Valkyria Chronicals

Posted: January 17, 2009 in Games
Tags: , , ,

So call me a fan boy, a ps3 lover, a hardcore gamer or a huge nerd but I won’t care because Valkaria Chronicals is awesome no matter what anyone says.

I saw it on store shelves and was too embarassed to buy it in this casual gaming era. While WOW is acceptable within the mainstream culture and carries little stigma, alternate history anime chicks in miniskirts fighting tanks and pseudo Nazi’s most likely falls in the ‘be-embarrassed-at-the-dinner-table’ kind of material, atleast in North America. The only problem is that it’s a lot of fun.

It’s rated in the 90’s by the hard core press and the previews looked great, but when I’d summoned the courage to face the odd looks and heckles from friends, there were none on store shelves. There were none on amazon or the like. eBay was selling them for around 100$ cdn in who knows what condition. I was forced to rent it.

Renting video games is an ugly practice.

Valkyria Chronicals has a functional story which must be considered within the context of an import Japanese video game. So Mass Effect it’s not, but it’s entertaining none the less. The true glories of the game are the visuals and the combat system.

The visuals are striking and innovative. The 3D anime with a penciled shading looks great and provides a unique style and tone unseen in a current gen game, let alone a turn based strategy game. It isn’t simply cel shaded, but almost pushes a pencil shaded look. The shadows have a great quality.

The gameplay is an interesting mix of turn based and ‘real-time’ movement.  During a characters turn, they move freely in third person.  Enemies take overwatch shots at you while you run.  Once in ‘target’ mode you are free to consider your options and select your target.  You can make fine adjustments like aiming for the head or between two opponents.

The campaign system is fairly typical, with a novel comic book presentation.  Each ‘episode’ is locked in a panel while you watch and play linearly.  You can upgrade your troops and equipment with XP and cash you earn through playing the campaign and skirmishes.  An unexpected side is the character development angle.  

Besides the main characters, you have to manage 16 other characters from a selection of around 30.  They make up your squad.  They each have a limited, but important set of traits.  Each one has favourites amongst the cast and up to 4 unique perks.  These perks may be either pluses or minuses.  It’s these perks that make them suitable for some missions or team compositions.  This part of the game has a fairly steep learning curve but adds a lot of texture down the road.  The awesome part is that only some of the perks are exposed to start with.  They are unlocked after the character has reached their full potential through combat experience.  Some characters get better, others get weaker.  You have to keep up with the staff reviews to make sure your team is functioning at peak efficiency.  Given that your troops level up by class rather than individual, you never feel as if you’ve lost any opportunities if you swap characters around.

The combat is very satisfying with lots of gunfire and explosions with tanks going off all around you.  There’s lots of last ditch efforts that when you pull them off you feel ace. 

So it’s been a long time since I’ve played a good strategy game and this is definitely one of my favourite currently.  It’s no X-Com, but it’s about as close as you can expect these days.

Ryan out.

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