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Valkyria Chronicles Review

December 7, 2008

War is a painting

War is a painting

Valkyria Chronicles is a strategy role playing game by SEGA.  Instead of following the mold of the SRPG genre SEGA embarked to bring something new to the table.  That something new is Valkyria Chronicles, an exclusive game for the Playstation 3.  Did SEGA help change future SRPGs for the better? Find out below.

Story

Valkyria Chronicles takes place in an alternate time line in the year 193o on the continent of Europa.  To be more specific the game takes place in the small country of Gallia, a neutral country who is rich in a valuable resource known as ragnite ore.  Just before/during the events of the game a war has broken out between the two largest forces on Europa, The Empre and The Federation.  These two war machines cause what is to be called The Second Europan War, or EWII.  Gallia is invaded by The Empire for its ore, sparking the beginning of the game.

Welkin Gunther, the protagonist of the story is a college student who studies nature.  However his father was a hero in The First Europan War(EWI) for his leadership skills and Welkin soon discovers that he also shares these skills, as with the help of his sister, and a militia girl named Alicia, deals a considerable blow to the Empirian army on an attack on their hometown.  From a purely synicle point of view this can be seen as the old, “normal boy becomes hero due to family history” story that Star Wars pretty much coined, however there is much more to it than that.

One of the forefront story aspects are the Darcsens, a race of dark haired people who are hated & despised by the collective world.  This hatred due to the Darcsens role in an event in ancient history that almost destroyed the continent.  A handful of main characters are Darcsens, including Welkins younger sister and the story shows how she & many others have to deal with persecution.  Some members of Welkin’s squad, known as Squad 7, are prejudiced and the story also chronicles their feelings on the matter & eventual changes.

The story is told using a book feature that spreads to other aspects of gameplay.  This book feature works well for the game by giving the game a more historic point of view, while at the same time giving it a more disjointed feel.  This disjointed feel is mainly due to how cutscences are shown.  A chapter will hold a number of small cutscenes and in order to see the next cutscence you are brought back into the book and have to highlight the next section and view it.  While this disjointed system doesn’t hurt the game too much, I would have preferred larger cutscenes rather than a number of small ones.

Gameplay

As I stated earlier, the book storm deals with other aspects of the game outside the main story.  The book contains sections for purely lore aspects such as information on weapons, characters, and the history of the world, as well as gameplay aspects such as Head Quarters and Skirmishes.  Headquarters acts as the game’s main hub for dealing with the characters & gear outside of combat/the story.  The headquarters will hold a few sections that include, training grounds, R&D, barracks and more.  Now the training grounds give the game a very unique feel when it comes to the leveling of the characters.  Rather than individual characters leveling up like in games like Disgaea 3, Final Fantasy Tactics, & more, the general character classes will level.  For example, Alicia, who I mentioned earlier, is what is known as a Scout.  When I enter the training grounds and level the scout class up, not only will she level up, but so will the other scouts in the squad.  This removes the overpowering of a single character, and allowing for any member of a class to be used in any given situation.

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There is some individuality however as characters have potentials.  Potentials act as status up or status down aspects of the characters and activate based on conditions.  These potentials can help a character take down much quicker than normal, or much slower than normal and keeping track of what activates potentials can help make a battle turn in your favor.  Outside of potentials though there is a barracks where specific characters can be equipped with certain weapons.  This doesn’t apply too much in the first half of the game, but becomes necessary during the second half.

There is also are R&D system I mentioned earlier which acts to allow players to upgrade the characters & tanks.It is here where you can buy upgraded versions of weapons, gear, and tank parts.  Checking this area before & after a battle is a must to stay up to date with the most powerful weapons available.  There are also an Audience Hall to receive decorations in battle, a War cemetery, and also a section called, The Writing On the Wall.  This sections allows the player to read the “news” of the story as well as buy extra chapters for the story.  It is debatable if the chapters are worth the price of admission, but it is not necessary for the story.

Combat

I think I’ve gone on about how the gameplay outside of combat works long enough, lets get to the good stuff.  Combat takes place in two forms, Turned Based, and Real Time.  Unlike the majority of SRPGS that use a turned based grid system, Valkyria Chronicles gives players a more action oriented way of completing a mission.  The game will have two views of the battle.  The map view, and character view.  While in map mode you see the entire map of the battle and where your characters, and some enemy characters are.  It is here where you can choose to take control of a character at the expense of command points(CP).  Once a character is selected you take the control of the character with a  third person perspective and travel the map.  You do not however have free roam of the map.  Each character can only move so far depending on their class.  Scouts can move the furthest while Snipers and Lancers(Anti Tank Units) cannot move very far.  Alongside the movement aspect, there is also Action Points(AP).  This is a bar that depletes every time you select a character.  The more times you select a particular character during a turn, the more the AP bar is shortened.  When the AP bar reaches zero, the character can no longer move, but can attack.

Balancing the aspects of the Book Mode and Combat Mode is what makes Valkyria Chronicles, fun, engaging, and sometimes frustrating.

Squad 7

Squad 7

Graphics/Audio

Valkyria Chronicles is a looker, no two ways around it.  The game sports what SEGA calls the Canvas engine as it was designed to make the game look like a water colored painting.  It succeeded, the game looks like an anime inspired painting come to life.  The character models, environments, and just about every aspect of the game looks great.  However certain cutscenes, where only the characters face is shown, aren’t animated too well.  The graphics aside the voice actors for the game, for the most part are extremely well done with voice over vets like Dave Wittenberg(Kakashi-Naruto, Sora-.hack//SIGN, Saito-Ghost in a Shall, & more) voicing the characters in the game.  In the audio department, there won’t be much to complain about.

Conclusion

Valkyria Chronicles is one of those games that come out every once in awhile that challenges the mold and succeeds.  The combat system is fun, challenging and rewarding with the story & presentation also being well done.  While I do have some grips with the game, they didn’t deter me from playing the game, and they shouldn’t deter you.  If you own a Playstation 3 and need an RPG fix, I wholly recommend the title, if you don’t own a Playstation 3, this isn’t going to interest you in the system.

Great

Great

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