Review: SEGA...bringing the mo? to World War II.
As everyone knows, World War II was a grim time for humanity. Between Hitler's crimes and Pearl Harbor, the entire world was thrown into conflict only to be ended by the advent of the atomic bomb. Fast forward several decades later to the release of Valkyria Chronicles, and we have a game that tells the story of an alternative dimension in which World War II is limited to the continent of Europa, two superpowers collide, and flying pigs are in danger. That's right boys and girls, World War II just got anime-afied.
When looking at Valkyria Chronicles, the first thing you'll notice is the game's innate beauty. While the game is disappointingly limited to 720p output, it doesn't matter. It looks freaking amazing. Plain and simple. Thanks to the new CANVAS engine, the game appears like a watercolor painting in motion. From the unpainted side bars to the detail of the grass the game is a treat for the eyes as well as the soul thanks to a great story and cast of characters.
Pat a cake, Pat a cake, baker's man shoot me some Scouts as fast as you can.
Unlike a game like Call of Duty where you play generic soldier number 54 who gets sent on a mission after mission to fight off the opposing forces without a lot of character development, Valkyria Chronicles has it in spades. Telling the exploits of Squad 7 of the Gallian Forces and the small neutral county of Gallia, an alternative Norway, the country faces an invasion by an eastern federation known as the Imperials for their vast resources. Amidst all of this, an eccentric nature boy named Welkin Gunther, son of a National Hero, ends up getting swept up by the invasion when they attack his hometown. Eventually he meets a baker/soldier named Alicia and they join a band of brothers?and sisters.
Playing out like your typical anime, the game is filled with your usual twists and turns and for people like myself that are familiar with dramatic anime storylines you can almost smell what's going to happen from the beginning of the game. It also deals largely with the mature themes of death, sacrifice, and revenge, even if the game may appear to be mind numbingly sweet at times. Still there are enough emotional scenes in the game for your inner emo to cry at?so bring some tissues along for the ride if you're like me.
Although the game focuses primarily on the relationship between the lead characters, Welkin and Alicia, everyone gets a bit of character development via the personal tab as well as through side quests.
"Hai Guyz =D!!!"
Using a presentation style similar to visual novels, which isn't totally unexpected since the lead designer worked on the famed Sakura Taisen series, the game plays out in a book which consists of individual chapters and tabs. Much of the time you'll be spending outside of battle will be watching the drama unfold in front of simple static backgrounds and moving heads. Although this makes the game awfully slow at times, even for a guy who reads through visual novels on a daily basis, the story is strong enough to hold almost anyone's interest.
In battle, the game works like a combination between your typical strategy role-playing game and a third-person shooter. Using an overhead map of the battlefield, you select the individual unit you wish to control and are allowed a specific amount of time to move around the game's luscious maps. Fans of action games like Gears of War 2 and Resident Evil 4 will feel right at home with the game's over the shoulder camera. While the core of shooting isn't real-time, you get an opportunity to aim at your opponent without having them fire back, you'll still be attacked while you move around and be forced to dodge bullets. It isn't intensive like Gears, but for RPG gamers looking for a little more interaction, this is a great treat. In addition, the game tends to focus more on level design that you would most likely see in a World War II shooter than a JRPG. From defending a base with a small amount of units while you're outnumbered to stopping a tank in the middle of the streets, you can easily see where they got their inspiration for the game's levels from.
?All right, who cut the cheese!??
One of the interesting things that sets the game aside from other SRPGS like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics is the level-up system. Instead of leveling up individual characters, you level up classes. This makes it a lot easier if you're not particularly attached to any of the minor characters and just feel like adding a more realistic approach to war. After all, three turns or an enemy delivers the final blow and your character disappears forever with a couple few exceptions.
Strong graphics and gameplay aside, the game has an epic score. Composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy XII and Tactics) the game is accompanied by a Wagnerian score which suits the game perfectly. While there aren't too many memorable songs, the main theme is one of the best I've heard in a while besting Tales of Vesperia's and Lost Odyssey's. The game's voice actors also do a good job at conveying the necessary emotions. Although I can't vouch for the American dubbing as I played through in Japanese.