Shock Value: Valkyria Chronicles

The Valkyria Chronicles franchise has become a pretty big deal since the PS3 exclusive first game launched way back in 2008. I won a copy in a recent auction for $14, but new copies of the game regularly sell for less than $20. I’d been meaning to try this eye catching strategy title for some time, but never really been able to get around to it until recently. I’m very happy I finally made the time for it, because Valkyria Chronicles has quickly distinguished itself as one of my absolute favorite titles in the genre.

  • Title: Valkyria Chronicles
  • Developer: Sega Wow
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Release: November, 2008
  • Platforms: PS3
  • Pricing:  $15, $18

One of the biggest selling points of this title could be its arresting visual style. The game looks like a moving painting or drawing in motion. The charming, very colorful visuals do a good job of making this game feel unique from other titles. The designs of the various units and characters are pretty simplistic and straightforward, but the visual style makes them pop. Valkyria Chronicles also has a very pleasant soundtrack and I’m especially fond of the exciting battle tracks.

The game has a very interesting plot that revolves around a war between the big bad Empire and the Federation, or the good guys. Protagonist Welkin Gunther is one of the least irritating protagonists I’ve ever met in a Japanese game. He’s intelligent, resourceful and generally not a jerk or a spoiled brat. Leading lady Alicia is just as pleasant, with her strength and seriousness helping to differentiate her from various stereotypical characters. There is a good amount of character development in the game and seeing the relationships between the various characters and factions is exciting throughout. Story fans probably love this game.

Valkyria Chronicles has a very charming atmosphere around it that really reminds me of a good anime. From the characters to the story, to the music and even to the combat, this game just screams anime to me, but not in a corny clichéd way. Maybe I’ll check out the actual anime if I can find it at a respectable price.

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Underneath its crisp visuals, the core systems of Valkria Chronicles are quite deep. The game plays out in a way that reminds me quite a bit of the combat in Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria, which is something of coincidence since both games feature Valkyries. The combat is turn-based, but the addition of real-time elements like movement and aiming make it more of a hybrid system.

You begin each turn with a certain number of action points and controlling units expends AP. It is crucial that you make decisive moves using your AP, because many stages are timed, adding a bit of extra excitement. Managing your AP in a strategic way can certainly be a fun challenge. Should you spend that last point getting an engineer to your tank for repairs or getting your sniper just within reach of a bothersome lancer? AP can also be expended to issue orders. These orders can offer some serious advantages, but the good ones can be rather AP intensive, which makes it even more important that you manage your AP effectively.

There are a handful of different kinds of units you use in battle, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Engineers are extremely frail but they can disarm traps and repair the tank, an absolutely essential ability. Scouts can move very far and spot enemies from great distances, but they don’t pack the same firepower as a Shocktrooper. Winning battles and leveling up units with experience points will unlock new abilities for them. What’s cool is you level up the class itself instead of individual units, so you don’t have to worry about cycling through units to make sure everyone gets some experience points.

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You also earn money from battles which can be used to upgrade the tank and the equipment of your units.

However, you will still need to pay attention to specific units because they each have their own individual abilities and quirks. Some of these abilities can actually be quite detrimental, such as the one that sharply reduces your unit’s attack power if they run into a group of enemies alone. Some units hate men and will suffer from reduced effectiveness when working beside male units, some have allergies and will suffer in dessert stages, others love the country and will flourish when working in grassy, flowery fields. Finding a varied squad of units with abilities that compliment rather than hinder the team can be difficult, and this adds even more strategy to the game.

One thing that I thought was really neat about the game is the way units will continue to attack any enemy in range. This means you must act quickly whenever you’re in range of an enemy unit or else your unit could get taken out. Of course the same also goes for enemy units, who waste no time at all completing their actions if they’re within firing range of any of your units.

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Valkyria Chronicles also shines by having a wide variety of missions. Of course there are missions where you have to claim a certain base or area from the enemy and missions where you’ll have to defend a certain area, but missions where you’ll need to defeat a super tank, destroy a bridge beneath a train and intercept a quickly fleeing vehicle are also thrown at you. The game’s solid systems are put on full display in a collection of widely varying missions, which is especially commendable when you consider that some games in the genre have many nearly identical missions. While the game lacks trophy support, there is a big variety of in-game achievements and awards that you can unlock.

This game is well worth the original MSRP of $60, but if you’re this late to the party you can get it for unfairly cheap. For some reason that I’m honestly not sure of, I used to think that people were over-exaggerating when they said how good this game was: but I certainly see the error of my ways now.

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