VALKYRIA CHRONICLES REVIEW
It brings me some joy to do a review of this game as it has been a long time coming and people need to be playing this on their PS3s! Read on to see why.
Strategy RPG games are a difficult genre. Although thoroughly sound games that normally provide hours of enjoymnet and reward the smart player, they can join JRPGs in being a genre that sticks to its guns, only changing if and when the most popular franchises in the genre do not make those developers a profit anymore.
It is a pleasure therefore to write about a game such as Vlakyria Chronicles. A game that has its roots in strategy games but also has elements of 3rd-person shooter about it, together with large amounts of heart, personality and an individual style to set it apart from all other strategy RPGs, Valkyria Chronicles is the game that sets to bring the strategy RPG genre forward like it should have been done years ago.
The game has you play as pleasant anthropologist Welkin Gunther, a university graduate who returns to his hometown. There he meets his adopted sister Isara and one of the other main protagonists in the game, town baker Alicia Melchiott. It is from here that the game gets underway as the town is laid to seige by the Imperial Empire, an invading force from the east who are trying to take towns and land away from the Europa Union and harness the valuable resource dragonite. You are taken through the introductory stages so you can become familiar with the controls and eases you into the story as the difficulty cyrve kicks in and staying alive becomes more of a challenge.
The reason why VC sets itself apart from its counterparts is that rather than have the characters move a set amount of spaces then attack the opponent, the chosen character has a bar that shows how far they can move. From here the player can move the character freely for the amount there is in the bar. This is consumed as the player moves around so although it not allow for infinite movement it does allow for an increased level of flexibility compared with other strategy titles. When you locate your target you can press the R1 button, where the camera goes into an over-the-shoulder mode that allows you to focus on a particular enemy and shoot, burn or blow them up with the weapons available in your arsenal.
Although this may seem like a far too simple way to dispatch the enemy it, like any good strategy game, is not as simple as it seems. Then running around the battleground your character runs the risk of being gunned down in the crossfire of your enemies, making the gameply a risk-reward situation where you can get in and attacak your opponent in their weak spot but risk being killed yourself. That plus getting behind cover in the hope that hidden snipers don't take you down makes for exciting gameplay in a genre that is normally more accustomed to static gameplay and mere trading of HP/MP.
Add to this that you can have allies by your side give you assisting covering fire when taking on the opponent and it makes for a very exciting scenario where you try to get the most out of your units by utilising these elements of the gameplay and you will soon find new levels of depth and strategy in VC.
Another major element of the gameplay is that of Potentials, abilities that your characters have in certain situations when on the battlefield. These are many, various and ususally contribute to your characters' attricutes (although some of them can be detrimental too). They certainly add variety to the battles you partake in and allow you to utilise certain strategies you would not be able normally use with certain characters. That plus the relationships that characters have between each other (i.e they get along with certain characters, not so much with others) and you have a crew that are more than just a head count in your squad, building your own select squad as there are more than enough characters to choose from in the roster available.
Graphically it goes without saying that VC stands out on its own. Done in a cell-shaded meets watercolour style (SEGA's self-named CANVAS engine) mixed with an anime slant means VC finds itself a nice place among other great-looking games. The style is consistent and the world well realised, a pleasure to play as you work through its battles. The story plays out fairly well and without any major spoilers the themese of racial hatred, domination, resistance and triumpth are well portrayed throughout the main tale, interesting enough for anyone to follow with enough twists and turns to add to the already decent gamepllay.
Add to this the skirmishes which are battles you can play repeatedly to gain experience and money, side missions that are character-focused, new units you can get through meeting certain conditions, decent DLC and VC is a very worthy entry in the strategy RPG genre. It brings enough new ideas to the table, stylistically stands on its own and looks great as far as next-gen games go (and the soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakamoto (who did Final Fantasy Xiii's music) deserves a mention) and you have a game that will satisfy strategy RPG fans and general gamers alike. Valkyria Chronicles comes with highest recommendation.