-eyed mercenary with a long scar across his face. He’s also named after a berserker in Norse myths. Living in Artolia with his crippled brother, Roland, whom he has to support financially, he takes contracts where he can find them. It helps that he’s a skilled warrior and enjoys fighting. Eventually, his prowess earns him a reward from the king of Artolia, but Arngrim considers him a weakling and humiliates him in public, thus earning Princess Jelanda’s wrath. She plans revenge, but this coincides with a blackmailing scheme by the traitorous chancellor Lombert, who intends to deliver her to the rival kingdom of Villnore. Arngrim is hired for this transaction, unaware of the nature of his cargo, alongside a thief from Villnore named Badrach. The plan goes awry, the princess dies in horrific circumstances, Badrach flees, and a seething Arngrim decides to kill Lombert. However, the royal guards arrive to defend him, and their captain just so happens to be Arngrim’s mentor. Reluctant to attack a man he respects, Arngrim takes his own life, and Lenneth recruits him, impressed by his prowess and sense of honour. However, Freya warns her that his arrogance makes him unfit for Valhalla, which means that he can never be transferred. Arngrim is the best Heavy Knight in the game, notably due to his PWS, Final Blast, and to his very high DME. Personality-wise, he’s cocky, irascible and self-assured, but also has a deep respect for a select few people, and is actually intrigued by the prospect of fighting for a higher purpose. The most unusual thing about him, however, is that he’s voiced by a transgender woman. Oh, and if Lenneth revisits his home after recruiting him, he will retrieve a sword.

Llewelyn: BabyfaceBuh. A blonde and brown-eyed young fellow from Crell Monferaigne, Llewelyn is available in Chapter 1. He gets drafted into the army and is due to ship out to a distant battlefield. His girlfriend, Millia, is worried about his safety, but he promises to return and to marry her. You can guess how well that works out. The ship Llewelyn is on sinks before even reaching its destination, and he is drowned. I’m not sure why Lenneth recruits him, because he’s meek, hesitant and doesn’t really have any heroic qualities. Perhaps she thinks he’s a good marksman? Be that as it may, she sees Millia’s grief upon learning the news and allows Llewelyn to appear to her for a last goodbye, a first sign of her incipient compassion and possibly the real reason why she pays him any heed. If she later returns to the grove where the farewell took place, he will find Millia’s necklace. Llewelyn is an Archer, but he cuts a pretty poor figure. None of his attacks are particularly good, and his PWS, Layer Storm, is a wildcard: it can score a lot of hits against large enemies and generate lots of energy, but most of the time, it’s rather lacklustre. Bottom line: transfer him ASAP. Chapter 3, which requires an Archer, is a good occasion, if you work on his Hero Value. For some reason, in the English version of the game, he’s also voiced by a woman, which makes him sound much younger than he is.

Belenus: Slave to circumstanceOne of my favourite characters in the game, Belenus is a brown-haired and brown-eyed nobleman from Gerabellum, available in Chapter 1. When he was a boy, his family’s housekeeper brought home a little girl she saw at a slave auction in Lassen and took pity on. The girl, named Asaka, was raised as a servant, and as they grew up, Belenus fell in love with her. However, he resigned himself to marrying a noblewoman, out of consideration for his status and family obligations. Unfortunately, his wife eventually noticed his preference and made a pact with a demon to kill Asaka, even though her own life was the cost (this storyline is truncated in the English version of the game, but the Japanese version clarifies it). A vampire is eventually sent to Belenus’ home, which alerts Lenneth, although Asaka is already dead by the time she shows up. Heartbroken, Belenus asks the Valkyrie whether anything can bring her back, to which she replies that he can trade his life for hers. Ashamed at having been a slave to convention, Belenus readily agrees, and Lenneth recruits him for his selflessness. Belenus is a Swordsman and a largely underrated character. His Hero Value is one of the highest in the game, and he is therefore usually chosen as a transfer candidate in Chapter 1. However, he also happens to be a very good damage dealer, with the third most powerful Einherjar PWS, Extreme Void. Personality-wise, he’s a serious, thoughtful, but kind and compassionate man, even if excessively passive. If Lenneth returns to his room after recruiting him, he’ll find a pressed flower that Asaka left in his drawer.

