A tactical RPG with plenty of spit and polish.
Back when the PS2/Xbox transitioned to the PS3/Xbox 360, I don’t remember there being many titles being re-released from one generation to the next. I am sure they were, but it is not something that stands out in my memory. For this current generation however, it all seems to be about the remaster, the re-release and the definitive edition. Barely a week goes by without some game or another from the previous generation being given the HD treatment, packed with available DLC or formed into a collection with other games in the series, and then being released on the PS4 or Xbox One, or both, to tempt the fans of the original title and new gamers. I have no problem with this, being able to play the best possible version of a game is a great thing. It just seems slightly overwhelming at the moment, especially as the current consoles are now well into their cycle and not just launched.
And that brings us to Valkyria Chronicles Remastered. Originally launched back in 2008 on the PS3, Valkyria Chronicles perhaps didn’t make as much of an impact as hoped. Still, the game got a bit more life in 2014 with its release on the PC, which proved quite popular. Now, SEGA are introducing the game exclusively to PS4 owners with Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, adding not only the DLC released for the original, but also a nice new coat of polish.
Set in a fantasy version of Europe around the 1930s, players are introduced to a continent at war. Although it seems that names have been changed to protect the innocent, it is quite easy to make comparisons with real-world history. A rare material known as Ragnite has led to the Empire pushing their borders and going to war with the Federation. The country of Gallia has tried to stay neutral in all of this, but when the Empire decides that Gallia’s rich deposits of Ragnite should be theirs, everything quickly changes. The game kicks off with one of the games’ main characters, Welkin, returning to his home town of Bruhl as others are evacuating to avoid the incoming Empire forces. After meeting with Alicia, a member of the town militia, things take a turn for the worse as an advance party of soldiers from the Empire turn up.
It is an unusual setting for a game with anime styling, but then Valkyria Chronicles is an unusual game. The story reveals itself as the player progresses with both anime tropes that we would expect, and a certain level of severity and seriousness when dealing with what are sometimes uncomfortable subjects surrounding war. Still, the story is interesting and both the characters and the setting has enough depth to pull players in.
The wartorn setting stands somewhat in contrast with the slightly faded art style, something which is usually reserved for much more “twee” games. The original was a very nice looking game, but the remastered version, with 1080p and 60 frames per second, make the cel-shaded graphics look quite beautiful.
Following with the unusual nature of the game, going into battle offers up further weirdness. The battles are turn-based in that each side takes their turn to move their units and take actions. The player is given an overhead view of the battlefield and allowed to plan their strategy. They have a fixed number of command points which can be spent on controlling each unit under their command. Interestingly, the player is not limited to using one command point on each of their units, as they can use multiple points on a single unit if they wish for additional actions, although each subsequent use diminishes how much the character is able to do. Also, certain units, such as tanks, will require more than one command point to use. Once the players command points are all spent, play moves to the enemy AI for their turn.
So, you spend your command point on Alicia, for example. Play then drops down to a third-person view where the player actually controls the character and gets to move them, within their limits, and perform actions. Enemy units will fire upon the character if they catch sight, and it is quite possible for a character, or an enemy, to die during their own turn. Ducking down behind walls and the like will minimise the units exposure to enemy fire, but the reality is that players have to get their actions done as quick as possible more often than not to prevent opposing units from chipping away at their health. Spend too much time deciding what to do could end in disaster.
Units take one action per command point spent, and this will generally involve shooting at the enemy, although throwing grenades or using the games equivalent of a health potion is also an option. When choosing to shoot, the player will actually control the targeting reticule and are able to aim before the shots are fired. However, due to the randomness of the game, bullets will not only head towards the aimed reticule, but anywhere within the surrounding on-screen circle, so chances are that half of the bullets will miss their mark anyway.
The combat takes a bit of getting used to in Valkyria Chronicles, but is very enjoyable. It is quite challenging at times, but never really gets dull as the player finds themselves taking on more interesting, and powerful, enemies. Players are rated on the outcome of each battle, with a higher rating leading to more rewards, meaning that the player has incentive to maybe take more risks in the battles.
Some light RPG elements are thrown in as well. There are different classes of units, and experience is earned that allow leveling up and improving of individual characters. Weapons and equipment also allow for a certain amount of customisation. Then there are the different members of the players squad, who each come with their own little quirks such as preferring to stay in cover or having some questionable views about certain ethnic minorities. Either way, there is a lot for the player to think about when developing their squad.
Included in this remastered version is the DLC for the original game. This includes some extra missions involving one of the lesser characters, and the chance to control one of the Empire’s generals. There is also an addition difficulty mode. It is nice to have this additional content, but there is nothing new added to the game that could not have been played before.
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is the best looking, and best playing, version of the game to be released. The story telling does move at a slow pace, and the combat takes a little getting used to and maintains a certain amount of challenge, but remains thoroughly enjoyable throughout. There is little to recommend this remake to players who enjoyed the game in its original form, but for the fans of the game and to fans of tactical RPGs in general, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is a great port of what was already a great game.