Everyone knows Sega has been a top tier game developer. You may think their best game is, maybe, Sonic 2, Yakuza, Streets of Rage, Sega Rally, Virtua Fighter or Sega Bass Fishing 😂. No, their best game is for sure Valkyria Chronicles. It’s not just outstanding, it’s unique.
This is also the best 3D squad turn-based tactical strategy game ever done. I consider the classic X-COM: Terror from the Deep the best 2D squad TBS game, by the way.
What kind of game is Valkyria Chronicles
Just don’t confuse this game with Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. Those are SJRPGs/TRPGs, it’s another genre where you win by sheer power (stats, weapons, skills/magics) and where character development is a core mechanic. Placement and tactics comes second.
Valkyria Chronicles is a strategy game (tactics are everything) and it isn’t played like those RPGs: there are no quests, no individual character development (no side-plots for most of them either), no collectable items (just weapons/armor like in FPS or other genres), …
Once you understand this game isn’t a RPG you won’t be disappointed by wrong expectations.
- Tactical battles are very fun in this game and the strategy matters more than luck or troop development (luck and development just helps)./
- Gameplay design mixes realtime-turnbased, the best of two worlds:
- it’s a turn based game, necessary for a pure tactical squad strategy game, but each turn is played like a realtime 3D shooter with limited movement/actions, so it’s more fun than just “clicking” on a board.
- Game is paused during aim-mode because the character only gets one action per turn (unless doing reaction fire), so it’s very important to think and do it right.
- The game rewards efficiency and rushing the objective.
- You are not expected to advance “normally” and just kill all enemies, but to play smart to use every CP (action points) to reach the objective on time for max rank and (secondary) kill as much tanks/aces/leaders as possible.
- This isn´t mandatory, you can go at your own pace and repeat Skirmirshes to get the exp you don’t win if you don’t kill aces and get S rank.
- Varied strategies: there are various ways of dealing with the battles. You can even get S/A-rank with various, imaginative, ways. It’s not just using your troops to kill and occupy enemy camp: destroying the environment to open paths and using orders can both change the game.
- Lots of playable characters, with defined and fun personalities. There are many cliches, of course: a solitary emo sniper, a rambo shocktrooper, an idol, … The protagonist is a nature nerd! 😅
- Interesting storytelling: it mimics reading book chapters while the reader imagine/dream the battles.
- Beautiful manga-style oil-like art. It’s like seeing an art book, but animated.
- You can replay most battles in a Skirmirsh, soon after you beat them in story. That serves the player to level up and make campaign easier.
- The AI follows the same basic game rules as the player.
- Game is fully voiced. There are both original japanese voices and english dubbed voices.
I must also add that the game is scripted, so a general strategy that works for other players is usually going to work for you. It’s good because guarantees a same experience for all players but bad because it reduces the surprise/amazement factor you can get when playing a game like X-COM TFTD.
More than actual flaws, those are possible improvements I’d like to see in a remake for this game:
- Physics are far from perfect: hitbox may be tricky when near of certain obstacles, wired chain fence is like a solid wall, recoil isn’t real, etc. Of course, physic flaws are abundant in many AAA FPS and action-adventure games, so if you consider this is just a strategy game (which isn’t AAA), then those issues aren’t so bad and you shouldn’t really care too much. Consider that issues just “gamey” stuff.
- Strategy is limited.
- Battles are pretty linear and limited on strategies because maps aren’t random and the game penalizes the player unless is acting surgically and quickly.
- Lack of squad teamplay. There is, you can do team-attack (like a combo). But I meant the game is more focused on quickly going all out, rambo-like, with very few units doing their role until fulfilled and then just left there or retired from battle.
- Game input seems a bit sluggish too. Chapter UI animations are sluggish too. You get used to it but it should be a bit smoother.
- AI is a bit passive. Few enemy soldiers do mount a counter-attack unless it’s scripted otherwise. It’s ok, plot-wise, because you’re usually launching surprise/sneak/blitz attacks. But I miss a game mode with more aggressive and unpredictable AI that doesn’t let you rush.
- The map bounds are shown with slightly aesthetic diagonal barriers.
- Lack of multiplayer. Hot seat would be great. Other game modes would be nice too.
