Set in a fictitious continent reminiscent of the 1930s, Valkyria Chronicles depicts Europe divided in two and ruled by two super powers: the Empire and the Federation. The Empire has set its sights on invading a small neutral country called Gallia, situated in the middle of the two superpowers territories, in an attempt to secure invaluable natural resources. Within this struggle a hero named Welkin, and his fellow soldiers of the Federation's 7th Platoon, are fighting back against the invasion and the Empires attempts to unify the continent under its power. During the ensuing war the Federation discovers that the Empire possesses a secret weapon, known as the "Valkyria" - an ancient race with special powers thought to exist only in legends. With this new discovery the fate of the Federation's ability to turn the tide of the war, and the hope for a better future, hang in the balance. “CANVAS” graphics engine: A unique engine that produces breath taking images that look like watercolour paintings in motion. “BLiTZ” tactical battle system: Experience strategic manoeuvring of units combined with conventional RPG gameplay, all layered on top of the moment to moment action afforded by real-time controls as players command each squad member and tank in battle. Epic storyline: Players will immerse themselves in the epic struggle for freedom, as the fate of the world lies in the hands of Welkin and the members of the 7th platoon. Customisation: Over 100 customisable characters allow players to create a variety of platoons to suit each battle’s needs. Beautifully rendered battlefields: Players explore 30 different environments, using unique terrain features to gain advantages in battle.
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For positives, I really enjoyed the characters and the story! Alicia is probably my fave. She's so bubbly. I also loved Ms. Ellet. I really liked Isara as well. Welkin is pretty good too, I dig his hyperfixations on wildlife. All of the squadron characters are also pretty neat for their surface level personalities, and they all have pretty striking designs. There's even two I believe gay and lesbian characters (albeit the former is a walking stereotype, but I still love him), and even a possibly bi dude considering he had both the "fancies men" and "fancies women" traits. Neat rep if small. The villains also seemed pretty cool.
I don't have much to comment on story-wise since I didn't get far, but it seemed well-done for a wartime piece. It was absolutely not afraid to show you civilians getting brutally killed, and it was even willing to discuss the topic of discrimination against its fictional ethnicity the Darcsens, which I thought was neat. Some characters openly dislike Darcsens and you're obviously meant to think this is bad, but afaik they don't get "fixed" or anything. You can't just power of friendship away bigotry.
The gameplay is what ultimately made me shelve it. It is usually very fun. I think having to (rudimentally) aim your shots for an srpg is very cool, and in general most gameplay aspects are satisfying and rewarding. I'm just kinda not sure what the game wants from me difficulty-wise. It acts like you have to rush in, both to get a good rank and to stop the endless hoards of reinforcements that can appear at camps, but when I do so (even at a pretty reasonable pace) a lot of my units get just domed. It really just feels like there's not a lot I can do to change the outcome of battle, unless I have absolutely perfect map knowledge. And replaying is tedious because there's always a tactics exposition dump at the start of battle and a scene of Welkin entering his tank, both of which are unskippable. Also, killing the enemy elites or whatever they're called to remove the enemy's command icons feels pointless, because a lot of the time they just end their turns with like 5 remaining anyways. There are a few other things but it's hard to put them into words.
Still, it was pretty fun, and I did really like the characters, so maybe I'll come back to it. Maybe just not the game for me.
Gameplay is hella fun, but has quite a lot of problems like "scout rush" tactic and stupid ranking system.
Otherwise quite a good game, but a bit flawed.
Valkyria Chronicles was a game that broke through with the same commercial success as the rest of the Japanese games outside the country, that is, it barely made a dent. It wasn't until late 2014, with its release on Steam, that the game's positive reception from the press and word-of-mouth from players allowed sales and player numbers to soar to the top of the charts in its first few weeks. On top of that, the game was occasionally discounted to just under 8€/$, making it a bargain to pick up one of the best JRPGs of its generation at such a tempting price. Something I couldn't resist.
I knew nothing more about Valkyria Chronicles than that it was a tactical JRPG and that it had been well received. The first thing you see on the screen is an opening with a precious watercolour art style, contrasting with a musical theme and images that evoke feelings of both sadness and grandeur. This is not surprising, as the composer is none other than Mr Hitoshi Sakimoto, and the staff is made up of members of the Sakura Wars team. The story takes us to a fictional Europe where a nation, the Principality of Gallia (geographically located in Switzerland), is threatened by the invasion of the Empire, a combination reminiscent of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The reason for this military conflict is to occupy a strategic position and to exploit a combustible mineral called 'ragnite', whose energy can be used to light the streets or to develop technological armament. The invasion should have been a mere formality for the imperial troops, since the real confrontation on a grand scale was the war between the Empire and the Atlantic Federation. But as soon as they reach the capital, they encounter the unwavering faith and resistance of the Gallian people. We, as Welkin Gunther, will lead the 7th Squadron of the Militia through various missions and skirmishes until the imperial troops are driven out and Gallia is liberated.
The plot is pure cliché from start to finish. A war between two nations leads one of them to invade another's territory in search of a mineral that can make all the difference in the end. And these poor, innocent people are subjected to the oppression and destruction of their country and home. Later, the existence of an extinct tribe called the 'Valkyrur', which gives the game its title, is discovered. However, the story leading up to the final battle doesn't add anything new. In terms of gameplay, the management of units and weapons is very simple. What is Valkyria Chronicles good at? It avoids falling into the stereotypes that characterise this type of story and creates a tactical JRPG that is more dynamic and closer to XCOM than the chess-like strategic gameplay of its counterparts.
First and foremost, the game opts for anime-style designs that fit perfectly with the saga's unique artistic style. The characters are genuinely charismatic, avoiding the need to push archetypes to the limit and cheap fanservice, which in later entries becomes more disgusting, especially considering how this first instalment struggles to give coherence to all these elements. The general tone of the fable revolves around peace and the legacy we leave to future generations, making a clear anti-war statement. At times, however, this message comes across as too soft. Nevertheless, the story remains entertaining, and the ending is very satisfying. It is impossible not to wish the Welkin/Alice couple happiness forever.
Secondly, the 'BLiTZ' system is about bringing tactical role-playing into real time. We control a certain number of units that are free to move around the map. Once we select a unit, we are exposed to enemy counterattacks until we decide to launch an attack or take cover behind a pile of sandbags. Each unit belongs to a specific class and, in addition to carrying different weapons, has a specific purpose: scouts are highly mobile units, but very weak against artillery; shock troopers have limited mobility, but are very tough units; lancers are key units for destroying tanks, and snipers take out enemies from a distance. Welkin, aboard the Edelweiss tank, has the power to issue orders that increase the stats of our units. It feels great to move around the map. It's a shame that if you're clever or on your second run, you can take Alicia, give her some orders, take advantage of her invincibility, capture the enemy base, and get an S-rank on the third turn. Also, some maps are too unfair, with constant ambushes in situations where you are completely exposed. Worst of all is the way the game rewards you based on the number of turns it takes to complete the mission you are given. It's not important to defeat all the enemy units or avoid losing allies. The important thing is to get there quickly and straight.
Although the issues described are minor and do not significantly detract from the overall experience, they are the nuances that separate a good game from an excellent one. Valkyria Chronicles deserves recognition as one of the best JRPGs of its time. The saga has four parts. The sequels have been spread across portable and home systems. It is never too late to remember this heartwarming tale. A story carefully crafted during a turbulent time for Japanese video games.