Lawfer: RighteousPossibly Arngrim’s only real friend, this blonde and blue-eyed young man is the son of his mentor, the captain of the Artolian royal guards, and is available on Normal and Hard difficulties in Chapter 2. The two often train together, and Arngrim is inevitably victorious, which leads Lawfer to idolise him. The news of his attack on Lombert and subsequent suicide therefore come as a shock, especially since the Artolian court is either unaware of Lombert’s treachery or unwilling to admit it, and decides to blame Jelanda’s death on Arngrim as well. Lawfer feels something is wrong, but cannot act on suspicion alone. However, when Arngrim’s brother Roland is designated as a scapegoat and jailed, Lawfer is incensed by this injustice and decides to break him out. Fully aware that the attempt may cost him his life, he instructs two of his friends, Kashell and Celia, to take care of Roland afterwards. His predictions come true, and Lenneth recruits him for his righteousness. While Lawfer’s straight-arrow, idealistic personality does little to make him interesting, he’s one of the most powerful characters in the game; he notably has the strongest Einherjar PWS, Justice Stream. He’s also a good transfer candidate, should his voice (same VA as Arngrim) get on your nerves…which was my case.

Nanami: Doll-faceOne of the characters whose recruitment is randomised (she may appear in Chapter 2, 3 or 4), Nanami is a young girl from Hai-Lan with long black hair and black eyes. She has been adopted from an orphanage by a Shinto priest and his wife, whose own daughter, Minayo, was stillborn. Nanami does her best to make up for the loss, even going so far as to attempt the rite of succession to the family shrine. Normally, only a member of the family’s bloodline can perform it, but Nanami wants to prove that family bonds are based on more than blood. Her parents are apprehensive about the attempt, and justly so: as Nanami approaches the shrine, Minayo’s ghost appears and attacks her, indignant that she is trying to take her place. Sensing the restless spirit, Lenneth appears to defend Nanami, but the latter stops her. Feeling Minayo’s grief and resigning herself to her status as the ‘wrong daughter’, she decides to sacrifice herself so that Minayo can live on in her body. Impressed by her abnegation, Lenneth recruits her, while Minayo returns to her parents in Nanami’s guise. Despite her appearance, they realise what has happened and grieve. If Lenneth returns to Hai-Lan afterwards, a grateful Minayo will offer Nanami the enchanted Dragonbane sword she has retrieved from the shrine. Nanami is a Sorceress, somewhat more potent than Jelanda, but otherwise unremarkable. The Dragonbane, however, is a great Sorcerer’s weapon early in the game. Personality-wise, Nanami is extremely polite, respectful and dutiful, which is why she ultimately resigns herself to a rather questionable fate.

Janus: ScarredAnother character whose recruitment is randomised (Chapter 2, 3 or 4), Janus is a middle-aged man with light brown hair in a ponytail and brown eyes, one of which is scarred shut. Originally a knight of Crell Monferaigne, he was asked to perform an assassination as a favour for the king. However, the attempt failed, and rather than besmirch the king’s honour, Janus accepted to be set up as a scapegoat. Branded a traitor, he was publicly shamed and exiled. Ten years after the events and with a new king on the Crell Monferaigne throne, Janus attempts to return. However, the citizens still despise him, and the men involved in the disastrous assassination attempt are still in place. Fearful for their positions, they set Janus up once again, as he tries to unravel a plot involving stolen documents. He is killed, but Lenneth recruits him for his unwavering honour and dedication. Janus is the best Archer after Lenneth herself. He has a surprisingly powerful PWS called Guilty Break, and his Diseased Needle attack poisons the target. He’s also an ideal transfer candidate for Chapter 3, although, depending on randomisation, you may not have him at that point, in which case, he can still serve for Chapters 4 or 6 (or even 8). Or you can just keep him.

