Valkyria Chronicles - first look

If you’re the type of gamer who glazes over when you hear the word “strategy,” Valkyria Chronicles is the Japanese SRPG that might change your mind. An original IP from Sega Japan, Valkyria aims to satisfy the hardcore, niche gamer while also giving PS3 owners the exquisite eye candy they deserve for shelling out $400 for a console with action-charged gameplay and sketch-style cel-shading.

We started our Sega gamer’s day demo with the opening cutscene, which was all in Japanese. But the visuals speak volumes and as the producer explained that the cinemas were all rendered with the in-game engine and something about the PS3’s potential being realized, we could only nod stupidly as the gorgeous graphics struck us dumb.

The rest, as they say, is alternate history.

He who controls the Ragnite, controls Europe
Valkyria’s story takes place in the year 1935, but don’t expect to see Hitler because the world is an alternate version of Europe. The two mighty powers - the Eastern European Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation - are warring for control over the precious material ragnite. The small neutral nation of Gallia (Switzerland, if you will) is rich with ragnite so it comes as no surprise when Imperial forces decide to annex the country. The people of Gallia rise up to cast off the invaders and get sucked into war that consumes their entire world.

Epic, huh? Most JRPGs are stuffed with overwrought emotions and massive plot sequences that sometimes obscure the gameplay, but Valkyria Chronicles looks to be skirting the problem by giving players the ability to engage in as much or as little of the cinematic side of the story as they want. The main interface is a book, each page being a different level. These pages are filled with selectable items- area info screens, the party menu and cutscenes relevant to the area. You could opt to jump right into the battle without first watching the cutscene and thereby avoid almost all of the JRPG angst - but really, why would you want to do that?

Above: Stop! In the name of angst!