Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Valkyria Chronicles

Well, here we are at day three of "A Trip Down Memory Lane." We are less than two days away from the launch of the PlayStation 3, and that means we only have time to cover three more games. Really, looking back at everything the PlayStation 3 has accomplished during its life makes it very difficult to choose which games to discuss in this series. There are a lot of great titles out there, but just not enough time to cover them. (Who knows, maybe we'll take a month to do so someday?) Anyway, for day three I have decided to take a bit of a step in the other direction. On Monday I discussed the the well known Uncharted series, and on Tuesday I discussed Quantic Dream's well known Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, but today I will be covering a lesser known game instead. A little game called "Valkyria Chronicles."


Back in 2008, video game developer SEGA decided to release a brand new original IP exclusively for the PlayStation 3. The game was a tactical role playing game called "Valkyria Chronicles," and it was one of the few games in its genre to bend the rules. While most tactical RPGs play out like a turn based strategy game (where you take turns moving your units across a map with a grid), Valkyria Chronicles seamlessly blended together both real time and turn based elements. The game still used "turns" (in the form of a command point system) to move your units, but once you choose which unit to move; the game then evolved in to a 3rd person action based game. Instead of slowly moving your units across a grid, you were given a meter at the bottom of the screen which limited how much you could move, and instead of selecting an enemy to attack within your range, you actually took aim and shoot! All while moving around the map, not only did you have to watch out for gun fire from the enemies around you, but you would sometimes have to avoid traps, and try to find ways to use the world around you to your advantage. The game offered complete control over the battlefield, with the only real limits being that of your own tactical skill. Want to hide someone in the grass to distract a unit while you used your sniper to go for an easy head shot? You could. Want to prop a unit up against a wall to ambush the enemy on their next turn? You could do that as well. Since it was a 3D map, you could only see the area around you, and the same could be said for your enemies as well.

On top of the unique gameplay, Valkyria Chronicles featured a very unique unit set up. Every single unit had their own unique skills and abilities, and they had their own personalities as well. While the skills and abilities they possessed could help give you the advantage in some areas (especially when the abilities increased your aim or buffed you), the personality system is what you really had to pay attention to. Some characters had things they could or couldn't do due to either because they have phobias (such as the far of getting dirty or the fear of blood), or because their personality just didn't mix well with others. A character with a "lone wolf" personality would prefer to be alone and not be distracted by other people, but character's who like to talk a lot would have the complete opposite effect. While the lone wolf has to avoid human contact to do better, the talkative one has to avoid others to prevent them from talking to the others and distracting everyone around them! Overall the personality system was a very unique feature, and it really made the game shine. Still, what stood out the most was actually the story.


Valkyria Chronicles told a very touching war/love story. It followed a group of characters in this world's version of WWII, and the way the game presented itself was just outstanding. It used a really nice looking art style which mimicked that of a painting, the characters were all very likable, the voice acting was spot on in both the English and Japanese versions, and you really just couldn't wait to see what happened next! Even when the game's steep difficulty curve came into the mix, the story alone was enough to push you forward, and to get you to overcome that major step. Overall, Valkyria Chronicles just isn't one of them games you wanted to skip out on if you had a PlayStation 3. It was one of the early titles in the PlayStation 3's lifetime, and because of that it didn't have trophies to earn, but none of that really mattered in the end. The bottom line was, it was a great game.

Personally, Valkyria Chronicles was the game that got me to buy a PlayStation 3. I remember seeing the announcement trailer for it, and I remember how I felt when I learned it wouldn't be on a console I owned. Although I was never a huge fan of strategy games (there are quite a few I really enjoy however), Valkyria Chronicles was just one of them games I had to have. I'm not sure what about it stood out to me, but the moment I played it I knew I would love it.

Sadly, now days the Valkyria Chronicles series is just about non existing. The second game was released as a PSP exclusive, and because of that it got poor sales in the west. Despite greatly expanding on the gameplay, and being VERY much longer (over 300 missions, a lot more characters to choose from, a lot of soldier classes for your units to become, etc), it just couldn't prove to be worth the effort. Sure the game did go on to sell well in Japan, which resulted in the release of Valkyria Chronicles 3, but sadly that title never made it state side. It remained a Japanese exclusive, and SEGA currently has no plans to bring it over. The closest thing we have to Valkyria Chronicles 3 now days is the inclusion of three of the main characters in the crossover game "Project X Zone."


Either way, despite its rocky downfall in the west, Valkyria Chronicles is still a game worth knowing about. If you own a PlayStation 3, and you're looking for a cheap game you have yet to play, Valkyria Chronicles is the one. Or, why not watch the anime?

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