I love the idea of Valkyria Chronicles on Nintendo Switch. Turn-based tactics games feel like an inherently portable genre to me, but platforms like the PSP have always felt too small for a series that puts a premium on art like Valkyria Chronicles. Enter Valkyria Chronicles 4 on Nintendo Switch, which on the face of it is the perfect compromise.
Picking up a Switch with Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a revelatory moment. After the compromises of Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3, it feels like the scales fall from your eyes. It's bright, clean, and beautiful on the big Switch handheld screen.
At first blush, it feels like a neat solution for the franchise. Valkyria Chronicles is still quite a beautiful game, but it's no longer the technical showcase that it once was, making it a natural fit for the less-powerful but still capable Switch. The story scenes stand out really well, and its turn-based tactics mesh well with the Switch's portability. Best of all, it's not limited to the handheld version, seemingly making it the best of both worlds.
But then you get to the actual battlefield and, well, there are a few compromises there. It's immediately noticeable, for example, that the actual soldiers and terrain are less detailed than before, taking away from its artistic splendor. Frame rate drops are also small but noticeable; and while they don't entirely impede gameplay, they do stand out.
Unfortunately, while these are compromises are nothing new—see Xenoblade Chronicles 2 when undocked—they do take a bit of the shine off of the Switch's Valkyria Chronicles 4 port. It speaks to the difficulty of porting even a game like Valkyria Chronicles when it isn't developed with the platform in mind, and the challenge of making handheld work. Valkyria Chronicles 4 for Switch is still technically under development—it's due out at the same time as the North America release—so Sega is still optimizing the port, but there's clearly some work to do.
These issues aside, though, Valkyria Chronicles 4 looks like a very nice sequel, albeit very similar to the original game. Like before, it's a turn-based tactics game that involves picking from a pool of soldiers with various weapons and quirks. It utilizes an AP bar to determine how far a character can travel, with each move costing one or more control points. Its strong points are its likable cast, complex maps, and anime-style storytelling, which has just enough emotional depth to resonate.
Valkyria Chronicles 4's story is concurrent with that of the original game, turning the spotlight over to the Federation, who are in the process of launching a massive counterattack into the heart of the Empire. Unfortunately, based on various trailers, the Federation is due for a harsh lesson—don't launch land wars in a fantasy version of Asia. Snow is apparently a major factor in Valkyria Chronicles 4, which should help set it apart from the previous game.
Regardless, I've personally been a big Valkyria Chronicles fan since the first game, which blew me away with its high-quality anime art and in-depth tactics. I especially liked the way that it broughts its characters to life with unique quirks, in-game dialogue, and memorable designs, even if they didn't have any real story beats. Marina is my gal forever.
I really want it to work on the Switch, and I'm holding out hope that this is an early version that is due to be optimized. But even if it's not, I'll probably be playing this version. In the end, the allure of a properly portable Valkyria Chronicles—complete with animated cutscenes—is too strong.
We'll see how it looks when it's released later this year. Even if it doesn't work out, there are always the versions on PS4 and Xbox One, as well as the newly-announced PC version. Regardless, it's good to have Valkyria Chronicles back.