Yumei: Smiles to tearsYet another randomised character (Chapter 2, 3 or 4) and another Sorceress from Hai-Lan. The result of a union between a human and a mermaid, Yumei can switch freely between the two forms, and notably does so whenever she casts a spell. As a mermaid, she has green eyes and hair, a fish tail and webbed hands. As a human, her hair becomes dark green, which is her only unusual feature. Her mother was ostracised for her relationship, and, after her death, Yumei decides to track down her father, so she can mourn with someone. She poses as the survivor of a shipwreck and is picked up by a fisherman and his son, Fuyuki, who takes an instant liking to her. He offers to help, and she quizzes him about the existence of the Cerulean Lapis, a legendary gemstone said to grant wishes. When they reach the mainland, Yumei finds out that her father was a famous general who had another family and is already dead. She is heartbroken by this news and flees. Fuyuki follows her to the seashore and is astonished to find her in her mermaid form. She apologises for the deception and explains her situation, concluding that it’s not fair that her parents are now together in the afterlife without her. She swims away despite Fuyuki’s pleas, but he realises that her tears have crystallised to form the Cerulean Lapis. He wishes for Yumei to be reunited with her parents, which has the effect of killing her. Lenneth recruits her, saying that Fuyuki’s wish will be granted, although I’m not sure how that works, since she’s being made an Einherjar (and they, presumably, weren’t). If Lenneth returns to the beach in Hai-Lan afterwards, Yumei will find a fragment of the Lapis. Yumei and Nanami have different elemental resistances and starting spells, but their Funky chicken!stats are otherwise identical. They even share the same VA. However, Yumei is an ideal transfer candidate for Chapter 5, which makes the redundancy short-lived. Personality-wise, she’s resourceful, plucky and determined, which may be why Lenneth recruits her. Or maybe it’s another case of her being moved by a display of love. One question though: why does Yumei do the funky chicken in combat?

Jun: DeterminedHai-Lan is like Einherjar prep school: Jun is yet another local and yet another randomised recruit (Chapter 2, 3 or 4). He is a Samurai with long black hair in a ponytail and black eyes, who has devoted his life to finding a cure for the blindness of his twin sister, Ai. He eventually discovers a cave inhabited by an ogre and strikes a bargain with it. The ogre will give him a stone that will restore Ai’s eyesight, but in return, it wants either Ai’s life or Jun’s. Jun pretends to agree, but attacks the ogre once he obtains the stone. However, it laughs at his treachery and possesses him, transforming him into an ogre in turn. He terrorises the region for some time, gouging out the eyes of adventurers who come to challenge him, as a gruesome twist on his original purpose. Lenneth eventually hears of this, finds the cave and slays Jun to revert him to his original form. As he lies dying, he asks where the ogre is, to which Lenneth replies that there never was one: the cave actually has the property of giving form to people’s souls. Since Jun had a treacherous nature, it turned him into an ogre. Furthermore, she explains that, since the souls of twins are connected, he was also the real cause of Ai’s blindness. Nevertheless, she recruits him for his devotion, however misguided, while Ai’s eyesight is shown to be restored. Jun is the better of the two Samurai in the game. He can equip light swords and katana, which lower his CT, thus enabling him to use his PWS, Senko-Jin, more often. Other than that, his attacks require correct timing to chain properly. If it’s too much of a hassle, he’s also a good transfer candidate. Personality-wise, Jun is a serious, intense fellow, entirely focused on his sister’s welfare (their names combined actually equate to “true love” in Japanese), so he’s obviously shaken by the part he played in her condition.

