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Valkyria Chronicles

Posted: December 31st, 2017, 2:37 pm
by JaySevenZero
Here's where you can leave your thoughts regarding Valkyria Chronicles for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

Re: 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Posted: January 1st, 2018, 1:34 pm
by TheEmailer
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!

Re: 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Posted: April 14th, 2018, 1:56 pm
by ReprobateGamer
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.

Re: 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Posted: August 12th, 2018, 6:45 am
by Magical_Isopod
Valkyria Chronicles was my Game of the Year for 2008 - and 2008 was a darn good year for games. I was so hyped for this one that I pre-ordered it.

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

Re: 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Posted: August 18th, 2018, 10:38 am
by ColinAlonso
When I first played Valkyria Chronicles I lived with three housemates who had varying levels of interest in gaming. Some games might get looks from the rest of the house but the striking, almost watercolour anime style of Valkyria Chronicles drew more interest than usual. Often bright and colourful but not afraid to mix it with the browns of war, it easily caught the eye and the guys would often sit down and watch me play.

The plot, while not spectacular, stayed interesting over the course of the game, helped by how likeable both the main characters and the rest of squad 7 are. The main characters have plenty of screen-time but I also got attached to many of the other soldiers in the squad through their individual designs and voices and their backstories in the game's book mode. I cared enough to make sure that none of them would die on the battlefield. As a group we would laugh at lines like Susie's screams of “I'm a pacifist” whenever she attacked and grow attached to character quirks like Jann's campiness or Jane's love of violence.

All this would be enough to keep me playing but thankfully the gameplay is a wonderful mix of turn based strategy and real time action that melds together really well. Advancing through battlefields while ensuring that you are defensively sound is a tactical loop that I really enjoyed. The five separate classes are useful from the start and some gain useful secondary weapons or abilities during the game. The game also puts additional obstacles or quirks to some missions whether that is night-time stealth missions or the infamous surprise pincer attack to avoid becoming stale. Needless to say I had some support regarding strategy from the others watching but often I would allowed to work strategy out myself. Warning shouts for landmines were greatly appreciated though.

There are a few flaws to the gameplay, scouts are a bit overpowered and the ranking system is solely based on the number of elapsed turns which emphasises speed over everything else but these flaws were not enough to detract from the game overall for me.

A few months after I finished the Valkyria Chronicles, the housemate with the least interest in gaming nonchalantly walks over to the PS3, fires it up and starts a new game without saying a word. Once I got over the surprise of that, we watched him play it almost as much as they watched me first time around. When we finished our year living in that house, three of us had completed the game.

Despite also playing multiplayer crowd-pleasers such as Mario Kart and Pro Evolution Soccer, my abiding memory of videogames with the guys in that house is of Valkyria Chronicles, an entirely single player, niche, wonderful strategy game.

Re: Our next podcast recording (19.8.18) - 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Posted: August 18th, 2018, 1:49 pm
by Steve Arran
Valkyria Chronicles is one of those games I can remember reading about back when we got all of our gaming info in print, rather than via the internet. The PlayStation magazine to which I subscribed was particularly glowing about this game, but being a penniless teenager at the time it was one of those experiences that I let slip by. When I noticed it was coming up on Cane And Rinse I knew this was the perfect opportunity to rectify this mistake.

Initially, I was charmed. The pastel colours of the cell shaded graphics filled me with the warm and fuzzies; they reminded me of the simpler times when I had first read those reviews. However, that cozy feeling was soon jolted out of me upon seeing Imperial soldiers mercilessly gun down refugees within the opening minutes of the game. I realised then that, whilst this may be as JRPG as it gets, this title was not going to shy away from the grim realities of war. And retrospectively, I can see this is where some of my problems with the game began.

To take the positive first, I love the design of this world. Pathetic as it sounds I thought the maps of the opening cinematics did a really good job of grounding you in a totally believable world. You could see why Gallia was the main front of the war due to its geographical position and the skirmishes occurring within its boarders made sense from a tactical standpoint. Call me a nerd but it really takes me out of a game when world design comes from a more aesthetic perspective; and therefor towns and cities and even entire nations are designed with little account into the cultures that would develop there due to differing environmental factors. (The Witcher 3 is a great example of this done right).

Gallia’s almost French Riviera style architecture and turn of the century clothing did a great job in helping me identify with the Gallian’s. It made me understand what I was fighting to preserve - after all, this place is lovely! The army defending this nation is a delight also. I loved the steampunk aesthetic of the entire corps and personally feel that the visual design of the main cast is far more successful in distinguishing individuals than any character traits that they were endowed with in the script. In my opinion the only design misstep comes in the forms of Princess Cordelia and Minster Borg - they look like they’re out of a completely different time zone from a completely different game; more mythical or medieval than 19th century steampunk.

Gameplay wise I enjoyed the twist on usual turn based JRPG strategy but felt the game did a poor job in relaying how some of the systems worked. I spent two thirds of the game using the same weapons which I’d had from the start; I obviously hadn’t paid attention to the cinematic which told me I could change them all up! My bad of course, but it did somewhat hamper my enjoyment when battles were taking hours to complete. My favoured tactic by the end was running right up to an enemy as a scout and shooting them at point blank range. This lead to some rather repetitive gameplay which may have been avoided had I realised I had access to a greater arsenal.

