Valkyria Chronicles Remastered Review (PlayStation 4)
I usually take very thorough notes when reviewing a game. I keep my notebook next to me at all times, pen ready, and will often take a break between rounds to jot down my thoughts. That didn’t happen with Valkyria Chronicles Remastered. Maybe it’s because I already played it back in 2008, when it originally launched on the PlayStation 3, but I found myself without words as I made my way through its early battles and story set-up. When I did finally pause to write something down, it was simply this: “This game is still so good.”
Valkyria Chronicles is set during a conflict that shares similarities to the real-life World War II. An evil empire is invading country after country throughout the continent of Europa in hopes of acquiring an all-powerful mineral, Ragnite. This escalating fight brings together three natives of the small town Bruhl, who eventually find themselves enrolled in the larger fight. Under the command of Welkin Gunther, Squad 7 fights its way through a variety of environments to stop the Empire’s takeover. The story is deep and emotional in ways I won’t spoil here, full of interesting characters who bring the plot to life.
What makes this more than just a straightforward military tale is the use of fantasy elements, particularly the mysterious and ancient Valkyria — one of which is employed by the Empire. Once she starts emitting an otherworldly blue glow, Selvaria is not to be messed with, and her appearance usually signals that the battle is about to become a lot more difficult.
What’s always been the most interesting part of Valkyria Chronicles is the combat system. A mash-up of strategy, RPG, and third-person shooter gameplay — yes, you read that right — results in every battle being a great mix of thoughtful tactics and heavy action. There are five different classes of soldiers, each with advantages and disadvantages, and it’s up to you to figure out how to use them in any given situation. Scouts have plenty of movement allowance but not much firepower or defense; shocktroopers are your heavy gunners, while slow-moving lancers are ideal for taking out tanks or heavy machinery. It’s useful to have an engineer on hand in case Squad 7’s own tank, the Edelweiss, gets damaged, but sometimes you’ll have to choose between more firepower or playing it safe. Snipers round out the bunch; while they can strike from afar given the right vantage point, their movement is extremely limited.
It’s not just which soldiers you choose, but where you put them, that makes the difference between victory and defeat. Each individual character, regardless of class, has its own likes and dislikes. One scout might prefer a desert environment, while another was a city kid. Some like men, or women — or both. Alternately, there are those prone to panic, allergies, or just plain negativity depending on the situation. For each fight, the number of soldiers to deploy is limited, and it’s up to you to best fill that space.
I remember being intimidated by the battle system in 2008; it’s a lot to keep track of, and one wrong move can result in character permadeath or worse, getting a bad grade on the mission, which means less cash and experience. This time around, however, it felt like a homecoming, which probably had something to do with the 150 hours I spent in Valkyria Chronicles II. If you’re new to the series, the missions start off slow and simple to ease you into the process, and there are optional skirmishes available for extra practice (or just to grind for currency and XP).
The biggest draw about the remastered version of Valkyria Chronicles is the upgrade to 1080p resolution. However, it was already gorgeous on the PS3 eight years ago thanks to the watercolor-inspired artwork and storybook interface. Valkyria Chronicles Remastered looks exactly how I remember it looking, which is a testament to its impressive art design.
The PlayStation 4 version also adds trophies for the first time, but there are a few other modern updates that would have been welcomed in this update. Valkyria Chronicles uses a completely manual save system, which was already becoming rare in 2008 and is nearly unheard of today. Even knowing this, it’s easy to forget to save at critical points after years of auto-saving being the norm. On top of that, I wish the actual story missions could be replayed to try and improve the results. Having practice skirmishes is great for gaining experience and practicing tactics, but they unlock slowly and quickly become repetitive.
These are minor complaints that hardly mar the experience of having Valkyria Chronicles readily available on a console for the first time in years. It was a fantastic game in 2008 and unlike some gems of the era, its appeal hasn’t been lost to time. Though it was received well critically the first time around and became a cult favorite, VC largely flew under the radar upon its initial release. I’m glad it’s getting another chance to shine a generation later.
This review was completed with a downloaded copy of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.