Valkryia Chronicles was a game that really blew me away when it first released. Up until that point my experience with strategy RPGs was limited to isometric views and battlefields that were divided into squares. At the time it felt like a big leap forward for the genre and even now, playing the remaster after all these years, there’s still something so undeniably special and magical about this game.
The overarching plot revolves around the small, independent nation of Gallia, caught in the crossfires of a conflict between 2 superpowers. The Empire and Federation are embroiled in a war over a precious resource called Ragnite, a resource that Gallia just happens to have an abundance of. The small nation thus becomes a prime target for invasion which kicks off the story of the exploits of Welkin and Squad 7 as they try and push back the invading army and defend their homes.
Even as a fan of JRPGs, I’ll be the first to admit that the sub-genre has a tendency to rely heavily on tried and tested tropes, be it in the characters or story, it somehow rehashes a lot of the same concepts and archetypes. This game may seem like your average JRPG story, and to some degree I guess it is, but it never uses its roots as a crutch, instead it grows and evolves, ultimately providing a tale that is equal parts gripping and heartfelt. It also manages to deal with some of the heavier topics like discrimination and the horrors of war in a way that never feels self-indulgent and it always maintains a level maturity while still being entertaining.
A large part of what makes the story so good is the wide variety of characters, each with their own reason for fighting in the war. The main cast is filled with likable and relatable characters, from the songstress turned soldier, Rosie, to the strong yet soft-hearted General of the Empire, Selvaria. No one felt like throw away characters and they deeply enriched the overall narrative. The diversity of personalities also fostered a sense of attachment, and I found myself deeply caring for the soldiers in my squad as well. This not only played well into the narrative but it also enhanced the gameplay by making situations much tenser should a unit a fall in battle, and I always found myself prioritizing my unit’s safety over the overall objective.
Valkyria Chronicles melds together real-time and turn-based combat in an interesting way, that, at the time was quite the departure from the norm that fans of the strategy RPG genre were used to. Each turn begins with an overview map of the battlefield. Here you can see little icons for each of your units as well as where enemies are positioned, given that they’re visible on the map. You’re also given a set number of Command Points (or CP for short) that are used when you take direct control of a unit. Taking control of a character switches the view to a 3rd person perspective where you’re able to freely move around the field. There is one caveat though, as movement is governed by the Action Points (or AP for short) gauge, which gets expended as you move. Should you move into the line of sight of an enemy, they will start firing their guns, so the management of the AP gauge becomes a cornerstone of the overall strategy as you don’t want to be in a situation where you run out of AP and your unit is left completely in the open without any cover.
While enemies will fire should you get close enough, once you ready your weapon, everything will come to a halt and you’re given the chance to aim and fire without worrying about taking damage. It’s a great way of using turn-based mechanics to create a sort of semi-real-time environment. Once you’re done, you can either continue moving if you have AP left or you can end your turn. Now, unlike traditional SPRGs, you can actually choose to use that same unit again, albeit with a partially depleted AP gauge. This is an important feature that ties into the game’s class system as well.
Each soldier belongs to one of five classes, namely the Scouter, Shock Trooper, Lancer, Engineer and Sniper. Each class has a different purpose in battle and also has a different amount of AP that can be used in battle. Scouters for instance have the highest amount of AP and are used mostly for reconnaissance jobs as they’re not particularly strong. Shock Troopers on the other hand are much stronger than the other classes, but have a limited amount of AP. It then becomes important to think about how you’re going to move each of your units knowing you have a limited of CP per turn. On top of this, each unit has their own strengths and weaknesses that get triggered after certain conditions are met. Some characters love deserts for instance and thus receive stats boosts when they’re situated in that type of area, while others hate dirt and will be debuffed if you position them on a dirt road.
Valkyria Chronicles constantly had me thinking about all aspects of the battle, from effectively eliminating the enemy forces to maximizing each of my unit’s strengths. The depth of strategy is one of the game’s biggest strength. I felt like a strategist, carefully planning my next move while trying to keep my squadron alive. Just as things were working out beautifully, the game would often throw a spanner into the works that would completely derail my plans, be it environmental changes or adjustments to the enemy’s side. These situations required adaptability and kept skirmishes fresh and unpredictable. Unfortunately, the game can feel a tad bit unfair at times, and there were a few moments where encounters relied more on trial and error rather than careful planning. Thankfully, there are very few moments like that.
Outside of combat, you can use experience and money gained from battles to upgrade classes and weapons. Unlike most RPGs, you don’t level up individual characters, instead you pump exp into each class and every character belonging to that class will gain the benefit of it levelling up. Money on the other hand is used to upgrade weapons and your tank. You can take on extra side missions and skirmishes to gain extra exp and cash, which goes a long way in helping you through those tough main missions. Overall, while it’s in no way extensive or overly complex the game does provide a decent amount of customization options and side activities.
Valkyria Chronicles is one of those games where its art style really allows it to still look good, even though it was released over 8 years ago on the PlayStation 3. The watercolour-like aesthetics is as beautiful as I remember it to be when I first saw it and the 1080p and 60fps upgrade helps in making this game visually relevant by today’s standards. The soundtrack is equally superb with composer Hitoshi Sakimoto producing more of his iconic sounds that is both unique to this game and easily recognizable to anyone that has ever journeyed to the land of Ivalice.
What more can I say? Valkyria Chronicles is one of the best games Sega has ever made. It’s visual art style and strategic gameplay still holds up to this very day. There might not that much new content with the remaster but I’d still recommend it for those that haven’t played it in a while but it’s an absolute must buy for newcomers.
Last Updated: June 8, 2016