"The early mix of tactics and fast-paced action, along with the effective methods of micromanaging Squad 7, streamlines many of the issues I have with this particular genre."
It's hard to believe Valkyria Chronicles first hit the PlayStation 3 back in 2008. While only a moderate success in the west, its popularity in Japan spawned two sequels. We managed to get one of these, but since then fans have been worried we'd never see the return of this franchise. Finally, 2016 looks to buck the trend, and while we await Valkyria: Azure Revolution's release, Sega has given their PS3 classic a new lick of paint in the form of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered. Going by the time I've spent with the game, it does an outstanding job whetting your appetite while reminding players just how good this game was.
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is set during the Second Europan War, an alternate universe World War II where the fictional Imperial and Federation forces are fighting over a precious resource known as ragnite. This material is used for powering engines and healing wounds, amongst other things. Amidst the conflict, the small nation of Gallia is caught in the crossfire as both powers vie for the resources the country harbours. It's here that Welkin Gunther and Alicia Melchiott meet and join together to help end the war and save their homeland.
There's a key word with this re-release that's worth mentioning — it's a remaster, not a remake, so I didn't go in expecting any major changes to the formula, and luckily I wasn't disappointed with what the game has to offer. The main difference is the upscaled graphics and higher frame rates, and so far I've had no issues with either of these. The game runs smoothly and the canvas engine looks wonderful on the PS4.
Early impressions of the game came easily because of the fantastic mix of turn-based and real-time strategy. It bores me when you move units along a grid-based system only to have their attacks rest in the hands of luck, but Valkyria Chronicles changes this up by handing you the reins. Once you've chosen your squad member you have complete control over their movement and actions. You have the ability to hide in the grass, climb ladders and towers, and even aim and shoot on your command, meaning success is very much down to you rather than a randomly generated percentage. You can even select a character more than once, but the more times they're selected, the more tired they get and the less they can move.
The strategy elements come into play with regard to the five classes your troops are assigned. There are Scouts, the quickest and most agile of your squad; Shocktroopers, berserkers who storm into the battle and take down everyone with them; Lancers, the tank-destroying machines who're slow but powerful; Engineers, the healers of the group; and Snipers, the frail but lethal assassins. Each class can move a different distance and can aim at different lengths, so balancing between them all is crucial to survival. You'll soon learn each class's strengths and quickly utilize their skills effectively.
On top of this, you'll be granted a tank which is extremely powerful but also limited in movement. Perhaps my only complaint at this point has to do with this unit, as it controls in a clunky manner, a common issue picked up on previous releases. Regardless, I've had very little trouble succeeding with the limited use of my tank, and I can happily say up until this point, the game has never felt unfair. Victory feels like a genuine reward rather than a struggle; I'm learning as I go, adjusting when I need to, so I've never felt punished for using the wrong troops or making terrible decisions.
When you're not out on the field, you'll get a chance to explore all of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered's other elements. You'll spend most of your time at Headquarters, managing Squad 7 and making sure everything is up to date. The leveling system is simple, as you assign experience points by class rather than by character. Even characters who don't fight with you gain experience. This makes managing a squad of over 40 members extremely easy. You can also spend money to upgrade your weapons, armour, and tanks, with each weapon branching off into two or three specialised factions. Some machine guns favour accuracy over power, whereas others add status effects so you can weaken the enemy gradually. Weapons can be assigned to an entire class or equipped individually, but the choice and ease of the system is what makes it most appealing. Preparation is made far less tedious and every aspect only enhances the experience.
The time I've spent with Valkyria Chronicles Remastered so far has been excellent. While nothing much has changed from both the PS3 and PC releases, I've realised that nothing really needed to. The early mix of tactics and fast-paced action, along with the effective methods of micromanaging Squad 7, streamlines many of the issues I have with this particular genre. It comes with all the DLC as standard and grants you the ability to unlock hard and extra hard mode once you've completed the game. If you're looking for a new strategy RPG, are scared of the genre, or just want to relive the experience, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered looks to be worth the wait, and there isn't long to go now.