Europe was at war in 1935, honest. According to the gospel of Valkyria Chronicles, there was conflict a-ragin’ through Europe around this time, with the continent divided between two major forces: a bloc called the Atlantic Federation (in the West of Europe) and the invading East European Imperial Alliance. Thud in the middle of this mess was a tiny neutral country called Gallia, located roughly where the Netherlands lies, and it’s here that Valkyria begins, putting you in control of a team of freedom fighters.
Happily, unlike so many muddy videogame interpretations of 20th century warfare, Valkyria Chronicles is both explosive and, thanks to its watercolour-in-motion art direction, bright and lush. In places this style looks a bit too much like mere cel-shading dragged through an extra filter, but overall there’s no denying the visual flavour’s syrupy loveliness, and it gives a big boost to the ambience. The reason for Valkyria being termed Chronicles is its virtual book format (either that, or the game’s producer has a thing for local newspaper titles). Instead of asking you to traipse around a world map or pilot the dreaded airships of RPG Land, Valkyria presents its version of Thirties Europe in the pages of a ‘living’ book. Each page is split into five or six frames that transform from blank spaces into clickable pictures, which transport you into cutscenes or playable battle sequences, and you work through these in sequence.
The battle system makes the RPG. And Valkyria Chronicles’ fighting bits are some of the most strategically demanding fight-bits we’ve played since Final Fantasy Tactics. But Valkyria gets away from battlefield grids, sneaking a squad-based military action game onto its battlefields. It works brilliantly, granting you freedom to select a character and run across the battlefield, ducking below sandbags and shooting off rounds of rifle ammo aimed with a crosshair. Valkyria may be linear, but it’s not a stodgy RPG. Note Valkyria Chronicles’ name in your Rolodex. When it eventually gets an English translation, you’ll want to look it up and make repeated calls. It’s fantastic.
For more info, check out our preview from Sega’s press blowout.
Import Score: 8
Jun 9, 2008