Valkyria Chronicles was originally released on the PS3 back in 2008. Although it was well received it didn’t necessarily set the charts on fire but did still get two sequels (for PSP) and has a fourth installment arriving on the PS4 sometime in the future. Maybe to drum up some interest, maybe to recoup some more revenue, maybe just because they can, Sega has released this remaster for the PS4.
Remake, remaster, re-release. Three similar terms that mean quite different things. Valkyria Chronicles Remastered comes packaged with all the DLC and the graphics look super sharp, but there is no new content and the graphics have been updated to run at 1080p at 60 frames per second rather than actually being rebuilt. This is made all the more obvious as the in engine cutscenes look great, whilst the video files stand out like a sore thumb as they’re far more jagged. The engine still looks great though with its pencil drawn, water colour painting inspired visual but if you’ve played this on the PS3 or the recent PC release then unless you really want an excuse to play it again then there’s not much here to tempt you. If you’ve never touched it in any form then read on.
The story follows a young man called Welkin who returns home to Gallia as what effectively amounts to World War II happens between the East and West around them. Due to Gallia’s wealth of Ragnite (fuel) the Eastern Empire invades and the normally neutral Gallia has to step up to defend itself. By chance Welkin, despite only really being interested in nature, is the son of a war hero from the previous war and so is quickly moved up the ranks so that you, as the player, can take control of your own unit, Squad 7. The unit evolves over the course of the game although the story only really concentrates on a select few characters.
Each chapter is presented as a page in a book with different panels leading to story cutscenes or fights. Cutscenes can either be fully acted by the character models or simply talking heads, though the majority is fully voice acted (English or Japanese, your choice). It’s a nice way to present it as there are only generally one or two fights per chapter with all the other panels being story beats. If they were all mashed together it may have lead to them dragging on but as they are broken up into these shorter chunks it feels like you’re making progress even though you’ve not really achieved anything.
Battles take place on medium sized maps which you get a basic view of before hand. Here you can choose what troops to bring with you depending on what sort of enemies you think you’re going to be dealing with. I say ‘think’ because other than a map of the layout and a intro from your commander you haven’t really got a clue which can lead to operations going slightly less smoother than they could if you were better informed. It can lead to needing to restart a mission, especially if you want to achieve those A ranks. Not a massive downer but you aren’t going to be able to win battles by creating a fool proof strategy on the map.
Once in the battle proper you can select which of your units you want to move and then you take direct control of them. Moving uses action points so you want to keep an eye on that so you don’t get stranded in no man’s land, but other than that you can take your time. Wandering too close to an enemy will have them start to shoot you but they cannot move as it’s not their turn so use that to your advantage. To take a shot you simply press R1 and can manually line up a shot. Time stands still at this point so even if you’re within an enemies range they will cease shooting you as you line up your shot. You can aim for the body or go for critical shots (the head) and then your character will take however many shots their gun allows. The reticle you use to line up the shot isn’t one to one with where the bullets will hit however and the further away you are the more inaccurate the shots will be. As with XCOM there will be moments where your characters will miss shots at key times which will frustrate but equally when someone has to nail every shot in order to take someone out and they manage it they’ll become your new favourite.
Different units have different classes which excel in different situations. Scouts have huge amounts of action points to run around the map scouting areas and then returning to safety whilst wielding five shot rifles, Shocktroopers can’t run as far but have autorifles that can fire lots of shots but are less accurate requiring you to get a little closer to the action, Lancers fire what are basically rocket launchers so are best suited to taking out vehicles, Snipers are super weak but aren’t supposed to be on the front lines obviously and Engineers can disarm traps, repair cover and fix up your tank unit which is a tank so destroys all but has a serious weak point on its rear.
The make up of who you bring into battle is totally up to you, though you always bring the tank along unless the story dictates otherwise. Each unit isn’t some faceless grunt either, they’re all unique and even have their own personalities which surface in their traits. Some love the country side so will get a boost from being amongst the grass, others have hay fever so will gradually lose HP whilst in the same areas, others will fancy a particular gender so will up their game whilst near to them whilst others will get distracted and lose accuracy if you put them near someone they really like. Although all the traits are shared how they’re mixed and matched does make characters actually feel different from one another and the more you use them the more you unlock in their bio to learn more about them which encourages experimentation. If they fall in battle, depending on their story importance, they can die forever if you don’t get to them and recover them. Recovering them makes them available for dispatch again on the next turn which is very friendly but you’ve still got that element of permadeath hanging over you if you’re not careful.
You earn experience and money upon completion of a mission which you can spend to upgrade your units and your weaponry respectively. Upgrading a weapon makes it available to everybody and you level up the different classes as opposed to the individual characters so you don’t have to juggle all the characters to make sure they don’t fall behind which is very nice. If you’re feeling weak then you unlock skirmishes based on previous levels you’ve bested which you can play infinitely to gain experience and money if the grind takes you. Valkyria Chronicles is very easy to play (though not necessarily an easy game) which is dangerous considering its generous length. Missions can go a little slower than something like XCOM since you’re moving units manually and your squad is larger but the missions themselves aren’t overly long luckily as there are no mid game saves.
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is priced at £16 on PSN and only slightly more for a physical copy which is an incredible price for a lengthy RPG which still plays well today. As mentioned there is no new content for this release so if you’ve had your fill already then there’s nothing for you here, but if your interest is even slightly piqued then you can’t really go wrong with giving this a try.