Valkyria Chronicles - first look

Taking the Field
We watched one battle in action during the demo and were treated to all the finer points of Valkyria Chronicles’ combat. The producer picked out a sniper, a tank, and a handful of infantrymen for his party. He spent his first Command Point on the sniper, sending her up the nearest tower to snipe some dude over half the map away. There seems to be the fog of war thing going on where you can’t see the whole map unless a character has a good vantage point, but from the top of the tower, we could see almost everyone on the battlefield.

“But if you can see them,” the producer warned, “they can see you.”

Sure enough, our sniper started getting shot at as soon as she was at the top of the tower. Quickly, she took out a guy with a headshot and the producer ended her turn without using the rest of her gauge to bring her down from the tower. Now, had that tower been blown up by a tank, he would have lost his sniper (or maybe she would have fallen out of the tower and taken damage), but as he only had 20 minutes to show us as much as possible, he left her there and spent another command point on an assault class character with a huge lance/cannon looking thing.

He sent the assault chick (complete with anime pigtails) to a halfway point on the map where a flag post was being held by enemy infantrymen. Our girl took one of them out with one turn, but the producer had a tough choice to make: should he use a second command point on the same character so she could take out the second guy and capture the flag post, or send someone else in to back her up? Command points can be spent on different characters or the same characters over and over again, but with diminishing returns. The producer decided to shell out a second point on the infantry girl to take the flag post and we noticed that her movement gauge dropped by a third- she was also severely low on ammo.

If a battle is going especially badly, or you decide you want different classes of character on the field instead of the ones you’ve got, you can call for reinforcements from captured flag points. Reinforcement characters can replace existing ones, or fill out spaces left by fallen allies. This could be a huge improvement over other SRPGs that make you suffer a losing battle until you completely lose or just reload the game. Flexibility allows the player to shift strategy on the fly and makes combat feel more like an action game instead of a drawn out chess match.

The producer summoned an engineer to replenish the assault chick’s ammo and then continued to move his other deployed forces with his remaining command points. He used his tank to blow up a wall which revealed a hidden batch of enemy forces that hadn’t been marked on our pre-battle map. Just as it was becoming obvious our heroes had walked into a trap, the demo ended and we were left aching for more.

The Fog of Release Dates
Valkyria Chronicles came out in Japan on April 24, 2008, so if you’re dying for a taste and can stand a whole lot of kanji, the import option is open to you. For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait until November to get our hands on the game- but in the meantime there’s the tiniest chance we’ll see some sort of demo on PlayStation Network sometime in late summer to mid fall. We were also told that while Valkyria Chronicles is getting the full voiceover treatment from Sega, the original Japanese audio will remain on the US release. Either way, we’re happy to have Valkyria whenever it shows up on the shelves; because even if you’re not into SRPGs or JPRGs, or any kind of RPGs, it’s going to be hard to turn your nose up at a game that looks this good- especially a PS3 exclusive at that.

May 16, 2008