Saying that I like the first Valkyria Chronicles game is a huge understatement. I love the game.
When I first purchased the game for the PS3 some odd years ago, I didn’t know really what to expect beyond hearing that it had a really nice visual style. Boy was I blown away, and it wasn’t just the gameplay either. The world building is some of the most thought out, planned out, and fleshed out I’ve ever seen from a video game in a long while that wasn’t a JRPG. Even if it was a lot of small little details, it all culminated in feeling like you were part of the world, influencing and interacting with the plot, to make sure that the neutral nation of Gallia and it’s people see victory at the end of the war.
It tugs at your heartstrings, confronts you with uncomfortable topics and the details of war, such as death, nationalism, prejudice, and honor. It’s also one of the few games to ever mention anything about concentration camps either. Despite the very obvious alliterations to the second world war, and the terrible happenings throughout the course of that war, VC never becomes so heavy-handed that you feel like you’re being forced to learn, or feel a certain way about a historical event or the people who were part of it. Instead you get the raw feelings of war, and what it means to serve your country in its most dire time of need.
First off, the game is very beautiful, and the presentation is top-notch. It was impressive on the PS3, and with my current pc setup, it looks FANTASTIC.
Though the art style is very anime and Japanese in nature, the themes and tone of the games are very universal, and very serious. In fact, I would say that it blends the two mediums of bright pastel anime and serious war story very well. It also helps that the dubbing is great, making for a very impressive game.
The easiest way to explain this game is to describe it like you Advanced Wars, or any other squad based, turn based strategy game, where instead of controlling an army in a micromanagement way, or a group, you control each of your soldiers individually towards a common objective. Usually in a “Rout all enemies/Capture the Flag” fashion.
When you first get to the “Command Screen”, which is what Welkin Gunther, the main character sees while he commands his squad while in his tank, you will see the top down strategy part of the game, where you have an overview of your troops, the enemies you can see, and your general objective.
You use your allotted “Command Points” that receive per turn to control one your troops and have them either take a shot at the enemy, heal, or toss a grenade, alongside various other interactive bits with the map like cover.
From there, when you use a Command Point, you will enter into a pseudo 3rd person shooter segment where you are allowed to move your unit into position and tell them to fire or what have you. They cannot shoot forever, and they cannot move forever either, as you can only take one shot per turn, and move only so far.
When you decide to take the shot, time stops moving and you have control of free aiming your shots, allowing for more tactical and strategic options like going for the head, or taking safe shots at the body.
Later on in the game, you get a tank that changes how the game is played and adds another tactical layer for both you and the enemy, as advancing right into a tanks brutal machine guns is probably not the best idea.
Units are separated into various classes, all of which are generally specialized towards a task, and function they sound:
- Scouts, which have the highest movement, but very low offensive power. Mostly used to spot enemies and take objectives like enemy camps.
- Shocktroopers, the heavily armored assault rifle wielding infantry which you can use to bring the pain and clear out enemies.
- Lancers, which are the blast suited explosive experts, adept at taking out enemy tanks, and later on capable of using mortars. Very poor against infantry, but are nonetheless crucial.
- Engineers, which are all about battlefield control, like healing, repairing, and resupplying. As a result though, their combat skills are very poor, and they are very fragile.
- Finally, the Snipers, which can deliver precision fire on the enemy, excelling at taking out enemy leaders, entrenched enemies, and countersniping, but cannot defend themselves in any way.
Now for the bad parts of the gameplay.
Despite being able to free aim your units shots, there’s ideally only one type of shot you want to make, and that’s the headshot. Since the game is focused heavily on rankings, which are determined by speed, taking the shot that will kill the enemy is pretty much necessary.
The rankings, which I mentioned before, and how getting the A rank that gives you the most Exp and Gold per mission is based on whether or not you can complete a mission in a very small amount of turns. Sometimes just one, some others are more lenient. Very daunting for a new player, and most feel that the B’s and C’s are not indicative of the strategy and time they spent completing a mission. That’s right, playing the game tactically is actually a punishment. It’s not all that bad, but it can be a little irritating.
The last thing of note is how silly the game can be in terms of balance, where at some point in your game, you will be able to use one of your scouts and combo it with a stat boost order to be able to shoot a tank from behind with a bolt-action rifle and annihilate it. Never fear, you won’t be doing this often unless you happen to be hunting for A ranks.
The soundtrack was composed by Hitoshi Sakamoto, of Final Fantasy and Tactics Ogre fame, as well as many other fantastic OST’s and Daisuke Kawaguchi who did the theme song. It’s great, it’s perfect, and it sets the tone of the game very well.
A very good game, gets an even better PC port. If you’re looking for something new, and something to get engrossed in, then I highly recommend Valkyria Chronicles. As a long time fan, I was thrilled to hear the game sold very well on Steam, even topping the new Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed games for the number one spot. Hopefully we’ll see more fantastic ports like this one from Sega and other Japanese publishers.
Valkyria Chronicles also has an anime no one likes.