Kashell: All blueAn adventurer with blue eyes and blue hair in a ponytail, Kashell is available on Normal and Hard difficulties in Chapter 3. He is acquainted with both Arngrim and Lawfer, but is also embroiled in a mess of his own. An acquaintance of his, Lemia, was in love with Grey, but, after the latter received a fatal wound, she exchanged her life for his, like Belenus did for Asaka. Guilt-stricken, Grey left without a word of explanation to find a way to reverse the process, which resulted in all his comrades believing that he had killed Lemia. Kashell thus sets out with Celia, Aelia and a bunch of others to track him down. However, the group splits up, the search requires funds, and Kashell and Celia therefore decide to accept mercenary jobs. One of these assignments takes them to the village of Camille, where they discover the entire population petrified and the resulting statues broken, so that reviving them–which is their task–is impossible. They track the phenomenon to some catacombs, where they find a little girl, petrified but still intact, near a stone slab. Concluding that she must have accidentally released a demon, they decide to revive her after leaving the village, to avoid traumatising her. However, the demon manifests itself, killing Kashell. His last thought is to protect the vial of ointment to heal the child, so Lenneth recruits him for his altruism and compassion. If she returns to Camille afterwards, he’ll retrieve his sword, which Celia set up as his grave marker. Kashell is a Heavy Knight, but he’s nothing to write home about. His PWS, Flashing Blade, is notably the second weakest in the entire game. However, he can be transferred in Chapter 4, so it’s not a complete loss. Personality-wise, he’s cocky, enthusiastic and brash, with a particularly annoying voice to boot, so you may be relieved to get rid of him.

Lorenta: FriendlyThe headmistress of the Flenceburg Sorcery Academy is a blue-eyed woman with auburn hair, available on Normal and Hard difficulties in Chapter 4. While she’s usually on good terms with her students, she has nevertheless expelled one of them, named Lezard, due to his excessive ambition and interest in necromancy. He has not forgiven this and, in his obsession with Lenneth, decides to use Lorenta as bait. During her birthday celebrations, he kidnaps her husband, thus luring her to his tower on the outskirts of the city. After taunting her with some rather shockingly ageist statements (because 35 is ancient by JRPG standards), he disappears, leaving her with her husband, who has been fed Ghoul Powder. In great pain, he begs Lorenta to kill him, but although she knows she can’t save him, she can’t bring herself to comply. He soon transforms into a demon, much like Jelanda, and kills her, which alerts Lenneth. She eliminates him, recruits Lorenta for her devotion and sets off in pursuit of Lezard. Lorenta is a Sorceress and a distinct improvement over her predecessors, due to her stats and spell selection. Personality-wise, she’s calm, collected and steady, but can also come across as haughty, which may get on your nerves. If that’s the case, you’ll be happy to know that she makes for good transfer material.

Aelia: TomboyishAnother character who’s only available on Normal and Hard difficulties in Chapter 4, Aelia has short red hair and green eyes, and wears green armour…except she apparently forgot all about trousers. No wonder she’s got a bandaged thigh. A companion of Kashell and Celia on their search for Grey, she has the rather unique ability to shapeshift into a dragon. This attracts the attention of Gandar, the court Sorcerer of Villnore who is searching for the Dragon Orb, the legendary artefact that maintains the stability of Midgard. Thinking that Aelia might know of its whereabouts, he captures and tortures her. She refuses to talk, and he eventually kills her by accident. Lenneth recruits her for her stoicism and promises to transmit information to Celia about Grey’s whereabouts, as Aelia had apparently managed to locate him prior to her capture. Aelia is a Spearwoman, but while she’s almost as powerful as Lawfer–her PWS, Dreaded Dragon, is just a tad weaker than his–her attacks are distinctly more difficult to chain, so she requires some getting used to. Personality-wise, Aelia is spirited and strong-willed, but her character traits also include the rather odd “Hates men”. Why? We shall never know. But it gives her an instant ‘Amazon’ vibe.

