The Return of Valkyria Chronicles

The Return of Valkyria Chronicles

Sega's star-crossed franchise returns... sort of.

The admittedly good news that Valkyria Chronicles will be getting a PC port is in a way also a cruel twist of the knife for longtime fans of the series. It's like giving up a long lost love for dead and then hearing that maybe, just maybe, they're still alive. Basically, we're Yuna in Final Fantasy X-2.

I personally gave up on ever getting a new, English-localized version of the series around 2012, when hopes for a western release of Valkyria Chronicles 3 on PSN faded and then died. After that, the series more or less dried up in Japan (outside of a strange browser game), and that was pretty much that. Valkyria Chronicles, which had started with so much promise in 2008, was dead as a doornail.

Sadly, it was probably inevitable. From the moment that it arrived in 2008, it seemed to struggle with the mainstream gaming public, which looked at the cel-shaded anime art and strategy gameplay and collectively shrugged. It did better in Japan—enough to earn a fairly average anime adaptation—but after a while it more or less fizzled over there.

Valkyria Chronicles' vibrant cast was one of its key strengths.

Despite its untimely end, Valkyria Chronicles has managed to retain a share of the JRPG fan's imagination over the years, mainly because it was just that good. When it was released in 2008, it was by far the most beautiful game on the PlayStation 3, and its cel-shaded graphics still hold up very nicely today. Its mix of turn-based and real-time strategy could become a bit too much like a puzzle at times, forcing players to go to step-by-step FAQs just to get through a seemingly impenetrable fortress without losing a character, but it was nevertheless a refreshing take on the Japanese strategy RPG genre.

What still stands out to me the most, though, is the lively cast. Most of the characters in Squad 7 never so much as appear in a cutscene, yet I clearly remember characters like wannabe actress Edy, adorable little Homer, and aloof sniper Marina, most of whom fall squarely into a handful of anime archestypes, but still add a lot of color to the cast. What I like most is that their various traits, which have a direct impact on the game, tell their own story. Marina, for example, operates best when no allies are around, gaining a substantial accuracy bonus, but suffers from an acute pollen allergy. Other characters alternately hate men, hate women, or have crushes on other members of the squad. The interlocking nature of the traits makes it easy to imagine a definite social structure within the squad, and also encourages you to pick your favorite characters and stick with them.

All these little details just show how much thought and care Sega put into Valkyria Chronicles. It's also evident in the fact that there's just so much content. Aside from the main story, there are medals to collect, sidestories to uncover, and a million little random bits of dialogue and cutscenes to discover, all chronicled in a beautifully illustrated book that is one part menu and another part photo album. From start to finish, Valkyria Chronicles exudes care and polish, and it remains one of last generation's best RPGs.

Valkyria Chronicles 2: So that happened.

Sadly, the wheels came off a bit after that. In an effort to cater to their handheld-loving domestic audience, Sega decided to cram the sequel onto the PlayStation Portable, which compromised the art and the level design while making it less desirable for western audiences. Valkyria Chronicles 2 was also set in what amounts to a high school, with all the attendant cliches and archetypes. The main character is a hot-blooded redhead, his friend is the cooler and more logical guy with the glasses, and they go on lots of wacky misadventures while trying to save Gallia from Civil War. Of course, the original Valkyria Chronicles was heavily influenced by anime as well, but it was balanced by multi-dimensional characters, a strong setting, and an emotional arc. Valkyria Chronicles 2, for the most part, lacked all of those things.

The sequel predictably tanked hard in the U.S., and that was pretty much that. Valkyria Chronicles 3, another PSP game, righted the ship with a tone that was more in line with the original game, in the process pushing the PSP to the limits with larger and more varied levels; but it was never released in the west, and at that point, the writing was on the wall. Outside of a few side projects, Valkyria Chronicles hasn't been seen since.

So what should we make of this PC port then, which is seemingly coming out of nowhere? Well, it could be interpreted as a way to make some extra money off a franchise that still has a lot of fans, which I certainly wouldn't put past Sega. It could also be interpreted, however, as an attempt to restart the series and get it back in the public eye. If that's the case, then there may be reason to be optimistic for a Valkyria Chronicles 4 after all.

The best way to make that happen, ultimately, is to reward Sega's renewed interest in the series. Buy a copy of the PC version, stream it, and get your friends to buy a copy too. If this is indeed a second chance for Valkyria Chronicles, then let's make the most of it.

And hey, it can't hurt to have another run through one of last generation's best RPGs as well, right? Even if Valkyria Chronicles isn't really back and this is just a cheap attempt to make a few extra bucks off a known commodity, at least we'll have that.

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Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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