Again, we must consider everything on perspective. Remember this isn’t a FPS were you need good physics and controls to enjoy the game. Or an action-adventure where you expect good graphics and controls. In strategy games what matters is purely the strategic gameplay, story comes second and everything else is accessory. If physics aren’t great you just include them during your tactical decisions and that’s it. Right? Hell, I don’t care about classic XCOM physics, why I should care here?
Another thing to consider. There are 4-5 important characters, the rest are just secondary, ignored on the plot and dispensable. That may seem a flaw but, again, this is just a strategy game. This game story is mostly about Welkin and Alicia and, in strategy games, you usually don’t care about the troops, they’re cannon fodder. Maybe you’re a good commander and you do care 😏, but you really shouldn’t. The same happens in SRPGs with “generic units”, by the way.
Why to play?
The fantasy WW2-like story plot, the manga images, the troop management, the tactical missions… even if you don’t like something about it, give it a try.
As I told before, just don’t expect a RPG, or a FPS, or something else.
The Title theme, short but epic (like Tyrion from GoT!):
How to acquire
Valkyria Chronicles has been released as a “Remastered” edition for PS4 and Nintendo Switch consoles, so you should be able to buy it on physical and digital stores for both systems. The vanilla game has been released for PS3 and PC (MS Windows) and it can be bought on Steam.
In case you were wondering… yes, there is a manga and anime too, called “Senjō no Valkyria: Gallian Chronicles”.
There are 3 numerated sequels and there are 2 spin-offs: Valkyria Revolution (RPG) and Valkyria Chronicles Duel (web/mobile, it’s extinct).
For completeness sake: Valkyria Chronicles 3 also has a 2 anime OVAs and a cameo in Project X Zone.
Version / Platform
I’m reviewing the vanilla game but I own/played the PS3 version too. The PC game can be played with mouse+keyboard, in case you’re used to play computer FPS, but it’s designed to be played with a gamepad. Both versions run at 30fps and are exactly the same game.
I didn’t play the remastered edition but, anyways, the difference is minor. It seems to be just a image contrast improvement (see this visual comparison video if you’re interested). Minor text typos were also fixed. Good to have, sure, but it doesn’t make it up for a full price on PS4/Switch when you can just get the vanilla game on sale for PC… unless you just prefer playing on that consoles, of course.
The last title on the saga, up to 2019, is Valkyrie Chronicles 4, which is also multi-platform.
VC2 and VC3 sadly were only released for PSP console, but I hope there will be multi-platform ports for those games, following the trail of the Valkyrie Chronicles 1 remaster. Maybe. I think it just depends on sales and priorities, but if they didn’t before, why now? Strategy games aren’t so popular today (unless MOBA) and porting games from PSP may be not so simple (specially if graphics need upscaling or a full remake)…
Other than remasters, I don’t think there will be any true “remake” or more spin offs. What about Valkyrie Chronicles 5? Maybe.
Games like Valkyria Chronicles
VC is one of those Strategy titles that truly innovated, there is nothing similar. Still, there are other tactical focused strategy games you can play and there are more genres than make use of tactics on their gameplay, so I’ll just name a few:
- Valkyria Chronicles 4. Same gameplay and art with new plot and characters, released for PC and PS4/XBOX One/Switch.
- X-COM: Terror from the Deep. I already mentioned this game but it’s worth it. Hardcore turn-based strategy mixed with some lovecraftian horrors.
- X-COM: Enemy Unknown (UFO Defense), classic. The remake is 3D but far worse, I’d just play the classic.
- Heroes of Might and Magic 2. Classic turn based strategy (with few RPG elements throw in), more focused on army&resource management and long-term strategy (but tactics are still relevant on battles).
- C&C Red Alert. This is a pure real-time strategy game (RTS), totally worth your time if you like strategy but you’re more interested on the action, without 3D.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses. A famous SJPRG (or tactical RPG if you prefer) you can play on Nintendo consoles only. This isn’t a strategy game, but it’s more strategic than the typical RPG, nevertheless.
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. If you want pure 3D real-time shooting action, you’d need to leave the strategy genre. Tactics still matter in CS:GO, but as in any FPS, skill just matters more.
Valkyrie Chronicles isn’t a AAA masterpiece, but it’s truly a very good game. I consider it flawless as far as for a 3D squad 3D TBS game could be. It’s fun, the story is cool and the art is nice, so I can only praise it.