Mystina: SaucyThis buxom, blue-eyed blonde is available on Normal and Hard difficulties in Chapter 5, and is a fixture in Lenneth’s party just like Arngrim: Valhalla wants nothing to do with her either, due to how insufferable she is. A student at the Flenceburg Sorcery Academy, Mystina is uncommonly talented, but also dislikes Lorenta. She’s therefore happy to learn of her demise and conjectures that Lezard, whom she was acquainted with, must be the cause. Mystina has a habit of going spirit-walking when she gets bored (which happens a lot), leaving her body inside a container, while her spirit roams wherever she pleases. This leads her to pay a visit to Lezard’s tower, where she discovers broken tanks that used to contain clones of a woman. One of the tanks is still intact and contains a clone in child form, which she retrieves for study. This prompts a visit from Lezard, who wants it back. In return, Mystina wants to know his plans. He obliges, but can’t allow her to live with this information. The next time she goes spirit-walking, he freezes the container that holds her body, effectively killing her. Lenneth recruits her for her skill, but also for her insider’s knowledge. If she later returns to Mystina’s lab, the latter will retrieve a wand. Mystina is a powerful Sorceress and comes with several useful spells already learned, but she really is a handful. Never mind Valhalla, I can barely stand to have her around. Rude, snobbish, arrogant, vain…need I go on? It’s really too bad you can’t transfer her. As further proof of her unpleasantness, she’s the only Sorceress in the game to have a bat as a familiar.

Lucian: Unable to forgetIt figures this guy would pop up sooner or later. After his disastrous misadventure with Platina, Lucian grows up to be a haunted-looking blonde and blue-eyed chap. He moves to Gerabellum in unspecified circumstances and joins a group of thieves. One of them, Claire, develops a crush on him, despite it being obvious that he hasn’t forgotten Platina. Should Lenneth pay a visit to Gerabellum before Chapter 5 (which is when he becomes available, on Normal and Hard difficulties), Claire will notice her, based on his descriptions of Platina. In a jealous fit, she throws a stone at her, and, when Lucian hears about the incident, he hurries to apologise, only to be dumbstruck by Lenneth’s appearance. She doesn’t remember him, but accepts his apologies and leaves. Later on, one of the thieves gets caught robbing a nobleman, which prompts the authorities to launch a purge of the Gerabellum slums. Lucian is killed trying to protect some children, and Lenneth recruits him for his courage. He’s even more surprised to realise that she’s a Valkyrie, and this sets off mucho rumination on his part. Lucian is a Swordsman with a rather unremarkable PWS, Round-Rip Saber. However, his Shining Bolt attack is very useful for producing magic gems, purple gems or treasure chests in combat, as well as breaking an enemy’s guard. And if that weren’t enough, it sometimes also glitches, filling the energy gauge all by itself. Every good thing has a price, though, and if you want Ending A, you must transfer Lucian in Chapter 5 or 6. Personality-wise, he’s an earnest, caring, wholesome guy, albeit with a strong propensity to brood. Admittedly, he does have a good reason. But there are more interesting characters out there.

Shiho: Sightless songAnd we’re back to randomised recruits from Hai-Lan (Chapter 5 or 6)! With another Sorceress, no less. Shiho is a beautiful girl with blue eyes and light brown hair, but she was born blind. However, due to the quality of her voice, she is designated as a song-maiden for the Hai-Lan army. Her songs send the warriors into a trance, making them fearless and strong. However, since she’s blind, Shiho never realises the extent of the carnage she causes, until a disconsolate mother asks her how many men she has driven to their deaths. This troubles her, and she stops singing during the next battle she participates in. Her superiors threaten and brutalise her, but to no avail. The Hai-Lan army is routed by a Samurai troupe called the Hundred Demons, and Shiho is left for dead on the battlefield. One of the Samurai, Suo, finds her and, realising that she’s blind, asks her why she stopped singing. She replies that being a song-maiden is all she’s ever known, but that she would rather have been able to see instead, presumably to avoid all the deaths she has caused. Ashamed and horrified, she asks Suo to Powerlesskill her, but he can’t bring himself to comply. Instead, he takes her to his commander, but, to his horror, the latter executes her in retaliation for all the men he has lost, upbraiding Suo for being receptive to her charms. Lenneth then recruits her for her moral strength. Shiho is rather unremarkable, besides her initial lack of attack spells, which should be remedied if you want to use her. Otherwise, there’s better, there’s worse. Personality-wise, she’s thoughtful, gentle and compassionate, if somewhat fatalistic, but her VA (same as Nanami and Yumei) strikes an overemphatic, teary note that may get on your nerves.

