Monday, June 22, 2009

Game to Buy: Valkyria Chronicles

I've lost sleep over this game. I've missed posts because of this game. I nearly lost my voice over this game.

That's how RPGs should be, right?

Valkyria Chronicles is a turn-based Strategy RPG, in a similar realm as Final Fantasy Tactics. The story revolves around a war occurring in Europan (see what they did there?) between the Empire to the east and the Federation to the west, all over the shortening supply of Ragnite, a material that is this game's equivalent to crude oil. Gallia, a neutral nation with abundant stores of Ragnite, is caught in the clash when the Empire decides to invade. You play as Welkin Gunther, a man who, instead of joining the millitary like his famed father before him, just wants to teach about nature. If that actually happened, though, this wouldn't be much of a game, so you're caught in a battle, and from there on you become a tank commander to lead your squad and your country to victory! Like most great RPGs, this game has an epic story with very dynamic character personalities and surprise twists that at some occurances actually made me curse at the screen. I actually had empathetic feelings when events took place.

The graphics look amazing as well. Everything is in crisp 3D, but with bright and dynamic coloring and shading that made the events that took place on screen actually look like it was all hand drawn and hand-colored. Besides the enemy grunts, every character is unique, even the members that you can recruit to your squad. Unique voices, personalities, and background stories that actually play a part in their usage in battle. Most notable is the English dubbing: while the Japanese dub is still better (as it typically is), the English dubbing, besides a minor character or two, is very well done, and with popular voice actors such as Dave Whittenburg (Kakashi, Naruto), Colleen O'Shaughnessey (Sora, Digimon), and freakin' Steven Blum (Spike, Cowboy Bebop) to name a few.

The gameplay is a bit complex, but expected of a strategy RPG. Every phase, your given a set amount of command points to move around your infantry and yourself in a tank. There are 5 classes, and each class is meant for certain situations, such as Lancers (and your tank) taking out tanks, shocktroopers doing close-range damage on infantry, and snipers taking out infantry from long range. What's unique about this game, though, is that while you're moving around, if you're in range of units who can counter, you take interceptive fire from them as you move, so you can lose your unit even when the enemy isn't attacking if you aren't careful. Your units can do the same to the enemy. Most of the missions involve taking the enemy's main camp, but the methods to reach the camp differ greatly on every map; unit placement before the missions even begin can often make or break your mission. I suppose that's one of the problems within the game; once I got to the latter portions of the game, I almost always had to play the mission twice, due most often to the severe lack of knowlege of the map and the units in play at the time. Your missions are also ranked based on how few phases you completed the map, and again if you wanted that A-rank you needed to know what enemy units are on the field and what typically happens or needs to happen in at least the first two phases in order to get that rank.

Besides that little caveat, you do have to have some patience in playing this game. Your units can die permanently, and while that never happened to me, that was also one of the reasons I had to restart a mission. As you can tell, I got a bit frustrated over restarting missions that can last an hour or more from square 1. However, I always came back to the game. Unfortunately, while there is a "New Game Plus" after you beat the game, I don't feel like the game has much replay value to me; once you beat the story, you've most likely unlocked and gotten everything you could get already. The only benefit to playing again is that your stats roll over to the replay, you can do hard mode scrimmages (which only increase the AI difficulty), and you get access to one extra squad member. Not enough benefits to warrent the replay again, but I'd come back for the sheer story at a later date. Valkyria Chronicles gets a 4 out of 5.  Now grab a rifle and join the army, already.

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