Years after its original release, we were recently dropped with an HD remaster of an absolute masterpiece. Inspiring an anime adaptation and two sequels (a third on the way), Valkyria Chronicles is a must have for strategy fans and will always be one of my absolute favourites. Just be prepared to cry. A lot.
When you think about war, most people just see one group fighting another. Imaginations may take you further, but that’s the one thing everybody will see. Valkyria Chronicles explores what war must really be like for the people fighting. The desire to win, the despair of a bleak situation, the question of morality, the fear of dying and the pain of loss are some of the things the player will experience first hand, as well as witnessing the more personal side such as hate, persecution, racism, segregation, faith, loyalty, camaraderie and romance. All in one epic story. All aboard the feels train…..
The first thing that strikes you is the unique art style. The game in its entirety looks like a great, big, moving work of art, which captivates you in a way no other game does. Using watercolours on a canvas look that looks fun, interesting and unique, whilst subtly reminding the player of the themes that run throughout and appearing more as illustrations in the whole epic story. Speaking of which, the main menus of the screen and the visual novel style story scenes, in addition to the pages on each of the characters, weapons, locales, etc. complete the “Storybook” look.
Keeping to the theme of war, strategy plays a key role in the gameplay. Naturally, different leaders will opt to fight differently. Sometimes their tactics work, others not. In this game, as well as employing RPG style elements like levels and equipment, you also have complete control over your team. Who to deploy, where to deploy them and how to advance. The best part about that is the freedom to choose and experiment with whatever tactics one sees fit, the exception being certain narrative battles which centre around a certain exploit. You are then ranked on your ability to swiftly complete your objectives, allowing you to refine your technique for next time. Or figure out which stages to grind for experience and ducats.
After playing for a while, you find yourself becoming very attached to the characters you see often. Through the use of biographies and unique personalities for each character, your favourite character quickly becomes a very personal thing. Making it incredibly heartbreaking should they be taken from you, be it through the story or otherwise. As is in war, when someone dies, they are gone for good. Dead characters are removed from the game permanently. You feel so bonded to the squad as a whole, you feel as though you are a huge part of their personal lives, sharing both their triumphs and their sorrows.
My only complaints are thus. First, even though cutscenes and text scenes can be viewed at any time, the game must be completed before any narrative battles can be re-attempted, which can make recapping, grinding or experiencing a favourite moment much more tedious than it should be. Second, the ranking system takes only the number of turns into account, despite how well your tactic may have worked, how safe you kept your team and how many enemies you defeated. However, these small setbacks become almost completely irrelevant when you are immersed in the wonderful storyline, desperate to see what happens next.
This is a game that has been very close to my heart for a long time, and I would waste no time at all recommending it to everyone. Now I’m going to find a corner to cry in whilst remembering my fallen comrades..