Badrach: Good-for-nothingGah, this guy. Badrach is a brown-haired, brown-eyed thug from Villnore, and he may appear in Chapter 5 or 6. Too greedy to join the local Thieves’ Guild, he freelances his services to maximise profits. This eventually leads him to participate in Jelanda’s kidnapping alongside Arngrim, although he’s not aware of the nature of the cargo either. When things go pear-shaped, he legs it back to Villnore. However, his contractors deem that he knows too much, and he’s attacked upon exiting a tavern. Fatally wounded, he hobbles back to his lodgings and frantically prays for help. As his luck would have it, a cactus which blooms very rarely and is said to grant a wish to whoever witnesses the process just so happens to flower that night. Thus, Lenneth shows up and asks him whether he can name a single worthy deed to justify being recruited. This proves difficult, but he eventually remembers saving a little girl from slavers who had only paid him half his wage. He brought her to Camille, and it’s hinted that she may have been Lucian’s sister. Lenneth reflects that even the vilest person can have a redeeming quality and recruits him. If she then visits Camille, the girl Badrach rescued, being one of the few survivors, offers him a bandanna. Badrach is an Archer and probably the worst character in the game. Not only are his attacks weak and inaccurate, he also has one of the weakest PWS, Sphere Strike. You could use him to collect magic gems, but that’s about it. He also has the lowest Hero Value in the game, so you’ll be hard pressed to get rid of him. Personality-wise, Badrach is cowardly, uncouth, lazy and immoral. I’m not sure he realises just how much he owes to Lenneth’s empathy.

Jayle: DiffidentOriginally a noblewoman from Gerabellum named Leticia, Jayle has short blonde hair and violet eyes, and may appear in Chapter 5 or 6. Her parents were killed by Magnus, the court Sorcerer of Crell Monferaigne, so she decides to change her name, masquerade as a man and join the Crell Monferaigne knights, in order to get revenge. However, her commander, Fahn, eventually discovers her secret, and the two fall in love. They decide to work together to defeat Magnus, but when the day of the attack comes, he summons a demon named Genevieve to defend himself. She bewitches Fahn and all his men, but the spell obviously doesn’t work on Jayle (cue Eowyn moment). Alerted to the demon’s presence, Lenneth arrives to confront her, but Genevieve flees. In the meantime, a bewitched Fahn stabs Jayle just before regaining consciousness and realising with horror what he has done. She wishes him victory with her dying breath, and Lenneth recruits her for her determination. Jayle is a Swordswoman, but there’s nothing remarkable about her, Boing!except her silly bouncing combat stance. Her regular attacks and her PWS, Eternal Raid, are average, but she can make for valid transfer material. Personality-wise, Jayle is tough, forthright and earnest, but also has trouble expressing her feelings and worries that her relationship with Fahn might be interpreted as manipulation.

