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Retrospective: Valkyria Chronicles Remembered

We started last week’s retrospective by looking at one of the biggest games of this generation, MGS4. This week, we’ll take a look at a smaller game, but equally as fascinating as MGS4. Unfortunately, it’s another exclusive game, for the PS3 again this time. That game is Valkyria Chronicles.

The whole point of this retrospective section is to promote games from the past that are worthwhile experiences for everyone. For now, we’re focusing on games of this generation, since a new generation of consoles will release soon. Valkyria Chronicles fits that mold very well.

The most striking thing you’ll realise when first playing Valkyria Chronicles is the graphics. A beautiful combination of water colour-esque graphics coupled with some 3D moments thrown in too. It’s a very unique style reminiscent of few games like Okami. Nevertheless, the graphics show how a game doesn’t need full realistic looking graphics to be appreciated visually. It’s something that should be obvious, but the lack of attempts at following in the game’s footsteps speaks volumes at how developers are convinced realistic graphics are the only way forward.

If there is one thing wrong with the graphics, it’s that it’s used sparingly. I’m not even trying to be coy, as while the game looks beautiful, a lot of times conversations will be shown with simple character portraits rather than with proper cutscenes. This is a real shame, reminiscent of over usage of codec scenes in MGS games.

The music that accompanies the game is also very memorable. Valkyria Chronicles is one of the few games where listening to the soundtrack is actually possible. It’s very calming and soothing, and is unique enough to immediately remind you of the game and the environments surrounding the game. There are also poignant story moments that the music brings back to you.

Getting into the story, the game doesn’t have a wholly unique story or major plot, but the great thing about Valkyria Chronicles is that the characters really do stand out in the game and bring life to the story within. Whether it’s the main characters, Welkin and Alicia, or any of the other side characters in the game. They have a unique personality that punctuates the game. There are more characters than the story can cope with though, therefore there are characters in your squad that don’t get much attention. The overall story revolves around a war brewing in Gallia, the homeland of the main characters. It starts out as a struggle against an invading empire and features a few twists and turns to keep things very interesting until the end.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the game is the gameplay. A strategic role-playing game (SRPG) at its core, Valkyria Chronicles manages to make the strategic elements more intriguing and fun compared to traditional SRPGs. Featuring a host of units to use, plus placing importance on positioning and gaining bases on the way to achieving the main goal of the current mission, it all just came together well. The different units at your disposal have different pros and cons to consider, and they can even fall permanently in battle, which can be distressing especially if they are a really good soldier. While there probably could be more strategic elements in the game, this isn’t an RTS game so I feel that the gameplay was still very good. The different abilities that you level up with or come across through story moments are welcome additions too.

Overall, the game is just another great RPG to play. All the more important though is the unique strategy element that was so well implemented. This is how future SRPGs should be handled, or at least they should evolve from this. I couldn’t personally bring myself to play Valkyria Chronicles 2, as the smaller scale of everything and the less impressive story all held it back. I haven’t even touched Valkyria Chornicles 3 either. I don’t doubt both those games can be fun, as the original source is great, but I know both titles will be limited in gameplay and story simply by being on a handheld platform in comparison to the first game.

Here’s hoping if a Valkyria Chronicles 4 ever gets made, it goes out to consoles and improves upon the mechanics found in the original game. Of course, while keeping the beautiful visuals.

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