Hey all! So last week, I wrote about an awesome crossover strategy RPG.
Today, I write about another SRPG, a Playstation 3 game that's simply one of my favorites.
Valkyria Chronicles came out for the PS3 in 2008, developed and published by Sega. It's a unique blend of SRPG and 3rd person shooter, which we'll get to in a bit. Because there's a lot going on in this game.
You start the game as Welkin Gunther, who is forced to defend his small village from the invading Imperial Alliance. Teaming with the town watch captain, Alicia Melchiott, Welkin fights back with the help of his adopted sister Isara, and their father's tank, the Edelweiss. This new team goes on to join the Gallian Militia, and begin the battle to reclaim Europa from the Imperial Alliance, who are invading Gallia for the rich Ragnite (oil) deposits.
Things are much more than they seem, however, with the leader of the Imperials, Maximilian, sending his commander, Selvaria, to combat the Gallian forces. Selvaria is a descendent of the Valkyria, a race of super-powered beings who are believed to have fought in a war with the Darcsen centuries before the game takes place. And so the war for Gallia begins.
The best way to begin describing Valkyria Chronicles is as a strategy RPG. Choosing from an ever-growing list of characters, each falling in one of five classes, you form a squad for each mission and deploy them accordingly. A turn-based affair, you select a character from an overhead map, then move them into position in real time. How far you can move a character depends on their class, with scouts moving much farther than everybody, machine gun-wielding shocktroopers moving shorter distances, and so on. It's important to note that enemies who can see you will fire on you as you run, lending a sense of urgency to the proceedings. With an enemy in sight, you aim using the R1 button (no one shoots at you during this), center the enemy in your sights, and fire, kinda sorta like a shooter.
This being an RPG though, it's not quite as simple as that. See, when you aim, your character's accuracy is represented by a circle which determines where each shot may land. And each class gets so many shots. Scouts start with five per turn, and shocktroopers get twenty. Lancers (rocket launcher guys) and snipers get just one per turn. Further, you can aim for weak points; going for a headshot is risky but rewarding, for if you fail to kill an enemy soldier, he gets to counterattack (don't worry, this works both ways). Unless, of course, you attack from behind, panicking the troop and preventing his counter. So positioning is important.
Tanks add further depth to the gameplay. Initially, you have access to one tank, the Edelweiss. This is your strongest weapon in terms of raw power, but you automatically lose if it is destroyed. The Edelweiss is virtually impervious to attacks by shocktroopers and scouts, though a lancer or another tank can destroy it outright if they can hit the glowing radiator plate that sits on the back of every regular tank in the game. Being invulnerable to normal fire, you can position the Edelweiss in such a way where it can serve as mobile cover for your troops. But one well-placed rocket or tank shell and it's game over. Again, risk vs. reward.
You take turns using a set amount of moves per turn, represented by Command Points, which are allocated depending on how many troops you have plus which troops are out there (the main characters each add a Command Point to your total). You can save these to use more for the next turn, making holding back a viable strategy if you want to move farther the next turn. You can move characters multiple times per turn at the cost of a diminishing stamina bar. It's important to note that the Edelweiss (and the other tank you get later) take two CP to move.
There's also permanent death. Should one of your troops fall, and you don't recover them in time, that soldier dies forever. There are exceptions, such as main characters Alicia and Rosie (to name a couple), but everyone else can die, and you can't get them back once they do. You can rescue them, however, if you can get a soldier to their body before three turns pass, or another enemy gets there first.
Diverting from the main gameplay for a bit, you can do all sorts of things outside of battles, apart from watching the impressive amount of cutscenes. Presented as a book, the menu presents a variety of options. You can spend EXP to level up your troops (you level by class, rather than each character.) Then there's the tank customization options, where you can spend money to equip your tanks with enhanced armor and better weaponry. And you can buy stronger armor and weapons for your troops as well. There's simply a lot to do.
The story doesn't fail to deliver, either. Though I can see some people being turned off a bit by the fantasy elements, Valkyria Chronicles tells a deeper story than one would expect, with themes like camaraderie and prejudice hitting hard throughout the 20+hours. There's some genuinely funny parts, and some devastatingly sad moments as well. This is a game with heart.
And man, is Valkyria Chronicles good looking. Being an anime art style first and foremost, the game uses a unique look designed to appear as a watercolor painting in action. True to form, you can see canvas edges around the borders of the whole game, even as you play. It really is like looking at a moving painting. (Coincidentally, CANVAS is the name of the game engine) There's a comic book/manga aesthetic as well; gunshots and explosions make BLAM and BOOM appear on the screen. Audio is also exceptional; wartime sound effects aside, the game offers some of the best voice work ever heard. Everyone's voice just fits, and you can really feel the emotion behind each character. It's a masterclass in voice acting.
Out of every game I've written about so far, I'd probably recommend Valkyria Chronicles the most. Everything about it just works so well. There's a PSP sequel, too. And a third one, though that only came out in Japan. But anyway, play this one; it's the best by far. As I said before, you won't play a game with more heart than this.
Questions? Comments? Future GOTW suggestions? Post 'em!
Next week, we'll check out a game where you play as a cop (yawn) who fights rival gangs (snore) by throwing cars at them (!)