Grey: AnonymousAfter all the fuss he’s caused, you’d expect Grey to be something special, by the time he appears in Chapter 5 or 6. Alas, he’s not. He’s dressed from head to foot in a suit of black armour, so you never even see what he looks like. One of Kashell’s acquaintances, a sorceress named Lemia, fell in love with him, although he pretended not to notice it. Eventually, he was mortally wounded during a battle, and she saved his life by sacrificing herself via Soul Transfer, like Belenus did for Asaka. Feeling guilty, Grey set off to find a way to reverse the process, but omitted to explain this to his friends, Aelia, Celia and Kashell, which left them thinking he had killed Lemia himself. Durr. Anyway, they decide to hunt him down, but die one by one along the way, until only Celia is left. Thanks to information left by Aelia, she tracks Grey down to the Arkdain Ruins. Unbeknownst to her, he has already attempted to reverse the ritual and failed, which left him a disembodied soul in a suit of armour. Facing him, she begs to know the truth, but then stands down, saying that she can’t kill him because he’s the only friend she has left. Grey apologises, and his armour disintegrates, as Lenneth recruits him as a form of penitence. Grey is a Heavy Knight and a strong contender for the Worst Character title, but at least he can hit enemies more reliably than Badrach. He’s even a valid transfer candidate for Chapter 8. Otherwise, his attacks are weak, his PWS, Icicle Disaster (a.k.a. Bicycle Disaster), is the weakest in the game, and his VA (same as Lucian) does a horrendous job. Personality-wise, he seems like a well-meaning, if a tad obtuse, fellow who never intended to hurt anyone, but created a massive misunderstanding that did just that and then some.

Lyseria: Drama queenApart from the fact that she’s yet another Sorceress, this blonde and blue-eyed woman is special in several ways. A descendant of the Vanir goddess Mimir (except that Mimir is male in actual Norse mythology…), she was born with prophetic powers, but hated herself because of them, presumably because she could foresee disasters and yet do nothing to prevent them. Believing the world was better off without her, she sealed herself within a crystal in the Arkdain Ruins, thereby preventing her soul from reincarnating. If you’re playing on Hard difficulty, Odin will ask Lenneth to recruit her in Chapter 7. When the Valkyrie releases her from her crystal, Lyseria attacks, desperate to be defeated, then gets recruited as requested. She’s a powerful Sorceress, to be sure, and comes with several very useful spells, but both her overdramatic, nihilistic, ‘I am cursed, woe is me’ personality and her voice (same VA as Mystina) are very annoying. Despite the fact that Odin asks for her, you don’t actually have to send her to Valhalla. In fact, if you do, you won’t be able to get her back in the Seraphic Gate, due to a bug. Although I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

Suo: Why so serious?And back to Hai-Lan we go, also in Chapter 7. Suo has black hair and black eyes, although his face is usually hidden by a mask that makes him look like a demon, which is probably why his Samurai troupe is called the Hundred Demons. He joined them to get a sense of purpose and to protect the defenceless, but he never thought of questioning his superiors’ orders. His encounter with Shiho, after the Hundred Demons rout the Hai-Lan troops, opens his eyes to his commander’s cruelty. Some time later, the Hundred Demons are sent to attack a village, where they have been told that enemy soldiers are masquerading as civilians. As he faces a man defending his family, Suo thinks about Shiho and realises that he’s being made to slaughter the very people he would protect. Taking advantage of his hesitation, his opponent kills him. Lenneth recruits him for his compassion, while his superior laments that he was too soft. Suo is a fairly unremarkable character. He can equip light swords and katana, which allow him to use his PWS, Hyoso-Hojin, more often. However, it’s not as good as Jun’s Senko-Jin, so it’s less of an advantage. Personality-wise, he seems like a thoughtful, honourable fellow at heart, who got in over his head. His character description states that he used to be a ruthless killer, although it’s unclear whether this refers to his time with the Hundred Demons or before that. Either way, it’s no longer the case by the time he pops up in the game.

Gandar: SchemingA powerful warlock of the Villnore army, Gandar is an elderly white-haired and blue-eyed man. He covets the power of the Dragon Orb, the artefact that upholds the stability of Midgard, and notably has Aelia tortured to death while trying to discover its whereabouts. He eventually tracks it down to the Palace of the Dragon in Chapter 8 (on Normal or Hard difficulty), but when he finally reaches its resting place, there’s nothing there (and if you’re shooting for Ending A, you’ll know where it is). Worried by the extent of his ambitions, Freya orders Lenneth to kill him and forcibly make him an Einherjar so that he doesn’t end up in Niflheim with all the power he wields. He reluctantly accepts his fate, but although he warns Lenneth that he’s not loyal, nothing ever comes of it. Gandar is one of the most powerful Sorcerers in the game, disputing the top spot with Lezard, although his initial spell selection could be better. Still, it’s nothing you can’t remedy, and you’re stuck with him anyway, since Valhalla wants nothing to do with him either, despite specifically asking Lenneth to off him. Personality-wise, Gandar is confident, ruthless and completely devoid of scruples or morals. I don’t think Aelia would be thrilled with his presence in the party, but it’s never addressed. Pity.

