Review by tallkid123
"A Europan Masterpiece..."
Sega's Valkyria Chronicles is a hybrid tactical J-RPG with 3rd person shooter elements and quite honestly, a brilliant one. Depending on where you live however, it can be a pain to be find due to its unnfortunately low sales and a severe lack of supply (I visited 3 Australian EB's before I found a copy so importing it is a good and for many, an only option). Regardless, on to the review.
Valkyria Chronicles gameplay is a clever and ultimately functional mix of genres. On one hand, you have a tactical J-RPG whereby you can strategically place a range of 5 different units and your main character's tank on to set locations on the map to take down the enemy and complete the mission's objectives. The 5 sorts of units (lancers, shocktroopers, scouts, engineers and snipers) each have their own strengths and weaknesses and to the game's credit, you'll always be using a combination of 4 or 5 different units due to the challenging and diverse battles. in addition, the number of moves you can make is determined by the amount of Command Points (CP) available to you at each turn. It's a tricky, well-thought out combat system as the player needs to decide what actions must be taken to get rid of that enemy, take down an opposing camp or to prevent your opponents from taking out your main commander's tank.
On the other hand, once you have decided on a unit's action, the command mode automatically switches to action mode wherein the 3rd person elements kick in. As opposed to many other tactical games where you give a unit an order and watch them execute it, Valkyria Chronicles takes it one step further by giving you direct control of each individual unit. In action mode, a player can directly control the unit by either moving them around to a more advantageous location or in to combat with the enemy forces. However, the distance you can traverse is limited to the amount of Action Points your unit has, thus forcing you to decide whether that shot to an enemy's head is worth the retaliation you'll face if you're stuck out on open ground. The game also uses the concept of camps as bases for both yourself and the opponent. With all these elements that you need to think over during any battle and their set mission conditions, Valkyria Chronicles provides an interesting gameplay experience in which just one wrong move can see you losing an hour long battle because the enemy has managed to violate one of your sucess conditions.
When not in battle, this game also adopts an interesting style for how missions and the storyline are laid out during the game, in a 'storybook' format. Each flick of the page reveals a new set of episodes and battles to progress in the game while also featuring seperate tabs for miscellaneous information on weaponry, personnel, etc and an area known as headquarters where you can upgrade your squad and access other nifty features for the game.
Putting it blunty, Valkyria Chronicles gave me an intial impression of cliche due to the sort of characters introduced to you at the start. The story revolves around a young man by the name of Welkin Gunther who leads a militia squad known as Squad 7 into a war against the Empire and its Imperial Army. The characters to me are a mixed bunch but as I got further into the game, they'll tend to grow on you. Welkin is a kind, nature-loving commander with a famous general of a father who uses unconventional tactics to fight back against the aloof Prince Maxilimian and his mysterious 'Valkyria' triumviri, Selvaria. The game uses a heavy mix of alternate historial fiction and norse mythology to present a complex, moving plot centered on such themes of war and hope.
Keep in mind that each individual unit you control as a part of your squad also has their own personal background (they're all militia, not just soldiers) and one of the highlights of this game is to hear their personal quotes in battle and to see how their stories develop throughout the game.
In addition, there will be optional 'episodes' available that you can watch to see plot points from a different perspective. To be honest, its a silly move on Sega's part as the majority of players will probably just observe them anyway but still, if you're dying to just move through the battles, then by all means give them a miss.
The epic scores for this game are wonderful and always set the right mood for each episode and each battle. While I personally think that video game music is too subjective to really critique on, I will simply state that most players will either enjoy or have little problems with the soundtrack for this game. The sound effects in combat are excellent and are further enhanced by the graphics which will be mentioned later on.
Voice acting for this game however is simply excellent as the main cast have voices that naturally complement their personality characteristics and actions. Better yet, for those who show disdain for english dubbing, there is a lovely little feature for Japanese audio to choose from in the options menu. With this, Valkyria Chronicles will undoubtedly make most players pleased with their preference for English or traditional Japanese voice-acting.
Valkyria Chronicles is simply beautiful. For those lucky gamers who can play this on a large LCD TV with HDMI, the cell-shading style of visuals will just amaze you. Each character's presentation is done articulately and one important feature that should be commended is their appropriate character model colouring. The designs of both Squad 7 shoops and the Imperial Army are superb and really help to individualise each unit on battle whereas the battle maps can vary from bland to visually appealing.
SImple put, this game has a unique visual style that just proves ultimately attracting.
Probably one of the most underrated games available on the current generation consoles at the moment, Valkyria Chronicles is a highly satisfying experience. However, I wish you all the best in trying to find a local copy as it is just not easy to find unless you go online. Regardless however, the purchase and search are worth it and for many RPG fans, this is a must-have for any console.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/12/09
Game Release: Valkyria Chronicles (AU, 10/30/08)
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