Every aspect of Valkyria Chronicles shines brightly compared to the usual sameness of RPGs. Its story is unforgettable.
xeros89 wrote this review on .
Japanese TRPGs have been stuck in a rut for some time. Many games have tried variations on the de facto Fire Emblem system (one of the first TRPG series) of grid-based, ally then foe turn-based system. But Valkyria Chronicles (VC) introduces a completely new system where you have a certain amount of command points (CP) and where you see the entire battlefield map in-between every action without seeing all the details of the battle. Selecting any of your characters uses one CP (two for a tank), after which the camera zooms in third-person style onto that character and the battlefield. Your character can move freely in 360o until his/her action bar depletes, and you can initiate a single action (attacking, grenade, healing item) during that time. What makes the system truly unique is that you may choose to spend your entire CP on a single character and keep advancing/attacking with that unit, although their action bar is less full every time you select the unit within the same turn. You may also choose not to expand all your CP, in which case the leftover CP will carry over to your next turn, allowing you either greater mobility of firepower on that turn. Interactions on the battlefield such as rescuing an ally, disarming landmines, flipping a switch, taking cover, etc can be done infinitely so long as your action bar isn't depleted.
These are the very basics of combat, but the depth of the system is astonishing. Sega dubs this game an "active simulation RPG", which is a fitting description. You will understand and master the breadth of the system little by little after every battle, and the experience you'll gain, not only within the game space but also in your own head, will help you achieve victory in increasingly satisfying fashion as the game progresses. By the end of the game, playing the "skirmish" battles for pleasure, I was able to exploit the system on certain maps, completing a seemingly long encounter in a single turn. The game hands you a score between A and D after every battle depending on how speedy you were in achieving victory with no other criteria, and in this fashion you can see how quickly a certain map can potentially be completed by looking at your objectives mid-battle and seeing your score down to a C on only your third turn (for some battles). In sum, the gameplay is addictive, highly rewarding, and totally unique (you also have to aim all your shots manually!)
But that isn't why I felt the urge to review my experience. The story of VC, along with the brilliant music of Hitoshi Sakimoto, is further proof of the immersion latent in the best RPGs that no other game can match. The characters in this game are plentiful. However, most are not story relevant and only participate in your battles, and you can choose such characters from a deep roster that expands as the game progresses. Despite not being present in any of the many wonderful story panels (as the whole game is presented as a narrative straight out of a book), every character has his/her own distinct personality conveyed through unique voice-acting, detailed model, character relationships and specific skill sets. You will grow to love most of the characters you've chosen for your squad, and the fact that they may die permanently makes you all the more caring and careful when planning your kamikaze final push towards the enemy camp.
The main story characters are some of the most genuine characters I've ever seen in an RPG. I chose to play the game using the original Japanese voice acting, which was, as I expected, spot-on, emotional, perfect. From what little portion I played with English dubbing, the voice actors also seemed quite competent, but when playing a JRPG or viewing anime, it only seems fitting to me to listen to the original acting. In dozens of occasions, during emotional scenes or serious dialogues, I expected some cheesy, slightly childish replies and comments between the characters, as is often the case in JRPGs. I was delighted that the two main characters, Welkin and Alicia, did not deny their love for one another, or act like grade-schoolers when talking privately. Likewise, the friendly bonds between characters often seemed beyond real, such as the difficult love relationship between prior war veterans (Largo and Cpt. Varrot), the deep unjust hatred Rosie feels for the Darcsen tribe and thus Isara, and the relationships between prince Maximillian and his loyal generals. The writing is mature, the voice-acting was spot-on, and of course the awesome storybook-like visuals all contribute to form of the most touching, seemingly realistic, and endearing stories in video games.
Lastly, Hitoshi Sakimoto delivers one of his best performance to-date with the 50 or so tracks in this game. I listen to less videogame music now then I used to, but after playing VC, I had to order the OST to reminisce about the countless powerful moments the story presented. Most tracks, whether they are during combat, sad moments, or uplifting events are vibrant and decidedly poignant. This is simply of one the best scores I have heard in a game, and Sakimoto might have even outdone his spectacular and timeless work on both Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter and Final Fantasy Tactics.
It was a treat from start to finish to experience this game, its story, and its memorable lore. Do not pass it up.