As a big fan of Japanese Role Playing Games, I’m always cheering on North American publishers who pick up options on Japanese franchises and localize them for a stateside release. So I was definitely excited to get my hands on Valhalla Knights 3, published here in the U.S. by Xseed Games.

An action-RPG to the core, Valhalla Knights 3 is all about player choice and customization. With seven races and opening with seven different character classes (it looks like there could be ten or more to unlock), Valhalla Knights 3 is all about giving you every opportunity for a unique experience. With so many choices, including an unnecessary slider bar for breast size, it was actually one of those times where I didn’t mind how long it took me to create a character. I already felt invested in Sylvie, my Elvish priest.

Unfortunately, the feelings I had for my Sylvie didn’t last too long as I felt hindered every step of the way after that. First, the story and presentation are slow. The first couple hours are mostly exposition for a story that is not compelling in the least. Second is combat. You have a party and you can switch between characters, which is nice, but the party commands are unique to each character and using spells/skills is far more complicated than it needs to be. Third, the graphics feel old and tired; as if it belongs at the end of the PSP generation and not a game that originally released five months ago. Lastly, and the biggest deterrent in the game is the number and duration of the loading screens. Every time you move from just simple areas inside the prison, you must sit through a loading screen. I’ve gotten to the point that I’ll hold on to quests and wait until I have more than a few done before turning them in for the simple fact I don’t want to wait through half-a-dozen load screens just to turn them in.

That is not to say Valhalla Knights 3 is not without merit. There are a slew of customizations for your character and your party that goes well beyond what would be expected. There are also plenty of collectables, quests (if you find them), weapons and armor for you to make your game experience your own. You can also manage relationships with people in the prison and beyond to be able to fill out your clan and get discounts at your favorite shops. Furthermore, if the single player portion is getting tiresome, you can always participate in the online multiplayer for special rewards.

Full of customization, Valhalla Knights 3 is a hardcore action-RPG that promises a lot in many areas, then struggles to deliver in any of the design aspects. While this game may appeal to a fan of Japanese action-RPGs, Valhalla Knights 3 is not for the casual RPG player or for the faint of heart. Overall, the crux of my issues with this game is that the solid nuggets of RPG goodness are deeply buried beneath an uninspired story, mediocre graphics and flow-breaking loading screens.

Valhalla Knights 3 is available now on the PlayStation Vita for $39.99.