Review by Cowboys4u86
"A true gem from SEGA and the best RPG from the land of the rising sun this gen."
The SRPG genre is one that has seen it's fair share of epics across it's many years, as of late the genre has been struggling, it has gotten to be rather bland and the gameplay has started to feel dated. But fear not, SEGA breathe new life into the genre with Valkyria Chronicles, and deliver an epic that sets lofty standards not only for story telling and art direction, but for gameplay as well.
Story - 9/10
Valkyria Chronicles centers it's focus on Squad 7 of the Gallian Militia. A small independent nation nestled between the currently warring nations of the Allied Federation and the Eastern Empire, Gallia has been invaded by the Eastern Empire due to it's vast resources of Ragnite (the natural resource that powers everything in Europa). The setting closely resembles WW Europe, from the almost identical shape of the continent itself, to the technology in use and struggles that the citizens live through. The game does a fantastic job of making it feel like a realistic world very similar to our own while adding a great fantasy element. Everything is told through a book, which is separated into chapters, the use of the book really does almost feel like an alternate history and the story telling and progression of the plot is second to none.
Gameplay - 9/10
Book mode serves as the main menu, and its separated into several tabs. The chapter tab is where you access the main storyline and fight your battles. There is no running around towns or the world map in order to progress the plot. Everything is separated into chapters from a book, the majority of the story telling and plot progression is through the episodes that you watch in the current chapter you're in. The only time you will be directly in control of your characters movements and the actions they take is on the battlefield. Valkyria Chronicles brings a new take to the way battles are fought in the genre. Rather than moving around on tiles, there is a set amount of land in which your squad can move around. The battles take place in varying view points. At the beginning of each turn, you're given an overhead view where you can see the layout and positions of both your squad and the enemy troops. During each turn you have CP (Command Points), which allow you to take control of a character of your choice and move them across the battlefield to engage the enemy. Once you have selected a unit you then go into a 3rd person view point in which you can move freely until your AP drops to zero or you decide to take an action and end that characters turn. When attacking you move into a 1st person view point, which allows you to line up critical hits and attack specific targets as you see fit. A circle surrounds your cross hair which represents the area in which the bullets can end up. So even though you may be lining up a headshot, it isn't a guarantee and once you press the button to make the attack you're no longer in control of where the bullets fly. It really adds a nice action orientated feel and more personal sense of involvement. The game gives you a fair challenge, you won't be able to just go Rambo and bulldoze your way through enemies, your actions will have dire repercussions if you're not careful. If a character should die on the battlefield and you fail to reach them within 3 turns, they are lost for good, so you will have to keep your wits about you during battle. So while it may sound action heavy, the strategic part of the battle is very important and there is only so much you can control. The strategy is further emphasized by the scoring system at the end of each battle. You're awarded a rank based on a number of factors, ranging from the turns you took to complete the mission to the enemies you killed during the operation. The money and experience you gain depends on your performance.
Next up we have the Headquarters tab, where you will have several sections to visit and be doing all your micro managing. Squad Barracks is where you will be able to set the equipment for whole units or specific troops. Command Room is where you can recruit your squad members, you can have up to 20 at any given time but have a much larger number than that to choose from. So your decisions will be important as each characters have their own likes and dislikes with each other as well as special abilities and weaknesses. You can choose from Scouts, Shock troopers, Lancers, Snipers and Engineers. The only class you cannot choose from is medic, as you have a set character for that who does not count against your 20 man limit. Training Field is where you will divvy up your experience points between the classes in your squad. Rather than characters leveling up personally, all the members in a class level up together and on top of that the troops not in your 20 man squad also level up as your squad members do, so if you feel like swapping characters, you won't be punished for not including them. The R&D facility is where you will upgrade equipment for your ground troops and your Squad's tank by spending that hard earned cash. You can also access Castlefront St. to read up on the latest news of Europa and spend your money earned from battles on unlocking additional content that fleshes out the story (all optional of course). There is also a war Cemetery that allows you to use your experience to learn new commands to improve performance on the battlefield.
There is also a Skirmish tab, which allows you to fight battles in maps youve already played. They exist to help you gain experience and money in order to help the progress of your troops, and can also be used to perfect strategies and get accustomed to the fighting battles.
The other tabs include Personnel, Weapons and the Glossary. They give you additional info on the story and the characters as you progress.
Everything is streamlined and easy to use which lends itself well to people venturing into the SRPG world for the first time. The gameplay is very solid and the balance between action and strategy is perfect.
Characters - 8/10
Squad 7 is filled with great characters, and while Welkin is the lead character as far as the viewpoint goes, Alicia, Isara, Rosie and Largo all have plenty of development and light shed on them as the game progresses. There is a little of something for everyone in squad 7 alone. Outside of squad 7 the characters are just as varied, the villains are interesting and realistic in their personalities and not always completely despicable. There are plenty of other minor characters to flesh everything out and there is a great mix of light hearted and fun characters and serious characters to keep everything fresh. Although admittedly every cliche is filled in some way as far as characters go, there is a nice mix in terms of maturity and age of the main characters. So you're not bogged down with the oh so dreaded JRPG staple of young teenage heroes.
Graphics - 9/10
The visuals are simply stunning, the sketchbook art style really lends itself well to the story and the attention to detail is great. There really isn't a better looking cell-shaded game out there right now and it's done perfectly. The characters animations are also smooth and realistic, it really delivers the look and feel of a fantasy story and one that also parallels a world not so different from our own.
Music - 8/10
The music is top notch, every scene is captured wonderfully with the appropriate musical score. It really adds to the emotion of the scene's and engrosses you in the game. One of the best musical scores in a game I've ever played, best of all there is a section that is unlocked after you beat the game that allows you to listen to all the music featured in the game. The Voice acting is top notch, there are a few instances in which the dialogue can seem a little cheesy, but that's more because of the script than anything else, and the occurrences are so few and far between you can count them on one hand.
Long term value - 10/10
Valkyria Chronicles is definitely worth the money you spend on it. The initial run through the game will last you a good 30-35 hours and it includes a new game+ option with added difficulties. There is also plenty to collect for the completionists, whether it's trying to collect all the Decorations you earn in battle or trying to complete every battle with it's highest possible rank, there is no shortage of game time to be had with the title. This will only be improved on as the DLC is released in the near future as well, so if getting plenty of mileage from your games is a must, then VC doesn't disappoint.
Overall score - 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/25/09
Game Release: Valkyria Chronicles (EU, 10/31/08)
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