Game Title: Valkyria Chronicles
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 3 – 4 hours
As a lover of RPGs, I will admit that I’ve got preferences of games I could play anytime and those that I can’t. Strategy RPGs are the kind of RPGs that I can really get into, but not in mass succession. Thankfully, there are bunches of SRPGs that twist around the formula and combine with other genres to make things more interesting, both for RPG fans and non-RPG fans.
One shining example of this is the Valkyria series. Revolution aside, the series has melded the SRPG genre with the Third-Person Shooter genre, giving off very strategic turn-based combat with the action-like thrill of a shooting game.
Despite being unable to acquire and review the newest game of the series, the original has graced the Switch and handhelds in general for the first time. Originally released on the PlayStation 3, here is my review of Valkyria Chronicles for the Nintendo Switch!
VC takes place in the 1930s in a fictional version of Europe called Europa. Two countries have been at war over a magical resource known as Ragnite, with the smaller country of Gallia staying neutral in the conflict. When a rich supply of Ragnite is discovered within Gallia’s borders, however, The Empire invades, causing the Gallians to take up arms to defend their home.
The story is centered around Weklin Gunther, a small-town nature-lover-turned-squad leader whom fights off the Empire when they invade his hometown and earns himself a leader position in the Militia because of it. Together with his sister and a local patrol officer, they put together a squad and travel the country, aiming to take it back from the Empire.
As the series is known for, the plot of this game is very good. Every character has a ton of charisma in and out of gameplay, and there’s a lot of background mythos that makes this both a history fantasy story and a science fiction one.
As I said in the intro, VC is a Strategy RPG filled with Third-Person Shooter elements. As you go through each stage, you move units in turn-based combat and fight with various firearms like rifles and grenades.
First of all, this is not VC Remastered that released on the PS4. While Remastered didn’t have content differences from the original, outside of including the DLC, this also doesn’t have the redesigned R&D and improved sound quality from that release.
Progression in this game takes place in menus in the form of a history-book (as if the game is a tale being retold by a scholar or teacher). The main modes here are Book Mode that holds story scenes and story mission, Headquarters that lets you recruit new characters and customize/upgrade your tanks and units, and Skirmishes that are repeatable missions you can use for experience and money. There are others as well, like Personnel that lets you see character backstories, but those 3 are the ones you’ll be constantly in and out of.
The customization and characters of this game are really unique because of how they are done. At HQ, you can allocate experience points to classes as well as spend money to upgrade weapons and tank materials. The way leveling works is that you level classes and when a class levels, every unit of that class levels up with it. This makes leveling individual units vastly easier than other SRPGs.
For better and for worse, character customization is very in-depth. Every character has their own character quirks and personality traits and they all have latent abilities that are based on those quirks. You have some characters that do well when certain other characters are around, like they’re besties. You also have negative abilities to go off their personalities, like lonely-prone characters having stat decreases when they explore areas where they’re by themselves. There was a lot of effort put into making every “generic” character feel like they’re part of the story.
Getting out of customization, let’s talk about gameplay and combat. When you are thrown into a mission, you have set areas where you can place your units. Once battle starts, you go through turn-based combat where you have a certain number of points that a character will use when they take action during that turn, with units using one point and the tank using 2. Each unit can freely move around the level during their turn, but have a set number of Action Points for moving around, and each class has different movement ranges.
As you move around, you can stop to use items to heal or attack with one of your weapons. This is where the interesting bits really come into play. When you fire a weapon, you aim like you do in a third-person shooter where hitting certain body parts do different amounts of damage than other parts. Every weapon has range and accuracy and damage ratings depending on how close or far you are from your target.
The other aspect of it being a shooter is the fact that you can be attacked as you move around during your turn. If you are moving from cover to cover and walk into the range of an enemy scout or shock trooper, they will start firing on you with their rifles and machineguns until you’re out of their range or start your own attack phase. This goes both ways, as your units can do the same to enemy units. This makes the game a lot more difficult, as it’s very easy for a unit to be knocked out just from moving around.
This aspect is also where the game starts to get a bit glitchy. There are a lot of times, where you will be shot at and the game will have a bit of a delay when you go into a different mode. I saw many cases where I would be moving into my attacking phase and the 2-3 seconds my character was raising their gun and focusing in that phase and I’d keep taking damage from being shot at while other times, the moment I hit the R button, they’d stop firing. It’s not very consistent.
This system works very well and feels very unique for a strategy game. This is a bit of a difficult game with lots of difficulty spikes, but not ones you can’t get around with good strategy. While I would say there is a fair amount of Skirmish grinding to be done, you’ll be spending more time on story progress than you will with grinding for levels.
Now let’s talk about content and length. The base story campaign will likely take you at least 25-30 hours to get through, plus a couple other campaigns with the included DLC. For $20, that’s a lot of RPG to dive into and enjoy.
Controlling the game isn’t too hard and most everything is explained to you during the tutorial missions you’re sent through.
You move around with the Left Analog Stick and move the camera with the Right Analog Stick. The D-Pad / Arrow Buttons are used to navigate menus as well as more sensitive and precise aiming in combat. The triggers are mostly used for opening the map and entering Attack Mode during gameplay, though they can be used in the menus to cycle through game modes.
As far as the face buttons go, A is used for confirming menu options and attacks while the B button is used for canceling options. X is used for pulling up character info and Y for changing aiming styles.
Graphically, the game doesn’t look too bad. It’s not as crisp as the PS4 Remaster, but it looks loads better than the blurry graphics of the original PS3 release. It does look a little grainy around the edges in many of the cutscenes, though gameplay renders look good.
Audio is another one of the game’s glitches with this being the original release instead of the Remaster, however. There are many times where sound effects don’t sound when they should, and the audio for reloading weapons at the end of each turn are rarely ever synced with the actually animation. Listening to those bits sounds like you have lag between what’s happening and hearing the effect.
As far as performance is concerned, things aren’t bad, but there are some small frame drips here and there when you’re moving around levels. This isn’t as massive of a deal with this being an RPG, but it’s quite noticeable.
With this being a 3D game like this, I wasn’t expecting great battery life. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 11 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 28 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 01 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 12 minutes
Gotta admit, this is more than I was expecting.
In conclusion, Valkyria Chronicles remains a very unique blend of RPG, Strategy, and Shooting. This not being the remaster does bring with it some glitchy audio and the frame-rate isn’t as perfect as I would like. However, if you’re a fan of JRPGs and RPG Shooters, it’s a great gem that finally brings the origin of the series to handhelds.
Final Score: 8/10