Valkyria Chronicles

In the year 1935 E.C., two superpowers dominate the continent of Europa: the Autocratic East Europan Alliance in the east, and the Atlantic Federation in the west. Both powers depend on a precious mineral known as Ragnite, with its growing scarcity in the Empire resulting in them declaring war on the Federation, sparking the Second Europan War. During the conflict, the Empire invades the neutral Principality of Gallia, rich in Ragnite. Valkryia Chronicles, developed by Sega for the PlayStation 3, follows a young man, Welkin Gunter, and his companions as they defend their homeland from the Empire. Though the game does have some minor issues, it proves to be a solid tactical RPG.

Valkryia Chronicles is divided into several chapters which in turn are divided into several episodes, with most containing story scenes, although some episodes contain battles that the player must win in order to advance the narrative. Upon starting a battle, the player can place several units of different classes on the battlefield near their encampment. Each unit class has its strong and weak points and is effective against certain enemy units, although the player is initially blind to the enemy's units, but the player can have initial units retreat in their encampment and summon replacement units.

After selecting desired units and officially beginning the battle, the player remains in map view and receives a certain number of points that dictate how many times they can select units to have them move across the battlefield and have them attack the enemy. Selecting ground units consumes one of these points, although selecting one of the two tanks the player acquires throughout the game consumes two points. Using orders, which can grant various effects such as increasing defense or attack for characters, also consumes a certain number of points.

If the player selects a unit, the game zooms into the map, with the player then able to move the unit around, with a gauge indicating how far they can move before the game forces them to stop. Units typically have a variety of weapons to choose from, including firearms and grenades, which they can use to attack the enemy, with headshots dealing more damage than usual. Valkyria Chronicles uses a Rochambeau formula where standard ground units are effective against lancers, lancers are effective against tanks, and tanks are effective against ground units.

As the player moves their units near the enemy, odds are that the enemy will get some shots in against the player's unit, and after the player attacks the enemy, the enemy will typically get a counterattack. Sandbag bunkers and tall grass can protect the player and enemy units from counterattacks, although launching a grenade against crouching units will cause them to stand up and destroy sandbags, making them more vulnerable to attack. If one of the player's units dies, they have three rounds to evacuate them from the battlefield before they die permanently, although luckily, permanent death isn't too big of a problem given the massive cast of playable characters, and a few story characters can't die this way.

The player must win battles within twenty rounds or face a Game Over, which also occurs if Welkin dies or the enemy occupies the player's main camp. Winning a battle is typically a matter of occupying the enemy's main camp, with the enemy typically having more than one across a battlefield. The player can have units retreat at these camps, although switching them out with another unit requires both a round and one of the player's action points. Winning a battle, depending upon the player's performance, nets the player both money and experience.

Outside battle, the player can use experience to level up all units of each class, and occasionally acquire new orders at the cemetery, while money can buy weapon and armor upgrades for the player's characters. All in all, the battle system works decently, although battles can sometimes be long and without reward if the player dies, but luckily, the player can save anytime in battle. However, loading in-battle saves takes about half a minute or so, even with the game installed to the PlayStation 3, which can definitely add up especially if the player wants to experiment with various tactics. Some occasional grinding in the skirmish battles available outside story battles might be necessary to complete the game, as well, but the battle system fortunately helps the game more than hurts.

Control is just as solid, with an easy menu system and linear plot progression that keeps the player moving in the right direction, although cutscenes are not pausable, in spite of being skippable, and there's no pause button in the middle of battle, either, although bringing up a character's status while they're moving around does pause the action of combat. Ultimately, interaction doesn't leave a whole lot of room for improvement.

Though the story reflects a stereotypical conflict against an evil empire, it's told decently, with a solid cast of heroes and villains, and decent twists, turns, and denouement. However, despite the massive cast of playable characters, the game only gives epilogues to those that have a major impact on the plotline, and permanent character deaths in battle have no effect on the narrative. Still, the story is a decent driving factor throughout the game, and wraps up nicely.

Hitoshi Sakimoto, as usual, does a good job with the game's soundtrack, with plenty of sweeping epic themes. The English voice acting is also well above average, surprising given Sega's somewhat faulty record in this area, and the Japanese voices are available, as well. The graphics are cel-shaded, looking mostly gorgeous, with only a few minor visual imperfections such as blurry texturing when viewed up close. Ultimately, Valkryia Chronicles looks and sounds superb.

Finally, the game takes at least thirty hours to complete, depending upon how much grinding the player performs, with a New Game+ augmenting playing time. Ultimately, Valkyria Chronicles is a mostly solid tactical RPG, what with enjoyable combat, tight control, a nice story, and solid music and graphics. There are some issues, such as the loading times in the middle of battle, although it's still a solid offering for PlayStation 3 owners whose success would spawn a few sequels.

The Good:
+Satisfying combat.
+Solid control.
+Great story.
+Looks and sounds superb.

The Bad:
-Takes a while to load in-battle saves.
-No pause button.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 8/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: 30+ Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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