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Here is a "little" write up I did for gamer blag
Floating amidst a sea of triple-A titles comes the small ship "Valkryia Chronicles". Sega's ambitious JSRPG has been ultimately overlooked during the flood of games that saw games like Resistance 2, Prince of Persia, LittleBigPlanet and Mirror's Edge make big splashes in the gaming market. That being said, you would be remiss to pass this game up, regardless of whether or not your proclivities steer you towards more dark and gritty shooters. With a mix of wonderfully crafted visuals, intuitive game mechanics and tumultous combat, Valkyria Chronicles is the perfect fix for those looking for a defining JRPG on the playstation 3, or any other console for that matter.
Valkyria Chronicles takes place within a reimagining of World War 2 called The Second Europan war. The small prinicipality of Gallia is caught within the crossfire between The prototypical Empire and the Atlantic Federation. Due to high amounts of a miracle resource known as Ragnite, Gallia gets invaded. Of course, this inevitably pulls the story's protagonist, Welkin Gunther, into the fray. With his father's tank and a bit of blind courage, he quickly rises up the rank's in squad 7. While the plot and its devices may not be awe-inspiring in and of themselves, the superb writing and timing easily make up for any short comings. The care that went into creating such likeable characters truly becomes appreciable in the tear-jerking scenes which I dare not spoil here.
Although most of the characters fall within the typical anime conventions of being bombastic stereotypes, the realisation of their characters is far more effective and convincing than the normal anime, especially in regards to the main characters. This is shown through the sheer numbers of different soldiers you can recruit, each with their own personalities, likes and dislikes. It is a joyous experience to be able to weed out the characters who don't seem eager to fight while making sure to recruit the homosexual character who speaks with a music note not because he is gay but because he is ready to die for his country. This seems like a small point to make, but it is the acoutrements of this game that make it so charming.
The Valkyrian Water-colour themed visuals are stunning to say the least. As was shown through the visuals of Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, the PS3 is incredibly adept at rendering anime characters almost completely faithful to their paper drawn counterparts. Every detail of the battlefield, uniforms and weapons are so well crafted that the player often feels like they are piloting an anime, albeit a more sensible one than normal. About the only skin ever presented for your viewing pleasure is when Rosie or Alicia hit the dirt to avoid gunfire, showing calves below their skirts. This kind of sensible approach to art design compliments the writing immensely to create something that is both familiar and different, endearing but not patronizing.
In the same way that the visuals,characters and story is sensible, the combat mechanics are also both sensible and intuitive. Every turn begins with a stock of command points (CP) which can be allocated towards moving and attacking, defending and special "Orders" which can do anything from bolster a units health to calling in a mortar strike on an enemy position. If CP are used on a unit, the camera drops down into a 3rd person view and allows the unit to be moved around according to a small movement bar. Lighter units can run farther and faster while bigger units such as anti-tank lancers are slow and immobile.
Once again, while none of this seems particularly outstanding, Valkyria truly shines in the intricacies of battle. While moving a unit, the enemy is free to fire on you as they please. Without careful planning and use of cover, units can often find themselves in a hail of gunfire, ultimately resulting in their death. If a unit perishes, you have 3 turns to reach them (or end the battle) in order to call a medic. Like Fire Emblem, failure to resurrect a unit or allowing the enemy to touch a downed comrade results in their permanent death. Although enemies in defensible positions can be difficult to harm sometimes, there are plenty of grenades, tank shells and sniper rifles to combat this. There are also "Potentials" that coincide with the aforementioned unique personalities of each soldier. Potentials are usually activated due to proximity to other soldiers, although the opposite is also true in the case of the "loner" and "rear guard" potentials. For example, soldiers that are extremely fond of their preferred sex will try to impress them when near a friendly unit, resulting in a potential that increases their aim. Thes potentials can be ignored for the most part, but their inclusion helps add another layer of strategy to the game that transcends the normal "move to square - attack" bent associated with traditional strategy games. Even with all of this exposition, i have still barely scratched the surface on what is a rather excellent combat system.
While the battle sounds and witty quips from soldiers who have just made a kill are robust and varied, the score is lacking in sheer quantity of songs. What is presented is top notch, yet there was obviously a clear emphasis on making the gameplay enjoyable while sacrificing other elements, which is to be understood from a company that was unsure as to how many copies their game wuold actually sell. Sega does do us the courtesy of including the original Japanese voice acting, but the english voice acting is excellent not only by itself, but also in comparison to the usual ear-ache found in any other game or movie. Minus the sometimes clumsy AI and lacking score, Valkryia excels in all other facts of its construction.
Writing a review for a game like Valkyria is difficult simply because there is so much that can be touched on that it is often hard to balance the critical aspects from summary. The Gameplay is a wonderful mix of simple and deep mechanics that appeals both to hardcore strategy guru's as well as genre acolytes. The compelling story is told in both long cutscenes (both in and out of engine which look beautiful either way) while also being told in the glossary, character profiles and skippable side scenes. Sega has done a truly excellent job in finding the kind of hybridity between simple and complex, cutesy and serious, Engaging yet aloof that should generate into sales. Unfortunately, its release time was less than oppritune as was previously mentioned. Ultimately, Valkyria Chronicles may be relegated to a type of "that game status", a game where 5 years from now, it will cost $200 hundred dollars to get a copy. This could also be said of another game; Okami. Like Okami before it, which utilised differing art direction and gameplay mechanics, Valkyria Chronicles may just be the best game you never play.
Story: While it relies on anime conventions to power it's characters and plot, the writing more than makes up for it by helping to tell a compelling and gripping story that will leave you scouring every glossary page and sub-scene for extra information on your favorite characters or the finer points of Gallian history.
Characters: This charming bunch are not only unique and affable, but they also generate a devotion to their well-being that forces the player to do anything in their power to save them from perishing forever if they fall to the enemy. Creating your own troop of handsome playboys or understated lolita's has never been so fulfilling.
Visuals: The CANVAS engine is cleverly utilised in both the player models as well as the various effects seen in battle. In engine cutscenes are well done and out of engine cutscenes are even better, although do their best to be in keeping with the rest of the game's visual presence. My only complaint would be with the non-effort to lip-synch dialogue to the characters which is extremely off-putting considering the amount of time we spend listening to the characters speak.
Gameplay: While it is not completely unique, the gameplay is tight, full of depth and very well balanced. The difficulty level as well as the learning curve are, for lack of a better word, perfect. The sometimes bumbling AI can be a nuisance, but they become notably smarter and more ruthless in the unlockabale Hard Mode. Perhaps the worst part of the gameplay is the fact that even though there is a briefing for every mission, some of the finer points are left for the player to figure out (often the hard way) by themselves. This is especially painful when a mission hinges around a certain mechanic, such as equipment elevators or the use of sniper towers.
Sound: The battle sounds and ambiance as well as the individuals dialogue are all extremely well done. The score on the other hand suffers from a lack of quantity that becomes painful as you often wish there was more of the good music you are currently enjoying to be found elsewhere in the game. Both the Japanese and English dialogue are very well done.
Multiplayer: N/A. This game would be perfectly suited for multiplayer however. One can only hope for VC2.
Replay value / Tilt: With plenty of unlockables, a lust for achieving A-rankings on every mission as well as a bevy of secret scenes and characters, Valkyria Chronicles will definately keep you coming back for more. Lack of online or local competitive modes really prevent this game from leaving the stratosphere
Overall Grade: A
Not only is this the best JRPG available on the ps3, it is one of the best games available today for any console, period.
Recent Game Medals
Total Medals Earned: 6 (From 2 different games.)