Review by Lunadea
"Funtimes peppered with a bit of suffering."
Valkyria Chronicles is, in its essence, a good ol' tactical JRPG. Set in the alternate universe European country named Gallia, it tells the story of the small nation and its fight to retain its independence in a war between its two large neighbors. How are they going to win their freedom? Why, by pitching their team of 10 soldiers against all the enemies, of course. Playing this game will really make you appreciate the beauty of minimalism when it comes to making war... at least, in theory.
Gameplay - (10/10)
If there's one thing this game really shines at, it's the gameplay. Like all tactical RPGs, it requires a fair amount of thinking on the player's part, and one turn can make all the difference between a quick victory and sudden death. The number of moves you can make per turn depends on your Command Points (CP) which, as the name states, allows you to command one character per point. However, you're not limited to 1 CP per character - the same character can be moved as many times as you want, although certain types of ammo (e.g. grenades) won't be replenished if you've already used them earlier that turn. Furthermore, a character's Action Points (AP), i.e. how far they can move, decreases with each subsequent selection until they can barely crawl a few feet. It's a very elegant way of keeping the basics of the tactical RPG, but modernizing it and making it their own - and making it infinitely more interesting.
The major difference that you'll notice compared to classic tactical RPGs is the fact that when you select a character and control it, it changes from a bird's eye battlefield view to a 3rd person view of that character. You then move them freely around the battlefield (no more sticking to the grid), with each step taking up AP. When AP runs out, the character can't move an inch no matter what awkward position they're in, so it becomes important not only to think of where they should go during their action, but also where they'll end up.
The game utilizes 5 types of foot soldiers and various types of machinery, though the only type you get to use are tanks. The foot soldiers each have their strengths and weaknesses - for instance, scouts have a load of AP and can traverse much of the battlefield in 1 turn, but are not very resistant to damage; lancers can take out tanks and do AoE damage to foot soldiers whilst boasting anti-blast armor and high HP, but move ridiculously slowly, have low AP and are weak to bullets. The tanks are a bit of a mixed bag, too; although they can be killing machines if used well, they require 2 CP to move and can't get very far. There are also 'Orders' which can give stat boosts to one or all of your team members at the expense of CP, and can be extremely effective or not effective at all depending on when and how you use it. Basically, everything is a trade-off - depending on your playing style you'll use some things more than others. You might think that the limited number of classes gets boring fast, but there's little else to add and every class is required at some point in the game.
Outside of the main storyline, there are also 'skirmishes', which are battles you can do over and over again to net EXP and money. There are unfortunately only a few of those, and they're all from major storyline battles, so it's basically just for grinding purposes.
Story - (6/10)
Valkyria Chronicles had a really good premise that hooked me once the story got rolling. Unfortunately, the plot never really seemed to hit a climax and became somewhat predictable after a while. Important background information was only mentioned in passing, despite the fact that they would have made the story a lot richer. The worst part, though, would have to be the characters. Although each character had a backstory and whatnot, I couldn't bring myself to care about any of them at all. Welkin and Alicia take the cake for the most boring lead characters I've seen in a while; meanwhile, the most interesting characters in the game were killed off at convenient moments. Speaking of the main couple, their relationship was also horribly developed, and by developed I mean not developed at all. Basically they meet each other and join the army together, and then somehow Welkin was supposedly in love with Alicia and vice versa despite nothing ever happening to fuel such flames of love. Some might say it's still a better love story than Twilight, but I think I may have to think about it a little.
Another massive letdown was the emperor of the invading nation. He looked pretty epic, and I suppose people have invaded countries for less, but for all the buildup... his pathetic little sob story at the end is more irritating than anything else. I suppose there's a reason why Selvaria is on the cover of the game.
Graphics - (9/10)
The art is really gorgeous, and all cutscenes are drawn and textured in a way that makes it look like a moving canvas. The battlefields showed lots of visual diversity, although nothing that really left me gobsmacked. The semi-anime style translated well into the gameplay and made everything clean-cut and easy to tell apart.
Sound - (8/10)
There's not much to fault the soundtrack for, although I felt like I was hearing the same songs over and over again. It's entirely orchestral music and at times can be very epic and at others, charming and cute. It definitely adds a lot of atmosphere to the game and helped to define the mood during battles and cutscenes.
Replay Value - (4/10)
There is a New Game+ mode as well as several difficulty modes which can be a test of what you've learned the first time around, but sitting through the mediocre story for a second time and slaving away at the same old skirmishes doesn't appeal to me. I don't think I would replay Valkyria Chronicles anytime soon.
Final Score - (7/10)
Valkyria Chronicles is ultimately a great game with a few undermining flaws. Fans of tactical RPGs will no doubt love it, and even those unfamiliar or indifferent to the genre could most likely garner some enjoyment from playing it. If you can overlook a weak plot and boring characters, there's a lot to love about this game, and I recommend it without hesitation.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/14/13
Game Release: Valkyria Chronicles (US, 11/04/08)
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