Review by tcaz
One of the best strategy games in years.
SEGA has had it's real ups and downs recently, but every once in awhile it surprises everyone and releases a real winner. This is one such game. Valkyria Chronicles is a turn based/real time strategy game hybrid, set in a vaguely World War 1 (with some fantasy elements) era fictional Europe, called Europa in this game.
The story puts you in command of Welkin Gunther, the son of a famous war hero in the neutral nation of Gallia, visiting his home town at first. However, the Empire (Who if you couldn't tell by the name "Empire" are the bad guys) invades the town and Welkin is caught up in it, alongside Alicia Melchiotte, a town watchman member. As the fighting intensifies, Welkin becomes commander of Squad 7 of the militia in a war to take back Gallia from the Empire.
The story isn't anything really original, but it's told well enough and the characters are fairly like-able. It won't keep you on the edge of your seat to find out what happens next, but it's also not a bother to watch and can be entertaining in it's own right.
The game is very beautiful to look at, using a psuedo-cel shaded look to make the style very anime-ish. The character designs are well done, and while they're mostly in uniform so that the characters look similar, each character has his or her own distinct style. Animation is very fluid as well, without too many hiccups.
There aren't really many awe-inspiring tracks here, but the ones that are there always suit the mood of the story very well. It's well composed and well placed, so while you generally won't be finding yourself humming the tune to a particular song in your spare time, it's easy to listen too while playing.
The game plays fantastically, and it's genre labeling of strategy game is well earned. In battle, you start looking down at a parchment style map of the area, with your troops and the enemies troops (that you can see or know where they are) marked on the map. From here, you use Command Points (CP) to select a troop. From there, the game zooms in on that unit, and you control that unit individually, in a pseudo-action game style. While moving, you have a certain number of AP (in a bar that gradually drains as you move), representing how far you can move, and you can do such things as take cover behind things, crawl through grass, climb ladders, etc while using this AP, and then make one action (at any time during your move) such as shoot, heal, throw a grenade, and several other things.
The game mixes this up by having 6 different classes, Scout, Shocktrooper, Lancer, Engineer, Sniper, and Tanks, each being good at different things, such as Scouts having high AP to move and large sighting radius, but low armor. Strategic positioning is key, and having a plan is almost a must.
Outside of battle is mostly just menus, but you can buy equipment for your squad, manage them, and learn new abilities. The vast majority of the game is in battle though.
The game itself is fun enough to replay even without anything else, but it has several incentives to keep playing as well, such as hard modes, improving your ranking for missions, and medals.
Rent or Buy? Buy
Valkyria Chronicles is a good enough game to warrant buying, but besides that it's fairly long and you probably won't be able to beat it in a rent. If you're still unsure of whether you want to get it or not after this review (and others), I suggest trying the demo for the game on Playstation Network.
All in all the game is well worth it, and great fun. SEGA really can get it right when it wants to!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Valkyria Chronicles (US, 11/04/08)
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