Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Valkyria Chronicles: Buy the Game, Play the Anime

This was my first impression of the game. I first stumbled upon its demo in the PSN Store. It was free, it was Anime-ish so I got it. A few minutes later, when I was done with it, my gut hungered for more. I promptly ordered it through Amazon.

But what is it, exactly? Labeling games nowadays is a tricky business so I usually resort to an entity infinitely wiser than me for answers: Wikipedia. According to this semi-deity, VC is a Tactical Roleplaying game, a Third Person Shooter and a Real Time Strategy game. From the time I've invested in this game I think it's safe to say I'm a TRPGTPSRTS kind of girl. I never knew.

The game's setting can be said to be based on WWI (more so than WWII in most respects). It is set in Europa instead of Europe but that to me, as a Portuguese native speaker, is exactly the same. It also tries to incorporate some Norse mythology tidbits (Valkyria, Ragnarok Ragnite) but, honestly, I could hardly tell the difference. The whole Valkyria thing is vaguely impactful on the whole and it goes largely unnoticed throughout the course of this TRPGTP.... thing. You are part of the militia of the small Principality of Gallia (does this mean we're the frenchies?) that sits smackdab between the two major opposing forces, the Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation. They are both the baddies as they want to take advantage of your slender virgin body country's natural resources.

What first caused me to download it was the whole pungent smell of Anime. The game might as well be set in a Japanese high-school for all the drama involved. It is entirely cell-shaded and has no pretenses whatsoever of being realistic. The people who made it have a serious thing for pigtails. But I can look past that. The gameplay, to me, is all I could ask for.

Outside of battle you can spend money to develop weapons and armor for your squad and trade experience for battle commands and leveling up your troops. All of these facets are extremely straight-forward: you can choose which class of soldier to spend experience on and when they level up they supposedly get better, although you have no hand on how; when researching there is only a simple tree to follow for each weapon/armor type that forks three ways (at best) giving you the choice between firepower, accuracy or status changing effects.

In the battle itself you get a varying amount of Command Points, depending on the units you choose to fight with you. Certain units add to your Command pool. Each CP lets you control one unit, moving it around and attacking once in real time. That would be the FPS part.

Besides the core characters around which the FMVs revolve you get to fill up your squad with other members, each one with their own background, voices and potentials (potentials are situational bonuses or drawbacks that range from accuracy boosts from standing atop a sniping tower to hp draining caused by an allergy to dust). If you ever played a game for the Dreamcast called Skies of Arcadia you will no doubt recognise Vyse and Aika.

The more you play with certain squad members the more of their story you get to know. Their stories are chronicled (big shock huh) in one of the pages of the book. Because, yes, the wole game is one big book where you play the battles depicted in each chapter and the cutscenes are just interesting paragraphs the author added for flavor. This also means that you can review any story event you've already witnessed and that you can skip some scenes entirely if you really don't care to know a bit more. The game only forces you to go through parts that make the whole thing make sense. But you can skip the musings of a solitary confinement prisioner if you're not particularly interested. And if the battles really tickle your fancy there's a whole section of skirmish battles you can grind to your heart's content. The book also has a Weaponry tab if you want to know detailed information about fictitious weapons and vehicles and a Glossary tab, for more clues on the meaning of some terms and the history behind some prejudices.

Because the game is so Anime/Manga reminiscint (so much so that they went on to publish both Anime and Manga based on it) you have the option of listening to it all in Japanese. I wouldn't recommend it, though, as the voice actress charged with Alicia is near the most annoying thing to ever (dis)grace my ears.

The main management of the game is deciding who to bring to the field and to do what. Soldier's traits decide how well they fight with other soldiers and how they will fare faced with certain situations. Some will be fiercely hateful towards the Empire (which was modeled after a German/Russian blend from WWII whose soldiers and commander, for once, don't all speak with an English accent), others will like being around certain people. Knowing when to bring a sniper or a tank-killer can change the entire flow and outcome of a battle.

But you know what? Best thing you can do is go get the demo. The only reason I can see for someone to not like the game is them being fiercely anti-Anime. Or maybe you don't like tanks and shooting things.

Maybe I don't like you either.... Oh, who am I kidding. I love you guys.

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