Review Context: I am a huge fan of strategy RPGs and loved the differences demonstrated in Valkyria Chronicles changing up the classical grid-based formula. i played the original and loved it, despite never truly finishing it. Valkyria Chronicles Remastered allows us to look at the game with a new pair of eyes, and I’m excited to finish it with potentially the definitive version of it.
Date of Playthrough: April 2016 – May 2016
Disclosure: This review is based off of a review copy.
Valkyria Chronicles, originally on the PS3, was an innovative title for the console and strategy RPGs of the like. Among all the PlayStation exclusives such as Uncharted, Little Big Planet, and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Valkyria Chronicles stood out as something unique and granted more freedom to a formula that often streamlined combat. A strategy RPG that fashioned itself as a fictional World War II with all the issues that were apparent of the time was something new and exciting. Throughout the years it has spawned sequels and has remained a strong staple of the Playstations of old. Over the years though, Valkyria Chronicles has faded into the background. That is until this current remaster on the PlayStation 4 which is attempting to revive the interest of this classic to the modern generation of gamers. This allows us to look at Valkyria Chronicles with a new set of eyes to see if it still stands up with its new technological advancements. Will it prove to still be a timeless classic in the next era of game consoles, or will the technological advancements merely try to polish something that should have stayed in the previous generation?
The nation of Gallia, which has remained neutral for a long time has been invaded by the military giant known as the Empire. You play as Welkin Gunther on his quest to free his country from the iron grip of the crowned prince Maximilian. The story is quite referential to World War II, often showing the same types of issues primarily dealing with the racism towards the Darcsens. Acceptance, war, death, and racism are all focuses of this game and it handles itself quite swimmingly. It tailors together a tale that, while is held back by the voice acting at times, is evocative to its core and one that focuses on the importance of equality. Each character, no matter how small a part, has an understandable point of view and reason for who they are and what their dreams are. By the end you can see that this war was; just a by-product of corrupt politics forcing each person’s hand to do what is necessary for their country or beliefs. It has side chapters that can be bought within the game that delve further into the main cast, often expanding on aspects of them that are only mentioned in passing at times. While some are goofy, like the beach side chapter, others hold poignant and fulfilling character moments that often follow the events of the previous chapter, like Rosie’s side chapter.
Each character has particular traits that affect both their personality and how they function within the game. These “potentials” shape who they are and how they meld together in both a story context and through its gameplay. These potentials have certain triggers that relate to the specific personality trait. If someone was a racist towards Darcsens their stats lower when next to one, or if someone is allergic to pollen they would have their health lowered when standing in flowers. This makes the drafting of your squad from the pool of units a complex procedure as you try to pick specific people who meld well together or for the given battle scenario. It goes from a love of nature, to sexual preference, to racism, to solidarity, to sexism, and the more you discover about each character with said potentials the more the game gives you backstory. It really sells the whole family aspect embedded into the story as often it is referenced that Squad 7 is an irreplaceable family with strong bonds that eventually transcend race. To seamlessly meld a crucial gameplay aspect as well as a storytelling and characterization aspect just shows how focused the game is on fleshing out this world and cast.
The missions have a variety of terrains that you need to maneuver through, whether it be the desert, plains, refineries, forest, or the city. Each of these settings have the enemies utilize the surroundings to their benefits as they are set up in scenarios that test your strategic prowess and how far you are willing to go to make it further. The many gimmicks of each battlefield make for excellent challenges, much like trench warfare, ambushes, narrow fighting quarters, and the enemy having armored superiority. The map for each battle shows the topography and enemies whenever they enter your line of sight creating a living map with moving chess pieces. All of these elements meld together with its freedom of not being held back by grid based movement typically seen in the genre. While still turn-based, Valkyria Chronicles allows each unit to be fully maneuverable on the battlefield, so long as their AP bar still has some points left in it.
Allowing full reign over the varied terrain with brush and tall grass allowing for guerilla warfare truly creates at times a uniquely tense situation as you brace the unknown around every corner. You don’t notice the enemy until they enter your line of sight, which is imperative due to the real-time counter firing both sides can do whilst the other moves. If you enter the sight and range of attack of an opposing unit, you or the computer will be fired upon whether you are moving or not. This creates a constant engagement in the action at the forefront of each battle, and your eyes don’t want to be removed from the screen from some of the tense situations you will find yourself in. One of the problems that will detract from the intensity is that the AI at times is extremely predictable and exploitable. Unless in a large map with a lot of enemy units that can attack, the AI will at times not use all of its moves, and if you think it is stacking up the moves to use in a later turn you are sorely mistaken. Some units go on distinct paths and run in front of your tank to which you promptly blow them away. Particular missions with specific enemy bosses will have intelligent AI that will pose a danger if you are not careful, but more often than not they will follow the same course of action. Even though they may be exploitable it doesn’t mean that they don’t hurt when they retaliate, so it still retains the factor of caution in every mission despite this flaw, especially since your units can permanently die if not saved in three turns of being incapacitated by the health going to zero. This game understands that despite its flaw with the AI, there are so many more elements that up that ante to overcome that weakness.
This is a remastered version of the original, and it really does show with the noticeably faster load times and smoother models during battle. There is a certain brightness to the visuals that make the color palette pop more than the original, despite keeping the same water colored and storybook appearance. The 3D models are still better than a lot of models today, with the exception of the mouths still looking awkward in moments, especially when orders are used. The cinematics are breathtaking with its unique water colored style, and it could easily have been made in this generation of games. The voice acting on the other hand is not something that was always a hit. Main characters like Welkin, Alicia, and Selvaria are great and certainly manage to show a breath of emotion needed to carry their respective scenes. Though there was the occasional voice, like Geld in one of the side chapters, which feels phoned in as if they didn’t care to give a great performance no matter how small the role may be. That being said, the dialogue is just as much of a mixed bag where it feels like some lines are far too weak to emote well or are clichéd. That being said, the music is still to this day a great soundtrack, to which after the game you unlock music mode where you can listen to it over reading the many personnel, glossary, and weapon files you accumulated throughout the game.
Extra missions, which used to be DLC, give you both great challenges with expert skirmish difficulties which are broken for their difficulty. The extra missions give a nice insight to some characters not delved into as much during the series, or just for a goofy fun time without the stress of caring about each unit. These little features added in definitely makes this the definitive version of Valkyria Chronicles to play. It is still one of the best games in the Playstation library, with its innovative gameplay interwoven into its narrative, themes, world, and cast. It created fantastic battlefields with memorable missions, often resorting on intense pinch scenarios that pushed your strategic mind, especially with those expert skirmishes. It stands on it’s own merits even to this day and this remaster gives this gem off to the next generation of gamers to enjoy a classic in the best and most efficient way possible. Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is breathtaking even by today’s standards, still remaining to this day a unique innovation to the strategy RPG genre worth playing time and time again.
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