All that being said, I believe that the main reason I have a problem with Valkyria Chronicles is the aforementioned conflict of tone. I feel this game never really decides whether it wants to be a fantastical epic or serious commentary on the horrors of war. Whilst I understood what they were trying to do with the Darcsen allegory, I personally found the Fouzen mission to be in extremely bad taste. Oh, and whilst we’re on the subject of the personally offensive I’d like to single out the entire character, or rather caricature, of Jan (I mean, really? It wasn’t ok in 2008 and it’s certainly not OK now).*

To continue moaning, I found plot elements to be introduced and then resolved with inordinate haste, meaning that the player never really has the time to adapt to any new information or appreciate the raising of the stakes. Did anybody really feel that the giant lance in the castle was an important war ending device until it was decided it was in the cinematic before you had to destroy it? If elements had’ve been foreshadowed and characters given a little more depth- rather than you having to ‘buy’ backstory- I may have hated the villains and loved the heroes a little more. But to be honest, apart from Rosie- who I can only remember as the sexy racist (a phrase I ever thought I’d say)- I can’t remember any of the characters really having a dramatic arc. Having completed the game a month ago all I can recall is that the bearded lancer likes vegetables, the captain likes nature and one of the girls wants to run a bakery. These are characteristics, not characters. I had more of a personal connection with one of my scouts who due to her particular set of perks would often mess up a fight by wilting under the pressure. To give credit where it is due, the game actually does a pretty decent job of telling a meta story within the battles due to its mechanics. But the main story, the first of an epic Chronicle, definitely needed a few more hours in the over.

I really wanted to like this game, and I don’t know if that’s because I want to do right by the reviews in that PlayStation magazine from when I was a kid. But if I’m honest- and I’ve spent ages trying to write a balanced review- I found the gameplay repetitive and the characters bland. I will hold up my hands and say that this may well be because I messed up with the weapon selection aspect and I experienced the title in an extremely condensed period of time; I completed it in about a week and in retrospect I think it would have been more enjoyable had I played a chapter per night. Therein lies the rub; I enjoyed it enough to finish but found the final third enough of a slog that I just wanted to get to the end. (I even peaked at a walkthrough to find out how to cheese the final boss, as I couldn’t face having to go and grind).

For me the way I feel about Valkyria Chronicles can be perfectly summed up with the metaphor of the mission select book: The completionist in me loved ticking off each panel and brining colour to the sepia tinged pages. But the guy who loves pacing and story structure was left irritated by the fact that the game never gave itself the chance to build up any momentum.

*Id just like to point out that I’m not a snowflake, but come on, that was a bad call on John Demagio’s part right there.

Re: Our next podcast recording (19.8.18) - 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Posted: August 18th, 2018, 2:32 pm
by ColinAlonso
I found that John voiced Jann somewhat close to how he voices Bender when he is acting effeminate. I think given the way Jann acts (swooning at the Largo lover potential comes to mind), the localisers hands would have been somewhat tied as it would have seemed unusual for him to, for example, speak in a gruff tone. Obviously that just shifts blame to the original developers in Japan for Jann's design though.

Re: Our next podcast recording (19.8.18) - 333: Valkyria Chronicles

Posted: August 18th, 2018, 7:32 pm
by Nupraptor
This was a great wee game. I don't say "wee" to be dismissive: the game itself is epic, just that it was a relatively niche title.
I was really taken with the beautiful art style and really enjoyed getting to play through a fictional anime interpretation of world war I/II.
I found the characters and their relationships engaging and had a real sense of ownership of them. It was great to nurture them, watch them carry out daring assaults and above all else, try to avoid them being shot to bits by an imperial tank. It was exhilarating when one of my manoeuvres was successful or when one of my favourite characters pulled off a particularly heroic raid.
For whatever reason, this grabbed me much more than the Fire Emblem series which I guess would be it's closest modern competitor?
Playing through a great fun strategy game with a cartoon/anime art style took me back to one of the first games to really hook me: Shining Force on the Mega Drive. If any of the VC team at Sega want to do a Shining Force update in the VC style, then I would be delighted, but until then, I'm eagerly anticipating the upcoming VC4.

Valkyria Chronicles

Posted: August 19th, 2018, 7:44 am
by Steve Arran
Totally agree with you ColinAlonso, I should have been more careful when choosing my words as truly the fault does lie with the developer and not the jobbing actor who accepted the contract. I know that Japanese culture is very different from ours, but sometimes I find it’s attitudes towards women and minorities a little queasy; and I’m no social justice warrior.

Also loved your comments about Suzie- she cost me more than a few turns lol.

This game is a funny one for me. I totally agree with your and Magial_Isopod’s comments about the battle mechanics and how sometimes they click really satisfactorily. It’s a game of two halves- satisfying tactical combat (though marred by having to comeplete scenarios super fast for the best ranking) packaged within a totally deriviative story.

Maybe I should point out that I actually act and write for a living so maybe that’s why I seem so hard on it from a narrative perspective? I don’t know.

If anything this game has had me thinking about it long after I finished it so that shows that it is not without merit. If the reviews for successive titles weren’t so meh I would be tempted to see where the franchise goes.