Review by FurieRand
"Just when you thought a genre was about done…"
To be honest the SRPG genre seemed dead to me since the PSone days, when titles like FFT, and Vandal Hearts amongst others were around, the following years failed to deliver anything great, some people liked Disgaea or the FFT advance, I personally did not, I had grown to believe this small genre was slowly dieing.
This all changed when one bored morning I decided to download the Valkyria Chronicles demo, after all it seemed slightly interesting and I was not yet decided about it. Oh boy was I glad to do so, after doing the 2 battles in the demo all I could think of was the game, so I went and bought it.
Now lets get to actually reviewing this! This is only my third review so keep that in mind when you start thinking wtf.
To me the most important thing about any game, specially an rpg.
The story revolves around a militia squad, Squad 7, from Gallia a small independent country that is surrounded by 2 superpowers, the allied federation to the west and Eastern Empire, the later decides that it wants to control all of Europa, and starts attacking the federation first and later our Gallia, all in theory to control the ragnite supply, think oil to our times, but as you progress you realize not everything is as it seems.
Right now you're probably wondering Europa? and it is simple the developers started the project thinking of making this game based on World War 2, as the development continued they opted for a more fantasy oriented world, with remnants of the WWII Europe, the result you ask? Truly epic!
While the story may have a few clichés here and there, it is without any major flaw, exactly the opposite really, it all unfolds from a book, literally the book is your menu to access, cutscenes, battles, glossary, weaponry, personnel, etc.
A sub category of Story the character development in this game is out of the records. An outstanding job in all senses considering the huge cast, 50+ playable characters, all with very unique personalities and backgrounds, make a great job of truly creating a world at war theme.
You have your main cast with the Hero, Heroine and related officers, which the story and scenes revolve around and your extras that depending on how much and how you use them you'll unlock hidden potentials and story to them, you've got the good old war heroes, the orphans, the cowards, the actors, singers, the people seeking revenge, glory, freedom, everything, like a real world army is likely filled with when the needs for the entire population to go to arms do arise.
The bread and butter of any game, after all what's the purpose of gaming if it lacks gameplay?
Here is another key category this game shines at, if you're used to the good old grid maps of usual SRPG, you better be ready for some huge change and in a great way!
Like I stated before it all happens from story book, in which you can advance the storyline via episodes cut scenes or entering battles, you can also select random skirmishes to gain experience and money, check the glossary, weaponry, personnel, badges as well as entering your headquarters where you can form up your active squad of up to 20 members plus your tank commander, where you can enter the research and development facility and improve your weaponry, tanks, uniforms, etc read up on what's happening across Europa, and train your troops.
As far as training troops go you have 5 different classes:
-Scouts: your eyes and the key of a good army, these guys will be running around searching the battlefield and killing as well with either their rifles or ragnite grenades.
-Troopers: the heavy infantry, machine guns in hand this guy may have less mobility, less range and precision than scouts, but they pack a punch, rifle vs machine gun after all.
-Lancers: the antitank unit, instead of bazookas, they shoot the tips of their lances, packed with ragnite explosive! Slow and heavy this guys are not meant to be fighting troops, but boy they sure are the nightmare of tanks.
-Engineers: an awesome asset to every army, while frail and weak this guys can repair your tank, remove landmines, rebuild sandbags trenches, supply ammunition to your troops, and if needed they still carry their rifles and ragnite grenades as well.
-Snipers: pretty obvious this guys are meant to stay back and high and headshot the mobs from a far, an amazing asset in some maps, not quite worth it in others as their low mobility can make them a nuisance.
As you train these units everyone from that unit levels up, no need to actually use them, they also gain more hidden potentials at certain points, as well as added weaponry in some cases.
Ok I've mentioned potentials twice now, it's time to explain what they are and every unit has up to 8 potentials, some others 7. 4 of these potentials are earned through training, 2~3 others are with the chars from the start, and usually 1 sometimes 2 are earned through the story. These potentials activate when certain conditions are in place during battle and they can very well make or break a battle, as with everything else there's a huge range of cases, some are allergies that will for instance decrease your HP when in dusty places, others match their personalities, for example if someone is a coward they'll perform worst when surrounded by enemies, some will worry about ammo shortages and suffer a loss in performance as well, others are good, like increased accuracy when sighting an enemy, or improved skills when fighting by a close friend, etc a lot of them to keep going about it here.
As far as battles go, they involve mostly 10 or 9 of your units with a few exceptions, like I've said forget about the grids of old, you have 2 screens, your command screen, that is an overview of the battlefield map where you select the char to move, bring reinforcement or command orders, you have a set amount Command Points, for possible moves per turn, your commanders will grant you an extra CP as well so keep them as safe as humanly possible. Once you select the char to move, you go into Action mode, which is a fully live screen like any action game, here you can move around using your Action Points, which just means your mobility gauge, scouts have more lancers and snipers have little, you can also crouch in cover, run into enemy interception fire, which means while they can't move since it's a SRPG, they can attack you while you're running around, so be careful! And you finally in action mode you can, take action! Who would have known huh? Here you can aim much like a first person shooter, head shots are critical hits, the rest are normal, no critical hits possible if undercover.
As a final note characters can die, if their hp reach 0 you have 2 options to save them one get another unit to touch them so they can call the medic, or end the battle before 3 turns.
It all adds up for loads of fun, strategy, and planning! If you don't like to think your moves this game ain't truly for you.
Fairly amazing score, great for the theme, you really feel like in the middle of a war, my main concern with this is that in certain cutscenes the music is slightly above the volume of the voice acting which leads to some trouble hearing it, but it is mostly none existent.
Voice acting is quite impressive as well, from your Irish sniper saying in an amazingly sexy way I'm not done yet! every time she headshots someone, or your heroic scout that gets a thrill for being in the frontlines, to your lazy engineer that almost can't even gather the strength to talk, magnificent work indeed.
There's also this little detailed done with voice acting in every scene that I find it superb, if they are in a big room the voice is filled with a certain echo increasing the reality of the moment, or if they are talking over the radio, there's some static as well, very nicely done.
The final thing to analyze, I've never been a person to think games are great based on graphics and I've never been a fan of cel shading and the likes, that is mainly the reason why I don't give this a perfect score, but in all honesty this is magnificent.
The idea here is to make it look as real to a European 1930's world as possible while keeping fantasy aspects to it, and they really did it flawlessly, the buildings, tanks, uniforms, weapons everything looks perfect.
Since it's an anime look during cut scenes you get an increased feeling of the character emotions through their expressions, the work done with the eyes for this is especially outstanding. To add to the anime feel as well there's onomatopoeias to go with the sounds, if you don't know what this means, think comics, like when you're seeing and hearing a gun being fired, next to gun you'll read RATTATA, and the likes, it certainly adds to the whole idea in a great way.
This game is truly a masterpiece; a game that needs to get the deserved recognition or the world might end! Well not really, but anyone that likes SRPG, RPG's, Strategic games, should at the very least download the demo and check it out, I can guarantee you'll have a fun time and you might run and buy it like I did.
As a closing note for those that care about this: the average completion time seems to be around 30hrs, but that is very fast playing, expect at least 50+ hrs in your first play I'll say and it also has replay value in the form of completion stuff like extra char, added medals, a new difficulty set for skirmishes, etc.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/04/08
Game Release: Valkyria Chronicles (US, 11/04/08)
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