• Review: Valkyria Chronicles



    Valkyria Chronicles

    Developer: Sega WOW
    Publisher: Sega
    Platform: PlayStation 3
    Genre: Tactical role-playing, Third-person shooter, Strategy
    Rating: Teen
    Release Date: November 4, 2008

    From Sega comes a new take on strategic combat, Valkyria Chronicles, exclusive to Sonyís PlayStation 3. Valkyria Chronicles takes warfare to a new level, and is unlike any other tactical video game ever seen. It features memorable characters, detailed gameplay, and a unique story. Join the Gallian army in this great game.

    Presentation

    Valkyria Chronicles takes place in Europa, which mimics Europe in a way. It mostly resembles the times of the 1940s. The nation of Gallia, which is known for its abundance of Ragnite, a precious source of energy similar to that of oil, finds itself the victim of an attack by the East Europan Imperial Alliance. Gallia, a nation belonging to the Atlantic Federation in the West of the continent, is trying to stave off bringing the Second Europan War from reaching their borders. The East Europan Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation both depend on Ragnite, and because of the growing shortage of the mineral the nations go to war.

    The East Europan Imperial Alliance has a vast army, one that could decimate the Atlantic Federation. Knowing this, the Empire decides to invade further into the lands of Atlantic Republic. Eventually the Empireís army makes its way to the small Gallian town called Bruhl, waiting to unleash their attack.

    Unbeknownst to Bruhl native, Welkin Gunther, a nature enthusiast, war is about to come to his townís doorstep. Welkin has been away from Bruhl for a time, studying and exploring the environment and recording his discoveries in a sketch diary. Although heís heard of the conflicts plaguing the two nations at war, he isnít aware that Bruhl has been placed under high security. Welkin stops to make another entry in his diary, but is soon interrupted by a curious young girl.

    Alicia Melchiott, the townís watch captain, suspects Welkin of being an Imperial spy and has her posse taken him into custody. Welkin tries to explain the misunderstanding but Alicia believes one canít be too careful given the times. Skimming through Welkinís sketch diary, Alicia seems more impressed and less suspicious. Still, she gives in to her intuition anyway. Soon enough, Welkinís sister, Isara comes to lend a hand for her brother. After sorting out the misunderstanding Alicia apologizes and lets Welkin go. Itís let slip that Welkin is indeed the son of General Belgen Gunther, a hero of the Atlantic Federation. Alicia, in the armed forces herself, canít help but be more surprised who Welkin really is. Their conversation is short lived though, as the group is suddenly attacked by a group of Imperial scouts. Welkin has no choice but to throw himself into battle, with Aliciaís help of course.

    After defeating the enemy scouts, Alicia and Welkin admit that the fires of the Empire continue to burn towards Bruhl. Although they were victorious in this fight, the true battle has yet to be fought. The new pair of friends decides to take up arms and decide to assist the Gallian militia in hopes of defeating the Empire once and for all.

    It wonít be easy for the Gallian forces, and rumors soon spread that the Imperials have a weapon, not in the form of machinery, but in the form of a human. They are called the Valkyria, beings of immense power unlike any both nations have seen. Whatís disturbing the Gallian militia the most is not the conflict that heads their way, but that the Valkyria is not on their side but on their enemies. The Valkyria that joins the ranks of the Imperial army is called Selvaria. Selvaria, stern, determined, proud, and beautiful, is gifted with superhuman power and is determined to see that the Gallian forces fail.

    All is not lost. The Gallian militia is bound to friendship, and so long as there are friends willing to fight together so to will they have a chance for freedom. So begins the Second Europan War, and the story of Valkyria Chronicles.

    Graphics

    Valkyria Chronicles features Segaís CANVAS graphics engine. The game takes on the appearance of a traditional Japanese anime, but through the CANVAS engine, characters and environments of a traditional anime are transformed into a beautiful water color painting like style. Itís as if youíve gone to an art museum and the water color paintings have come to life. It compliments the era established in the game, similar to that of the 40s, in terms of character models, buildings, vehicles, weapons, surrounding environments; itís all set to match. Itís a truly unique approach to graphical story telling in a game.

    The game, in many instances, is presented in cut scenes that show off the CANVAS engineís power. It was a visual pleasure to see throughout the game and made me eager to see how the story unfolds by watching closely. Itís a beautiful feature of the game, and is one of Valkyria Chroniclesí best strong suits.

    Sound/Music

    Valkyria Chronicles features the option of listening to the game in Japanese audio with English subtitles, or by using the default English audio settings. Either way, the story is engaging and the characters drive the story forward. Interactions between the main characters such as Alicia and Welkin are a pleasure to hear as the two have colorful conversations with each other. Given that the game takes place during a war, you can see how struggle after struggle can tear at a person, yet the Gallian forces persevere through the conflict. Youíll find yourself feeling for the good guys as the game progresses.

