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Valkyria Chronicles (Switch) Review

by Donald Theriault - October 23, 2018, 6:49 pm PDT
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I guess the Skies of Arcadia characters transferred over from the Air Force.

In releasing Valkyria Chronicles 4 on the Switch, Sega announced that a version of the 2008 PlayStation 3 original, Valkyria Chronicles, would be brought to the system. It’s hard to say who made the right move with release order: Japan got both titles on the same day, while the rest of the world had to wait three weeks. But it was worth the wait, as the first game is a good version of a great game and it’s definitely the place to start for people who have any interest in the series.

Like the new fourth entry, the first Valkyria Chronicles follows a unit in the army of a neutral nation who has to fight off an invasion, in a clear reference to World War II-era Europe. There are survivors of a first European war, and even a race called the Darcsen who are in the army despite hostility from some rougher members of the unit and the opposing empire’s desire to exterminate them. The story focuses on the squad’s leader, tank pilot Welkin Gunther, and the unit’s best scout, Alicia. The squad gets new members as it pushes back against the invaders, but among the first members of the squad to join are Vyse and Aika from 2000 Sega RPG Skies of Arcadia. There aren’t side missions, but the interstitial scenes between missions do provide a view into how your squad operates.

The combat missions play out as a third-person shooter, with strategy elements of choosing which units to deploy and moving the units as much as possible within the limits of their energy meter. Bringing particular troops allows for more actions during the player phase of combat, and killing certain enemy troops will lower the amount of movements that can be made in the enemy phase. Five types of troops are available, including Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Engineers, and Snipers (the Grenadier class from VC4 is absent).

Most of the actions will be handled by the Scouts, who have massive movement range and just enough attack power to make them game breakers. I had a two-turn clear in one early map because I was able to move Alicia 2/3 of the way across the map in turn 1, take out a shocktrooper and a sniper, take an enemy base and avoid multiple rounds of mortar fire. Because of the leveling system’s focus on classes, rather than individual troops, I was able to bring in a second scout for turn 2 and take the guarded base to complete the mission. About the only thing they can’t do is defeat bosses in a single round, but the shocktrooper class (Vyse’s) makes up for that, if constructed well enough.

Although there was a “Remastered” edition of Valkyria Chronicles that released on PC and PlayStation 4, the Switch version has seemingly gone out of its way to avoid the designation. Even the home screen icon has “for Nintendo Switch” on it. The art style adapts well to the Switch, however, and it’s hard to discern between the Switch and PlayStation 4 versions…when on TV. Handheld mode has frequent blurriness and muddy graphics, which was disappointing following the solid performance of VC4 in handheld mode. It’s still playable, and mid-mission saves make it well suited to playing portably, but the graphics may be a distraction for some.

Since Into the Breach hit at the end of August, there has been a barrage of quality strategy games on the Switch, so it can be tempting to skip Valkyria Chronicles. But don’t do it. It’s a brisk game, and there are some things like the graveyard for fallen troops that I wish were carried into future titles. War may be hell, but Valkyria Chronicles is a little slice of heaven.

Summary

Pros
  • A quality introduction to the series
  • Class-based character progression is a godsend
  • Nice references to prior Sega RPGs
Cons
  • Scouts and shocktroopers are the auto-win buttons
  • Some blurry graphics in handheld mode

A review code was provided by Sega.

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Game Profile

Genre RPG
Developer Sega
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Valkyria Chronicles
Release Oct 16, 2018
PublisherSega
jpn: Valkyria Chronicles
Release Q4 2018
PublisherSega
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