Valkyria Chronicles User Review
Wherever I read about this game, it said that this was like an RPG, but at the same time shooter, and also a strategy game a la starcraft. When trying to get all those genres togheter, well, what I tought was that it'd be an interesting experiment, but almost imposible to do, and in the end, it fail horrendously. But yet, here I am, compelled by this extremely awesome game, trying to get most of what it is in one review.
The plot is really simple, there is a war for a mineral called Ragnite between two forces, the Empire and the Federation, and these is less and less of this mineral every day, so war collapses. But there is this little country in the middle of these two superpowers, and that country is Gallia, and Gallia is neutral inn the conflict. When imperial forces start to invade Gallia, that is where you and Swaud 7 git into the action. But what makes this game excelent is the extremely well done cast of characters. These are some of the best developed characters I ever saw. And the story is simple, but very engaging, and something that is really important to me is that you care about your troops. When someone is hurt, you do everything you can to save him/her.
When you start, you'll see a book, and that is how this game will progress. By watching this, you can tell that story is something really important in this game. So the progress is very simple. You have the book, and this book is divided into chapters. And in the chapters you can choose to watch a cutscene or get into battle. Also you have plenty of options that you'll unlock by progressing the game, like your comand center, the place where you train your troops, choose your troops , upgrade your weapons, upgrade your tanks, choose your equipment, and also read the newspaper (that is, how people see the conflicts between Gallia and the Empire). Also you got other options like a gallery, where you can see and read the biography of every character in the game. Also, you have the option of skirmishes. This is like the grinding mode, because you fight here only because of the experience (you cannot replay story battles). Also you have a place where you have your medals and awards for battle. Some of them are really tipical, like "win this battle", or "kill x number of enemies", but you cannot really know that because they are hidden (like hidden trophies), so you'll know what they are for when you unlock them. And also you have the records of your battles and the soundtrack. All of these options, are in the book.
When in the comand center, you have plenty of troops to choose from, and each of them have special abilities, like being stronger when enemies are closer, or being more accurate when there are women near, etc. and you can choose 20 troops. There are five classes of troops: scouts, they use rifles, they don't do much damage, but have a long range, and they can move more around the battlefield than any other troops. The shocktroopers, they use machineguns, and are really powerful in close combat. The lancers, these guys are the antitank power, and the are vulnerable to close combat. The snipers, who have a really long range, but have the lowest HP. The engineers, who replentish, your ammo, repair barricades, repair the tank, disarm mines, etc.
At the very begginig of the game (like only the first 2 chapters), the pace is slow, mostly because you are introduced to the world and the characters and the basic plot, so you have many cutscenes and few gameplay. It is somehow like FF7 or Okami, where the beggining and the introduction are really long. But then everything becomes better. You'll still have the same quantity of cutscenes, but the battles will be WAY longer. (I remember battles that took me like 2 hours, compared to the really short 15-minute battles of the beggining).
The gameplay. This is the best of the game. When you enter a battle, you can arrange your troops to spots that are in you base camp. You usually can select only 8 of the 20 troops you have, and even though that may seem a little few troops, 8 and a tank are plenty for you to use. When you are ready for the battle, you start by having a tactical view of the battlefield (like a chess board), and you can see the enemy troops that your troops can see from the basecamp. Here, you have these medals, that count as the number of actions per turn that you can do. At the beggining you have like 5, so that means that you can move five troops in your turn, or you can move a troop 5 times, or you can move 2 troops 2 and 3 times respectevely. When you choose a troop, you have full control of it, and it is mostly like a 3rd person shooter. you have a bar that depletes with every step you do, so that means that your movement on the battlefield is limited. When moving around, you cannot shoot, but you enemies can. But when you are ready to fire, you press the button to aim, and everything stops, so you can aim carefully to your enemy. If you shot and you didn't kill your target, your taget will counterattack, so be careful. After that, you get the option to still move around (if you are able to), or finish your turn. Notice that you can only attack once per turn. If you finish your turn, enemies will stop attacking you, and you'll be back to the chessboard-like screen. When you have no more medals to give order, it's the enemy's turn. Here yhe enemy will move around the map, and you can do nothing here but watch. When the enemy's turn ends, it's your turn again, but when your enemy's turn ends, your troops will recover some HP, but tanks won't (this works also on the enemy). Also, you can save whenever you want in battle, so if you messed up, you can return to a point where you can do it again. This is really helpful, since some battles, as I said earlier, can last like 2 or so hours.
This is the basic gameplay, but when you are in the battlefield, you'll find ragnite rigs, stairs, watchtowers, barricades, hidden enemies, etc. Also, when in the battlefield, you can hide from enemies by crawling on the grass (tall grass), and also, if you are in cover behind a barricade, headshots do normal damage, not critical. Unfortunately, this works also for the enemy. Also, around the battlefield there are camps, but they are from the enemy, so in order to get them, you must clear the area of enemies and reclaim it. From camps you can call units (if you have a spot free, there are only 8, remember) but it'll take them one full turn to appear, also you can retreat units, your troops recover more HP and the tanks also recovers some HP at the end of the turn.
When some of your troops' HP fall to zero, you must save him/her within 3 full turns, or he/she will die permanently and you won't be able to use him/her again until New Game+.
The graphics are beautiful. They look like a canvas and are cell-shaded. The anime style is perfect for this game, and the expresions of their faces, everything is great. There are some tipical glitches, but nothing that really affects gameplay or makes it look less beautiful.
Hitoshi Sakimoto, the composer, the genius. You may know him, for he did the not-so-good FFXII soundtrack. He worked overshadowed by Uematsu, so it didn't go quite well. But Valkyria Chronicles is the other side of the coin. Here his work is beautiful, every tune fits perfectly, and the battle themes are really warlike-feel. Most of the time in this game you'll spend on the battlefield, and the music does it's work perfectly. It fits the situation, and there are plenty of tunes, so you won't be hearing one for every battle, you'll get many, and all of them with their style. Also, the music on the cutscenes are great, and the main theme, one which has like a gazillion versions for every mood in the cutscenes, never gets old and it is very catchy. Hearing to it's beautiful tunes is so relaxing and also very nostalgic. It's like hearing Aerith's theme, as good as that. Also you have an option for Japanese voices, but I must say that the English voice acting is really, really good, and the actors keep the mood of the cutscenes. They fit perfectly. But also you have the voices of your troops, hich some of them are really bland or annoying, but you have other trooper that have good voice acting (Nolan North is an example).
This is my favorite game on the PS3, and I haven't had such fun, and had these feelings since playing FFX. Really, and I put this game over Uncharted 2 or Killzone 2 or any other game. This is a beautiful gem and an excellent masterpiece that anyone should miss.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.