Valkyria Chronicles Preview
PlayStation 3 owners have been waiting a good long time – it probably seems like an eternity – for a decent RPG to come their way, and while they will get Eternal Sonata this month and White Knight Chronicles in early 2009, we can’t forget about Sega’s promising offering. It’s called Valkyria Chronicles, which is a unique, pretty, strategy/RPG that should appeal to those who enjoy a great story and an engaging, even dynamic combat system. However, we did notice something artistically similar between Valkyria Chronicles and Bandai’s Eternal Sonata: the latter focuses on the last moments of composer Frederick Chopin’s life, and you actually spend time negotiating his dreams. In Sega’s title, you play through an adventure that resides almost entirely within a fictional book entitled, “On the Gallian Front,” by Irene Koller. Every facet of the gameplay and all the storyline cut-scenes fit snugly into the book like chapters, and we have to admit, that’s a very clever concept.
Essentially, Valkyria takes place in an alternate dimension of 1930s Europe, where a war between the Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation threatens a neutral province called Gallia. There’s this very precious material called ragnite, and apparently, there’s an abundant supply in Gallia, which unfortunately sits directly between the Alliance and the Federation. But even though it’s neutral, the province isn’t about to lay down and let the invaders tromp through their homes; they start to build up their military in an effort to repel the offending forces. You will follow along with the adventures of fresh recruits Welkin Gunther and Alicia Melchiott, and yes, all of this is the plot foundation of the aforementioned book. As with most games that have a strategy angle to the gameplay, there’s a war involved – doesn’t really surprise us – but we’ll be interested to see how this particular story plays out. Considering that Gallia is supposedly neutral, are they eventually going to side with either the Alliance or Federation? And what the heck is ragnite, anyway? Is it magical?
Speaking of gameplay, the foundation of the strategy lies in the individual and very distinct character classes, and the fact that there are more playable characters than usual. Furthermore, one has to consider more than just a unit’s inherent abilities; they also have unique traits that may become crucial during tricky combat situations. A few media sources have already gone hands-on with the game, including IGN, who gives the example of Catherine O’Hara, a Sniper who is also a “Pessimist.” Because she holds that label, if her HP drops below the halfway mark, her defense will fall. “Well, I’m getting nailed…guess I’m gonna die.” That must be her mindset, and something you have to realize if you bring her into the fray. Then again, her Sniping ability could be well worth her defeatist attitude, and as you can see, that’ll be a big part of the strategy for all available characters. On top of which, those colorful environments will dictate your decisions on the battlefield as well, so you’ll have to pay attention to multiple factors. We wouldn’t expect anything less from a strat/RPG title!
There aren’t a huge number of classes, but you can always recruit and train your team whenever you wish simply by hitting the Headquarters tab in the book. There, you can head out to the Training Field and using the experience you accumulated in battle, you can put your units to the test. They’ll come out of the experience stronger, faster, more educated. Heck, you can even upgrade equipment by visiting the Research & Development office, which is a very cool aspect. How come we can’t have a R&D feature in other games? It’s how new stuff comes into the limelight in the real world, isn’t it? Also, even though the game is deep, it won’t strip your life away due to insane time requirements, like Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice. Here, you actually level up classes rather than individuals. This way, even new units won’t have to start from Square One, which means you won’t have to spend hours upon hours training every single character on the fighting roster. But we imagine if you ignore certain classes for too long, they’re gonna be useless some time down the road…
Valkyria Chronicles is slated to release on November 11 in the U.S. and not surprisingly, Japanese gamers have had a chance to play it since April. Reviews from the Land of the Rising Sun have been solid, and we could definitely use a quality RPG for the PS3. And hey, if you want to pick up Eternal Sonata on October 21, you’ll have several weeks to work through that one before picking up Sega’s intriguing strat/RPG. You know you want both after all this waiting, role-playing fans. You know it.
10/7/2008 Ben Dutka