|Genre||Tactical World War I JRPG|
|MtAMinutes to Action||11|
|Buy from Amazon|
We’re celebrating our five year anniversary tomorrow with something special, but before that happens, we need to play one more first hour, and that game is Valkyria Chronicles for the PlayStation 3. Released around the world in 2008, Valkyria bridges Japanese anime graphics with an early 20th century European setting, a pairing that seems so wrong, but may actually turn out alright.
Developed and published by Sega, Valkyria Chronicles is a tactical strategy game with third-person shooter elements, also not a pairing seen often in gaming. But with in-house influences from Skies of Arcadia, Shinobi, and the Sakura Wars series, Valkyria Chronicles was never going to be a normal type of game.
This 239th first hour review was actually meant to be God of War III, but wouldn’t you know it, half an hour in I realized that Nate already covered it two years ago. One of the disadvantages of having so much content, I suppose. He was doing a better job on it anyway. So as fate would have it, here is the first hour of Valkyria Chronicles.
00 - I select New Game and the first hour of Valkyria Chronicles begins. There are no difficulty options so the game jumps right into the opening cutscene. A book opens and a female narrator says the year is 1935 EC. Okay. She starts describing two sets of nations going to war over some kind of made up element. The map looks like Europe and they even say Europe a few times, but it’s *not* Europe.
01 - The Empire is bad and the Federation is good. East vs. West. The Empire kicks off the game’s events by attacking a little country called Gallia.
02 - Prologue: Gallia to Arms! I’m browsing some sort of newspaper-like chapter selector now. I click to view the “A Meeting” episode.
03 - The narrator continues on showing a farm town being deserted due to the incoming invasion. A man says he hasn’t been down this road in years, he’s amazed at some fish in the water. This is bizarre. He’s talking to them like they’re old friends, then draws them in his notebook.
04 - A little girl puts a rifle to his head and starts questioning him. I like the anime style, it contrasts weirdly with the serious World War setting, but is rather charming.
06 - The man gets hauled into the station by the local militia thinking he’s an Imperial spy. Another new chapter, this one called “The Imperial Attack.” Sounds foreboding. Suddenly a Japanese girl shows up and recognizes the man, what the heck is she doing here among all these white people in western Europe?
07 - Well, Isara knowing me, Welks, frees me from the little girl and the militia. Suddenly, some men start attacking and throwing grenades. The Imperials are obliterating us. The girl hands me a gun and that episode is finished. You know, momentum can be kept by not throwing me back to the episode select screen every 30 seconds. The game recommends I save, okay.
08 - “Encounter at Bruhl,” here we go, time for my first battle! The “little” girl, Alicia, details the plan. We need to kill all the scouts, and we lose if Welkin or Alicia dies, or if 20 turns pass.
10 - An overhead map of the battle is shown, and then the tutorial begins.
11 - I use a command point to select a character, and then can run around with them using action points. Intriguing system. I line up my reticule and fire, hitting the guy a few times.
12 - The shooting is turn-based, I can spend as much time as I want aiming, this is pretty cool. I crouch behind the sandbag but the guy is still shooting me, I guess I’m forced to end his turn.
14 - I run Alicia up but am being shot at while running, then kill the guy with three shots (out of five).
16 - Spending the rest of her action points, I guide Alicia further into battle, but end up stranding her without cover, so I use my final Command Point to take control of her again.
17 - It is now the enemy’s phase, one of them shoots Alicia and hits her once, but she shoots back and ends up killing him, kind of awesome. I’m back in control now with one baddie left.
18 - He’s dead! “Operation Complete!” Wow, that was surprisingly fun. I’m... stunned. I get a B rank for finishing in two turns, lame.
19 - “A Hilltop Promise” episode begins, Alicia has laid out the three dead soldiers in front of her, but says they should bury them. She swears to protect the town from the war, and releases some seeds into the air.
21 - “On the 15th day of the third month of the year 1935...” long story short, the war on Gallia has begun. Narrator goes on to basically spoil the whole story and hints that Gallia won the war.
22 - Valkyria Chronicles title screen flashes by and the page turns to start Chapter 1, “In Defense of Bruhl.”
23 - Alicia, Welkin, and Isara walk through town, looking at its sights, including a large mill. Alicia is going to stay and fight but the other two make plans to leave town with the others. Doesn’t take long before Alicia is back with some bread in apology for arresting Welkin. “I’m not his girlfriend, just his hero. Although I’m really hoping to be his friend.” Friend-zoned already.
