Valkyria Chronicles is everything I wanted out of a strategy game. It’s such a unique, and beautiful experience — one that still boasts one of the more pleasing aesthetics in video games to date even a generation later. It offers an innovative blend of the turn-based strategy RPG with the third-person genre, earning itself high praise and appreciative accolades amongst most if not all reviewing platforms. Some would even say it could rival Nintendo’s Fire Emblem, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree. Its gripping characters and story – simple, yet complex gameplay – rich and colorful watercolor art – has left me wanting for more from the series and when I saw the announcement for the Remastered version, I grew ecstatic at the notion of playing the game anew and the possibility of the sales lending themselves to a new entry in the series. I urge any and all who have yet to experience the game to purchase it, rent it, or borrow it — it’s a “modern” classic.
Valkyria Chronicles may have its lighthearted moments, but it does itself well in telling a mature, relatively realistic tale of a group of people drafted into war in order to protect their city from invading forces. There’s drama to be had amongst members of our protagonist, Welkin Gunther’s squadron, topics oftentimes broaching controversial themes (a quality I am particularly fond of) such as racism, betrayal, and most prominently death; and offers relatable characters who will drive the story and your interest, most of whom bare some secret or flaw that really breaks away from the common character archetypes in anime.
What really adds to the novelty of the game’s story is how it’s presented. While we are given a protagonist from whom to relate and a squadron whose narratives run deep, the story of VC is that of a history book, a fact often accentuated by the narration from the author of the text and the menus of the game themselves. Sure, it’s a cliche to let us know the outcome from the get-go, but the story paces itself in these small segmented chapters, each with their own captivating war story that, while minute and more than likely foreign to such genres, are engaging.
Perhaps my favorite element of VC’s storytelling are its side characters. While most aren’t given the time of day, and the main plot will revolve around the officers of the squadron, what would be faceless drones are given names and personality through their banes and boons. A character could have an allergy to pollen or generally dislike men, and that speaks novels of who they are or who they could be and determines how they should maneuver the battlefield in gameplay proper. It’s not much to go on, but it really attaches you to some characters and every little skirmish could lead to a fallen unit and maybe even a broken heart, further adding to that sense of adrenaline and caution when out on the field commandeering your units.
Transitioning from a map to the battlefield really adds to the strategic and careful effect of war. It’s always important to take note of any unknown variables out on the field, impeding reinforcements, turn number, and et cetera; but it’s best to really know your units’ strengths and weaknesses and which are best fit for specific jobs. The contrast between VC and more traditional tactical/strategy games is quite jarring at first, placing the camera right behind your soldier and moving them about the field so long and so far as their stamina permits. It’s necessary to be careful of certain classes’ and the opposing forces’ ‘spheres of influence’ as well, as it could decide life or death. The game isn’t bone-breaking difficult, no — in fact, it can be trivialized with the use of a single class. I won’t divulge the name of said class, but aside from necessary units, I actually cleared a few missions using just one character due to how unbalanced their strengths can be. There are a few missions that will test your limits and how capable you can be, but through the use of Skirmishes can you grind out EXP for classes and further trivialize any and all difficulty. I suppose these options are, again, “options”, but their presence nonetheless is enough to hinder the experience and damper the sense of scale and weight of battle.
The only real disappointing part about Valkyria Chronicles is its soundtrack. It sports rather militaristic tracks that, while they offer some variety and contrast from other games, are incredibly generic. There’s surely some talent, and a few memorable tracks, but they all mesh together and are just as easily forgettable. It’s a shame that the only real downside to the game’s presentation is its music, but the damage isn’t so great that it can dampen an otherwise incredible experience.
No doubt will I hold Valkyria Chronicles in my personal hall of fame. It’s bold take on the strategy genre and beautiful presentation lends itself to an experience worth revisiting or experiencing for the first time. With the added content, to those who didn’t have the benefit of purchasing it prior on the PS3 or you loved the game and wish to show your support for the series, I believe it’s well worth the $30 price tag.
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