333: Valkyria Chronicles

This is where you'll find threads specific to the games we're covering in Volume Six
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JaySevenZero
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333: Valkyria Chronicles

Post by JaySevenZero » December 31st, 2017, 3:37 pm

Here's where you can leave your thoughts regarding Valkyria Chronicles for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

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TheEmailer
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Re: 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Post by TheEmailer » January 1st, 2018, 2:34 pm

This game is a really unique take on war, with a beautiful art style and full of surprises. The gameplay was an engaging mash up of strategy and third person shooting that drew me in. However, my enjoyment of the gameplay was mired by the ranking system, linked to rewards. It puts speed of completion ahead of unit survival, so encourages the player to rush rather than plan coherently. In the end, due to the difficulty curve, I ended up using guides for the top ranks and reloading saves when turns didn't go to plan. This is not by any means a fun way to play the game.

The story was an unusual take on world war two, with the melodramatic anime style sometimes jarring with serious subject mater and sometimes being quite affecting. I ended up caring about the characters of your unit more than the overall plot, both the full voice acted ones and the squaddies with their personality traits. I find this style of storytelling, focusing on the soldiers rather than the war itself, more compelling and I found the game succeeded here.

Oh and the 'Desert Duel with Maximilian' can do one!

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Re: 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Post by ReprobateGamer » April 14th, 2018, 3:56 pm

This games gets so much right - the graphics are gorgeous, the gameplay is a good blend of shooting and strategy and the characterisation was great. The first few levels give you a great introduction to how the game plays with a decent difficulty curve and there is a reasonably broad mic of scenarios then you realise that the game basically wants you to ignore everything taking place and speed run it - and torpedoes the whole thing.

Each level finishes with a battle report styled score sheet, and despite all the entries for killing key figures, the only important result is your speed rank - and the speed required will mean that any choices you would make based on character relationships or any of the fairly detailed world building is ignored to essentially power a scout to the finish line. It's a turn based endless runner ...

I've never completed this game, and never will, as a result.

I don't have a specific objection to number of turns taking being a factor in your score but to know that you can't get top rank for playing the game as a strategy game rather than trying to find the correct route to reach the objective (especially as this seems to require save scumming if the RNG is against you) means that I'm not encouraged to play.

I find it telling that the anime based on this was far more concentrated on the characters than any war scenes and the fairly poor reception every other version has received would suggest that I'm not alone in having issues with the game.
I have watched a lets play on this and the story does have a good ending but I just can't get over the dissonance between the story beats and the way that the game needs to be played.

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Re: 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Post by Magical_Isopod » August 12th, 2018, 8:45 am

Valkyria Chronicles was my Game of the Year for 2008 - and 2008 was a darn good year for games.

The majority of the games on my personal Top 100 list are there for strong narrative, or strong audiovisual design. Valkyria Chronicles stands apart from most of my favourites in that my strongest love for it comes from the mechanics. The narrative is compelling enough to push you through the game, the characters are perfectly fine, and while the art design and music are outstanding, the game just wouldn't be what it is without the core mechanics.

I am typically not fond of either tactical games nor military themes, so my closest point of reference for what makes Valkyria so good is Final Fantasy Tactics. Even though the plane of movement is a full 3D environment that utilizes X, Y and Z planes of each level very well, it still feels a bit like a chess match. Where you move your soldiers matters; where you place your shots matters; where you leave your soldiers idle before ending your turn matters. You have a rag-tag crew of oddball troops, and it's not hard to get attached to them - I'm sure every fan has their own personal favourites. You have a set of diverse classes that all have valuable roles in combat - although one could certainly argue the Scout class renders the Sniper class rather useless, especially late game. The combat can be very difficult, with several levels acting as barriers to progress until you master the mechanics - or think of unorthodox solutions the developers may not have accounted for.

But there's something special about how the games gathers these individual pieces and pastes them together that's a little harder to qualify. When you lose a battle, you know why - your brain immediately jumps into "how could I approach this map differently next time?" mode, and you want to keep trying new strategies. In one level, after losing several times in a row, I thought, "That tank that spawns in after 5 turns is a pain.... What if I spent my move points getting my tank behind where it spawns and shoot its engines out before it can hurt me?" And that actually WORKED! Compared to something like Bloodborne, where I feel like the game is deliberately trying to break and demoralize me until I grind out arbitrary points to boost my character's math numbers, I feel like Valkyria Chronicles is like a Canadian football match, where each attempt at a play is pushing the ball further and further upfield, until you're finally able to get over the hump and go for the end zone. When you know how to play the battlefield right, when you can see that victory just over the horizon, you feel this power rush that's hard to put in words. You feel like a god in the machine, a cat in a fish farm, it's a sense of empowerment that very few games can match. In fewer words? I'd say it's a bit like a turn-based, anime Doom 2016. And in that way, the game is very special. The large maps and epic scope of this particular title have not been matched by its technically limited PSP sequels, so I am eager to see what trials the forthcoming fourth entry may bring.

Something that really strikes me about the art style - and something I don't see talked about often - is how it captures a certain snapshot of post-World War II Japanese art. The anime influence is obvious, but what I don't see brought up is what I perceive to be clear influence of illustrations of war machines and technology - the kind you might see in textbooks or enthusiast books on the topic. I think a deliberate allusion to this is protagonist Welkin's penchant for drawing the scenes of combat he encounters in-game; a nod to the Japanese artists of the past who rendered sketches of these tools of war in loving detail. To me, the sketchbook look to the cell-shading and the turning of pages to transition chapters is meant to emulate the experience of flipping through a young adult guide to the technology of war, imagining seeing this equipment in person, or perhaps even dreaming up their own machines. When I look at a lot of Japanese concept art from the 80s and 90s, especially for games that heavily features machines or vehicles - Einhander is the big one that comes to mind, for me - I see a very strong influence from these military books detailing tanks and planes and ships - the same kind many kids can find in their school libraries.

I'd also like to spotlight the soundtrack from the great Hitoshi Sakimoto, who also worked on Tactics Ogre, Radiant Silverfish, and the aforementioned Final Fantasy Tactics. His style here perfectly captures the tone of each moment as it ought to, and it really elevates a great experience to even greater heights.

Three Word Review:
Tactical Power Trip

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