27 - Isara is Welkin’s adopted little sister, I guess her Japanese heritage makes slightly not much more sense now.
28 - All of the conversation scenes are just talking head portraits of the characters with hand-drawn art in the background to reflect the scene. It’s not Final Fantasy XIII, but it’s nearly as effective.
29 - Welkin tells Alicia that the army is not for him, he’d rather be a teacher. Alicia says giving back “in my own way” is deep. Ah, just kiss already. Oh oh, some bombs go off and a cutscene starts.
30 - Woah, an awesomely animated scene plays with a missile landing on the mill destroying it, and then some soldiers run in and shoot up the citizens. I really liked that style, too bad it was so short.
32 - Another battle episode, had better save first. This time I just need to kill the enemy leader, but the failure scenarios still apply. We’ll be fighting around the mill plaza.
34 - Their leader isn’t even on the map, so I’ll target some scouts first.
36 - The first scout goes down under Welkin and Alicia’s attacks. I even use the third, no-named character this time.
38 - The enemy phase is really interesting because we’re doing more damage to them than they are to us.
42 - Ugh, just prematurely ended my turn on accident. Lame.
43 - The enemy keeps getting a ton more command points than me, is there some method to this madness? Barely uses any of them, however.
44 - I apparently just killed the leader without realizing it, afterwards one of those cutscenes begins again and a tank rolls into town. Looks really mean. It decimates the town defense.
45 - Oh, the battle is still playing out! The tank is attacking me in my position, jerk! He nearly kills the no-name guy in my squad.
48 - New objective is to get to cover and hide in an alley. I get two extra command points and make a run for it. Turns out I just need to get the two heroes there, the other guy can screw himself.
50 - Ouch! Rank D! The page turns to chapter 2, “Escape from Bruhl.”
51 - Welkin makes a run to his house to save Isara and their friend Martha. Some bad guys call Isara a “Darcsen,” no idea what that is but might just mean Japanese? Welkin bursts in and whacks a guy over a head and Isara shoots the other.
52 - Wait, Martha is pregnant? She’s gone into labor.
53 - Bwahaha, Welkin and Isara’s father have been hiding a tank in a barn, now we’ve got some firepower. I’m a bit confused on whether Welkin hasn’t been in Bruhl in a long time or something? Hmm...
54 - Isara knows how to drive the Edelweiss tank, and will rely on Welkin to give the orders. They climb in the tank and the game’s A-Team theme song equivalent begins. Welkin wants to pick up Alicia and get out of town.
56 - More saving... and another operation begins. I need to destroy their tank and defend our gate.
57 - I get a quick tutorial on hand grenades and the fighting starts.
59 - Unfortunately you can’t throw the grenades very far so I run Alicia out into the battlefield for a better throw... to her death! Game Over.
60 - Thankfully able to retry the battle immediately, but that’s the end of the first hour of Valkyria Chronicles!
Minutes to Action: 11
Bias: My biggest question before going into a JRPG is what kind of battle system does it feature, without playing the game, I don’t think I would have believed or understood exactly how it plays out. Valkyria Chronicle’s system is highly tactical, but throws you right down into the action a moment later, I really like it so far. But in all honestly, I really knew nothing about the game going in, I was just hoping it would be decently fun and not feature endless cutscenes and mindless chattering. Thankfully, the hour went by quite happily.
Would I Keep Playing? Yes! This isn’t really like Uncharted 2’s “yes” or even Infamous’ “yes”, but more of a, “why yes, I am very intrigued by this title and it has surprised the heck out of me and wouldn’t mind playing the rest of the night” sort of “yes”.
The anime graphics aren’t off-putting at all for the setting and tone of the game, in fact, they make the whole teenage soldiers thing a bit more believable because that’s just a thing that you sort of expect in Japanese animation. I also really like the fact that there’s not traditional cutscenes where everyone stands around and talks, the talking heads are much more effective and contribute some subtlety in the expressions you can see in the faces.
Combat was what I hit off so well with, it’s a little silly if you think too hard about it (but most JRPG combat systems are, so don’t), the combination of planning from the overhead map to actually lining the baddies up in your crosshairs is invigorating. I’m not going to say I’ve been waiting for years for a system like this because I never even knew it could have existed.
And hey, the English voices didn’t rattle my skull, so points for that.