In an age of hyper realistic graphics I wonder how well a developer could tell a truly gripping tale that explores the brutality and savagery of the Second World War. Then I remember that against the tide of photo-perfect historical recreations, there was one game that decided to buck the trend with its beautiful story book style that actually ended up telling a much more engrossing story than any Call of Duty ever did. Valkiria Chronicles was a beautiful game at release eight years ago, it was a gripping experience with unique gameplay and it gave gamers a daring story told me charming characters. It was truly a once in a generation game, and now it has returned for a new generation of consoles and it is every bit as fantastic as it was on the PlayStation 3.
Valkiria Chronicles is a Strategy JRPG from SEGA that involves squad based combat with specialised units and a certain amount of moves you the player is allowed to make per turn. If you think that sounds similar to something like XCOM or Disgaea then you would be correct. The game shares a lot of genre staples like permanent death (non-story characters) and statistical checks on things like accuracy and damage output, but the devil is in the detail and Valkiria Chronicles is far from typical. The most obvious thing that differentiates this game from its peers is its blend of real time and turn based elements. In between turns the player gets a bird’s eye view of the battle field, their units and the enemy units that are in sight, but as soon as you assume direct control of any unit, you’ll enter into a third person camera and move the character and take aim manually. Its a simple change that adds a lot of urgency to the otherwise methodical standard in these games. It also goes a long way towards mitigating the weirdness accuracy always presents in strategy games. If you’ve ever played XCOM then you’ll have inevitably have run into a situation where your soldier has their gun literally touching an enemy combatants face and yet your percentage to hit will still be under 50%. In Valkiria Chronicles this awkwardness never really presents itself because even though aiming is still governed by statistics, you have to manually aim your shots. The way the game presents your chance to hit is what changes the situation as each weapon has an aiming reticle of varying sizes and you have a chance to hit anywhere within that circle. So get a soldiers boy completely inside that reticle and you’ll hit every shot, other wise you’ll know exactly what chance you have to hit.
Asides from the simple yet elegant refinement this game brings to the strategy game table, Valkiria Chronicles is also a fantastical well designed S-JRPG. The level design is wonderfully complex allowing for a multitude of strategies to be employed depending on player preference and the encounters you are faced with will demand that you develop many strategies on the fly. Thankfully the units you are given give you a lot of flexibility in this regard. There are several different classes to take advantage of, from the slow but offensively devastating Lancers, to the fragile and deadly accurate Snipers. Honestly, the classes are pretty standard and you won’t find any surprises here if you’ve played… literally any military based game. What makes the units you get during your play through so interesting is the unique buffs and de-buffs they have depending on their personality. For example you might have one unit that loves to impress the ladies, so whenever they’re close to a female troop, that unit will perform better to show off. On the other hand you may have a soldier that is so maddened by racial hatred that just being near a filthy Darcsen will cause their accuracy to decline.
Which brings me on neatly on to the story of Valkiria Chronicles which is a not so subtle parable for World War 2. The simple neutral nation of Gallia is dragged into a war they never wanted and must face up against the evil (Nazi) Empire who believe themselves to be descendants of an ancient super (Aryan) race who must purify the world of the sub-human Darcsen (The Jews). It’s a very blatantly inspired by true historical events, but the story it tells is a shocking mature and touching one that really explores aspects of race relation and even touches on the horrific nature of concentration camps. A strong plot like this is all fine and dandy, but it would be nothing without well developed and engaging characters which this game has in spades. It doesn’t start strong, with everyone of the main cast fitting nicely into their anime stereotypes: The naive but devoted pretty boy, the STRICLY PLUTONIC but not blood related sister and the tough no nonsense family oriented girl. But after a while everyone starts to really charm you into believing in their motivations and actions and while they always feel like they fit into their archetypes, they feel like people you can related to and care about. Plus Vyse from Skies of Arcadia is in this game… and Skies of Arcadia is amazing!
I haven’t even touched on the remastering this game has received and honestly, that’s because there isn’t much to say. The long and short of it is… this game is gorgeous, it was then and it is now. The resolution upscaling is great, but the improvement isn’t as pronounced as it would be in other games and even though 60FPS is nice, it doesn’t really factor into this games style. To be honest it does everything you’d expect, the only problem is that this is ONLY 1080p/60 when the PC version released years earlier is already capable of much more than that.
But that being said, very few people have access to a PC that could do that, so if the PS4 is the only option, then you will not be disappointed here. Which brings me on to the final question: Is this remaster worth it? YES! Oh my god yes! Valkiria Chronicles criminally under performed the first time around so for the love of god BUY THIS GAME! Getting to play the rest of the franchise has been pretty impossible since it did not sell so well in the west, show interest not and pick up this game. The hard truth is that this is not the best version of this game, so if you have a capable PC then I cannot recommend this edition over the one available on steam. But if you’re a crazy person like me then you’ll probably end up buying this game regardless of how many copies you already own. It is a totally unique, completely enveloping and devastatingly beautiful game in more than one way; simply put… its a must buy.
AND VYSE FROM SKIES OF ARCADIA IS IN IT!