Lezard: ObsessiveBest described as Harry Potter’s obsessive evil twin, Lezard is one of the most iconic characters in the VP series. This brown-haired and blue-eyed mage in round glasses used to be one of Lorenta’s students, but got expelled from the Flenceburg Academy for being excessively interested in necromancy and hasn’t lived it down. He has also become smitten with Lenneth after catching a glimpse of her (although when and how remains unspecified in the game). This has led him to puzzle out Odin’s methods for Valkyrie management, and he wants to construct a new vessel to house Lenneth’s soul and make her his own. Creep alert! This would be the reason behind all the clones found in his tower, which he has created using genuinely sordid methods. Lenneth confronts him in Chapter 4, after he uses Lorenta to lure her in, and while he seemingly vanishes after being defeated, he shows up again in Ending A and actually helps to save the day. But you can only recruit him permanently by defeating him in the Seraphic Gate on Hard difficulty, just like Brahms and Freya. Lezard is one of the most powerful Sorcerers in the game, alongside Gandar. He’s also highly intelligent, ambitious and determined; an egomaniac, megalomaniac…and just plain ‘maniac’ really. Just listen to his laugh. Oh, and he shares his VA with Arngrim and Lawfer.

Brahms: Vampiric hedgehogThis muscular man with red eyes and a wild mane of black hair may be named after a German composer, but he is none other than the Lord of the Undead (read: vampire). To all intents and purposes, he appears to have kidnapped Silmeria, the youngest Valkyrie, whom he keeps in a crystal inside his castle, and Lenneth may attempt to challenge him at any time from Chapter 3 onwards. However, whether she battles him or stands down, he will vanish along with the entire castle and never be heard of again until Ending A. Still, he does suggest that all is not as it seems, and that Lenneth doesn’t remember some very important things. If Ending A is triggered, he becomes a temporary ally, but you can only recruit him by defeating him in the Seraphic Gate on Hard difficulty. Brahms can equip heavy armour and fights with his bare (clawed) hands. He’s also the second most powerful character in the game, and his PWS, Bloody Curse, deals the highest number of hits, barring the wildcard that is Llewelyn’s Layer Storm. His only drawback is that he takes some getting used to in combat, as he tends to pause between his attacks. Other than that, he just kicks butt. Personality-wise, Brahms is surprisingly calm, dignified and honourable, far from the vicious fiend you’d expect him to be. And there’s definitely more to him than is first apparent, although you’d have to play VP2 to really understand the situation.

Freya: Alpha femaleThe goddess of fertility and Odin’s right hand is a shapely blonde and blue-eyed woman, although she does sport a rather silly hat. She briefly accompanies Lenneth at the beginning of the game to help her get back into the swing of things (read: to provide you, the player, with a tutorial), then returns to Valhalla to issue updates and requests concerning Ragnarok and Einherjar. However, you can recruit her in the Seraphic Gate on Hard difficulty, after defeating her. Punch for punch, Freya’s the most powerful character in the game, with a brutal, poison-elemental PWS called Ether Strike (the only elemental PWS in the game). She can equip heavy armour, but also some robes, and uses ether orbs as weapons. However, just like Brahms, she takes some getting used to in combat, as she takes long pauses between her attacks, which can potentially break a combo. Still, if you can get a handle on controlling her, she’s definitely worth it. Personality-wise, Freya appears understanding and patient, but also firm and decisive. However, she despises humans, just as Odin does, viewing them as little more than tools or vermin.

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