Back in my day as a Xbox 360 and Wii owner, I used to pretty much play every Role-playing game that was released on those two platforms. So when the original Valkyria Chronicles was released on the Playstation 3 back in 2008 I missed it completely, since I did not own the Playstation 3 at the time. So when it was released 4 months ago I decided to take the plunge at the recommendation of those who played the original, even though my forte isn’t turn based video games. And as remastered video games go and seeing some footage of the original game, I can safely say SEGA did a sterling job on the remastered. While improved visuals and frame rates are certainly good reason to check out this remastered title. The primary reason you need to pick up and play this game is for the gameplay and story.
Valkyria Chronicles is set during an alternative historical timeline of World War II, were two opposing forces the Eastern European Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation fight over a prized mineral called Ragnite. A mineral that is used to pretty much power everything, much the same like our own fossil fuels we have today. You play as Welkin Gunther, a young university student returning to his hometown of Gallia. Only to find it is at the center of war, and he is forced to join the ranks of the local militia to defend his town and the people that he loves and calls his friends. He is soon joined by the town watch captain Alicia as they unearth Welkins father’s rather weirdly named tank “Edelweiss”. Named after a white flower only found growing in the high Alps of Switzerland.
Soon after joining the militia, Welkin is put in charge of “Squad 7” a ragtag team of drafted militia as they face numerous danger-filled missions together as a squad. Valkyria Chronicles biggest strength lies in its storytelling, and it’s ability to accurately depict the hardships that go along with being caught up in a war against a vastly superior armed force. It also manages to tackle the uncomfortable topics such as discrimination, racial segregation, and nationalism. This is backed up by an excellent cast of loveable characters, who will start growing on you the moment you get to meet them during the many cutscenes you will be watching in between the different missions. In a game, that will easily last you more than 25 hours.
This even extends to the opposing side’s characters such as Selvaria Bles, who strangely enough was my favorite character in the game even surpassing that of Welkin. And that says a lot about the characterization and writing that went into this game. The turn based combat is where the meat and the potatoes of the game is. Before each mission, you are given an overview of the map and combat area. Giving you information on where you will be starting your campaign, and where the enemy units might be located. And this is what I love about the game you need to pre-plan your strategy and carefully listen to the mission briefing. Because if you run into a mission half cocked and you picked the wrong units, the game will punish you severely for it.
Movement and combat are handled in real-time when commanding your troops. But you are limited in your range of attacks and movement by a command point gauge, once that runs dry it is the enemies turn until the same happens to it. On top of that, each unit you command has their own command bar that runs out as you command them through the battlefield. These are different for each unit allowing them to move various distances in conjunction with certain actions. So you need to plan your moves carefully because any of your units that are not behind cover and caught out in the open will get killed. Basically pretty much a defacto standard for turn-based video games, but with only one small catch. You are not limited to a grid like most turned based video games.
The game allows you to freely navigate your surroundings, allowing you to test various angles of attack when approaching the enemy. There is also other limitations to consider when planning your attacks, like the unit type and the weapons they are carrying and the type of terrain you are engaging the enemy on. The units in Valkyria Chronicles are divided into six distinctive classes: Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Snipers, Tanks and lastly Engineers. Each with their own weaknesses and strengths. Once you decided what unit to choose, the game’s camera shifts from the overhead map view down to a third-person perspective. Controlling your characters in Valkyria Chronicles isn’t like traditional third-person games such as Gears of War.
You still get a good cover system and the over-the-shoulder shooting and aiming, but it has been adapted to fit the games turn based style gameplay. You can also upgrade your units via experience points gained through doing missions or the optional skirmish levels. The same applies to your weapons and tanks, but instead of using experience points you use money gained in the same manner which you gain experience points. And the amount you receive depends on the grade score you get at the end of the mission: S,A,B,C,D,E and F. So the better you perform the more experience and money you will receive at the end of each mission. And if you run short on cash and experience points you can replay the skirmish missions and farm experience and money.
Everything is bought to life in a Studio Ghibili styled manner, with beautiful watercolor palettes. Rendered in pencil lines with pastel shading and colors, making the game’s visuals extremely pleasant on the eyes. And considering the game is already 8 years old it still looks and plays like a next-gen title, the soundtrack is what you could expect from a title like this with big orchestral pieces. The English dub can be a hit and miss at times, but you can switch to the Japanese langue version with English subtitles. Having said that, Steve Blum, gives a great performance as various character’s in the game. My only real gripe with the game would be the IA. At times it would do brilliantly tactical and wipe the floor with me, and other times it would be rock dumb and hand me a victory on a platter.
The game really caught me off guard as I did not expect much of it when I started playing it , other than the positive feedback I got from other gamers. And it definitely falls into the top 5 games I have played in 2016 so far. Valkyria Chronicles is definitely a one of a kind video game experience that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who has not played the game yet. Even if you don’t enjoy tactical shooters you will never find another gaming experience like this ever again. So give it half a chance and who know you might actually enjoy it. I do hope the game does well this time around because I would love for SEGA to bring Valkyria Azure Revolution here to the west so that we can get a localized release for it.