Valkyria Chronicles User Review
The first thing I was confronted with was the story. I enjoy anime as it is so the quirky story was not strange to me in the least. Boy meets girl and crap happens. It's the start of countless animes. So I paid attention as the story started and was presented to me in a very unique fantasy story book setting. The next thing I knew, I was thrust into a battle situation. This is the part where I thought I'd start disliking the game. To my surprise, the mission was simple yet challenging. I think I even failed the first mission if I remember right. It's not that the game is hard, but it is most definitely a game that makes you think. Next thing I knew I had been playing for four hours and didn't want to quit.
As the story goes, it turns out to be quite an emotional ride. You become... vested in the story. Friends join your cause as you progess and they bring added benefits as well as their own crutches. Each is one of the several character classes whether it be sniper, soldier, medic or heavy, but each character has their own perks and weaknesses making your choice of allies both strategic and at times painful. You see, I really like one character but he was not the best to have in grassy plains due to his allergies. Strategically I should have taken someone who thrives in open fields, but since I liked the look and sound of this friend, I couldn't leave him at the bunker. Therein lies the magic of VC. You will inevitably love certain characters and want to see them progress and become the warriors you know they can be. In krept the "once dead always dead" danger of the battles found in Fire Emblem, and I was hooked.
As with any strategy game, it will either succeed or fail based on how the battles are setup. A low difficulty and simplistic gameplay would be the deathnell of a strategy game. In this regard, VC really shines as a game made for you to really think about every step you take. The situations you are thrust into are interesting, challenging and most importantly, fun. There's no cheating AI here. There's no unfair difficulty. When your friend gets killed on the battlefield it's because you were sloppy or had to make a tough decision. It really is quite gripping and at times you will find yourself staring intently at the TV sweating away as you contemplate the next move.
You see, whenever you move your characters on the battlefield, the enemy can fire away at you in a way that makes the 'opportunity fire' of games like X-Com seem like chields play. Worse yet, you never know where the enemy might be hiding. They'll pop up out of tall grass, they'll hide in alleyways and on rooftops among other places. The nice part of course is that you can do it back to them and in many instances you can dominate the map and clear out the enemy in ways that make you feel like a strategic genius.
The graphics are a real treat. Not only are they beautiful with vibrant colors and wonderfully animated, they are unique to VC. They draw you in the same manner that games like Pokemon (DS) or Super Mario Galaxy do but in sweet HD. For a strategy game, SEGA has really gone above and beyond what you would normally expect.
Even better than the graphics are the sounds. From the start of the game, the crack of your rifle fire is loud and realistic immersing you even further into the battles. The voice acting is of note as well. The cut scenes are not all in anime, much of it is from boxes with character heads chatting to you. This could be very boring if not voiced properly. Thankfully it is and you'll adore all the little comments made by your teammates because of it.
Controls are well done as well. Most strategy games started implementing a grid based landscapre after the success of Final Fantasy Tactics however VC has forgone that for a more frantic free roam mechanic. It works very well here and adds a level of strategy not present in the grid based style. Shooting, throwing, ducking, climbing and driving all work as expected and you never feel that your comrades are unwieldly. I have read minor complaints about the third person camera and how at times it is difficult to see where you want to shoot, but this is so rare and inconsequential that it barely needs mentioning.
The replay value here is very high. After having played through the campaign, you will find going through it a second or third time will be just as enjoyable if not more so. Leveling up, upgrading weapons and your vehicle along with choosing comrades is a delight every time. Takling missions in a different way from your first time can also be very rewarding not to mention the fun of going through the story again.
Overall, VC is a game that I'm very glad I decided to pick up. It's unique in so many ways and yet familiar enough to jump right in and be swept away by it's great story and challenging scenarios. If you've disregarded VC as a boring top down strategy game as I had, I beg you to reconsider. If you've had fun with any strategy game in the past you will enjoy VC in a very big way. At this time it has been out for a year and a half and is easily purchased for 20-30 dollars. At that price level you really can't be passing up on this gem.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.