    Valkyria Chronicles features a beautiful soundtrack, with hours and hours of original material written by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who you may know for composing video game music such as the Final Fantasy XII score. The music accompanying the game is lighthearted and humorous when it needs to be, and emotional and intense during combat. With gameplay and visuals to support it, the inclusion of music is a match made in heaven.

    Gameplay

    Firstly, the game acts out similar to that of a story, meaning the events and ďlevelsĒ are displayed in the theme of a book. Each page of this book contains the cut scenes of the game, and as you progress further into the game (book) you can always turn back the pages and play missions that youíve conquered before.

    Gameplay for Valkyria Chronicles is a culmination of a variety of genres thrust together in one. You have hints of an RPG, third-person shooter, and using your head for the best strategy. Thinking tactically is the best solution for playing this game. Your choices matter and youíll have to choose your options wisely if you hope to stand a chance in battle.

    Before each battle, Welkin, Alicia, or other characters will explain the upcoming mission, which is exciting as it prepares you on what to expect for that match. Be attentive here. After the mission briefing, youíre squadron will be deployed to the field of battle. Before deploying you have the freedom of choosing who you want to join your squad of soldiers. You can choose from a variety of soldiers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Scouts can move quickly through the battlefield, armed with a standard rifle. Though they move quickly, they sacrifice high HP and can be taken out easier than other soldier types. Shocktroopers are well rounded soldiers, armed with machine guns and a moderate rate of mobility. Snipers obviously are great at a distance though are not practical with close range enemies. Keep them away from the action so that theyíll prove more useful. Lancers carry cannons that look like spears. Though they move slower than all other soldier types, they make up for it with greater HP and can take out enemy tanks with their spear cannons. Finally, engineers can support soldiers by dropping ammo, removing landmines, fix sandbags, and repair tanks. It should also be noted that each soldier, no matter what class they come from, is a completely original character. There are dozens of faces to choose from, which was a great feature and itís a definite improvement over the same old looking characters that other games exhaust. This encourages you to not only come up with an ideal squad, but makes it personal to pick soldiers youíd find appealing too.

    When gameplay shifts into the battle sequence youíll first be presented with a map of the area youíll be fighting in. Battle is broken into two phases. One phase involves your team issuing out commands and attacking the enemy, and the second phase occurs when itís the Imperials turn to do the same. Youíll begin the phase with Command Points, which, when used, allow you to move a soldier or tank where you wish. Moving a tank or soldier will display a meter and with each step the meter will deplete. You can only move your soldiers so far before the meter depletes completely, so keep an eye out for suitable cover when itís the enemy teamís turn. Just because it acts as a third-person shooter, doesnít mean you can run freely, eventually you have to stop. Think of it like a game of chess, because for each move you make, your enemy will have a turn of their own.

    Each class of soldier will have their own respective icon, that way moving them and tracking them on the battlefield is an easy task. When youíve found a suitable area after running, you donít have to end that command sequence there. Meaning, you can choose to open fire on your enemies if you want to. Riflemen should aim for the head, by pressing R1, for a quick kill. After taking aim, your soldier will fire a sequence of shots, depending on your accuracy either your shots will hits or occasionally miss. Remember, this is where tactical gameplay matters. After your attack sequence, and if you still have a partially full meter for movement, try taking cover so that the enemy team has a harder time inflicting damage on you. Bear in mind, during your teamís phase your soldiers can move freely, but the enemy team canít move. The same goes during the enemy phase. Enemy soldiers can move, but your soldiers will remain still until your next phase comes.

    Try your best to ensure victory. Some battles arenít as easy as others and will require some good brainstorming and a good use of soldier classes. The game doesnít feature and ďundoĒ option, so what happens will happen. Losing a battle will mean youíll have to start the sequence all over again. It can be frustrating when things donít go your way, but it can work if you manage to play correctly.

    While not on the battlefield, you can explore the barracks and base of the Gallian forces. This gives you the opportunity to improve the stats of your soldiers by visiting the training field. Money earned during gameplay can be spent to purchase new weapons for your soldiers and also to upgrade the specifications of your tank, the Edelweiss.

    Lasting Appeal

    The outcome of a battle can happen in a multitude of ways. That being said, this gameís replay value lies in the heart of battle, literally. There are so many ways to go about bringing the victory home for the Gallian forces. The game is certainly challenging when it needs to be. Intuition is your greatest ally, especially when you have to avoid getting your squad out of stick situations. How you do it is entirely up to you, and you may find that other strategies work better than others. For this reason it would be best to take risks, if you like to do that. It may cost you, but I found that trial and error is what helped me throughout the course of the game. Itís more than a complicated game of paper, scissors, rock, so I appreciate that the game allows me to take warfare into my own terms.

    Other reasons to replay the game include the downloadable content for the game. For instance, there is a downloadable content that features gameplay through the role of the Imperial military, Selvaria to be exact. This is something to be appreciated about Valkyria Chronicles, not the downloadable content exactly, but its way of story telling. Just because two nations are at war with each other, does that really mean that the soldiers and other individuals are bad people? Youíd be surprised what another perspective shows you.

    Conclusion

    Valkyria Chronicles is a nice long game, perfect for those who enjoy lengthy games. The game features memorable characters, and the trials and tribulations they go through are yours to share. The story presented in the game is an engaging one, and it even won me over with its use of mythology through the powerful beings referred to as the Valkyria. The gameplay is a fresh perspective on strategy games and it works solidly with its incorporation of a variety of gaming elements combined into one impressive package. Valkyria Chronicles is a game Iíd recommend to fans of strategy games firstly, though I think anyone could enjoy it after getting to know the features of the game. If you can find it, please add this PlayStation 3 exclusive to your collection.

    Score
    9/10


    Comments 3 Comments
    1. mannyichi's Avatar
      mannyichi -
      I really enjoyed this game, and loved the water-color effect. The character design was really impressive. And I Sylveria :P
    1. illdie's Avatar
      illdie -
      My roommate has this game but looks like he had a different cover. Cool game though :7
    1. Jason Arriola's Avatar
      Jason Arriola -
      Thanks for your comments I agree that it's a really great game. Selvaria is a favorite of mine too. It's totally worth picking up.
  • Review Scale

    Score 10- Flawless Victory: A score not handed out to every game. Games earning this rare score sit at the very pinnacle of excellence. These games act as the examples for which all others should be measured with. They are instant classics from the beginning. These games not only deliver what was expected of it, but also exceed the player’s expectations. The game’s features are innovative and original. No game is without its absolute flaws, but the finished product you bring home surpasses the anticipation the game has formed. A day one buy is a must. The game you hold in your hands with this score is a video game jackpot.

    Score 9 - 9.5- Outstanding: Games earning scores such as these absolutely must be played. Games that achieve this high ranking do so because they define the genres that they are in. Flaws are few and barely noticeable. Features seen in the game have been renovated to provide something new and fresh. The story, gameplay, graphics, and lasting appeal are all fantastic and is reason enough to bring the game home and to enjoy with family and friends. Every penny you spend on the game is so worth it.

    Score 8 - 8.5- Great: Any flaw the game may possess is overshadowed by its fun factor. These games would be great for gamers to play. These great games appeal to gamers more and more outside its normal player base because of what it brings to the table.

    Score 7 - 7.5- Good: Flaws do exist in these games, but the positive features of the game can counterbalance the flaws. Additionally, players who are predisposed to liking a game of a particular series or genre with this score should enjoy the game. These are in no way bad games, and much fun can be had with them. An overall good game is worth taking a look at, whether you are willing to buy the game or rent it first. That or you can also wait for the game to reach a good price.

    Score 6 - 6.5- Decent: Games falling into this category may suffer from numerous flaws (for example, graphics or gameplay), but are still worth playing. Granted, the player should be aware that a game with these scores may not guarantee them full satisfaction.

    Score 5 - 5.5- Average: An average game is one in which a game’s features are neither good nor completely terrible. Instead, the finished product is manageable. Little has been done to hold the player’s interest. If anything, rent this game before you consider buying it so that you can at least get a feel for the game’s overall experience.

    Score 4 - 4.5- Poor: Games falling into this category may only keep gamers entertained for a short while. While the game may seem enjoyable for moments at a time, it can quickly grow old and may never be revisited again. The game’s overall function is lacking in quality and may not hold the player’s attention for long. The game leaves little or nothing else to return back to.

    Score 3 - 3.5- Bad: If any positive qualities about a game in this category exist, it is not enough to redeem the game for its shortcomings. Sure you may find yourself playing it, but for how long? You will wind up not giving the game a second glance.

    Score 2 - 2.5- Horrible: Games such as these may not be totally unplayable, they nearly are. Additionally, they may lack, or greatly suffer in, the fundamental functionality of the software as a whole. The game simply does not come close to meeting industry standards at the time of its release.

    Score 1 - 1.5- Appalling: Gamers should avoid this game at all costs. The game was clearly not ready to make its way to store shelves in its status. Save your money and find something else. See it in the bargain bin? No! Stay away! Keep moving and look for something else.