Valkyria Chronicles 4 Review
There is nothing like Valkyria Chronicles. Trying to explain it just sounds like incoherent listing. It’s a JRPG version of fantasy World War II played like a turn-based strategy game that is also a third person shooter. There is no game that plays like it and no setting like it. So does Valkyria Chronicles 4 live up to the legacy of the series? It does. So much so, it’s a little uncanny.
The first Valkyria Chronicles was an unexpected PS3 hit in 2008. Later ported to PS4 and PC, the game became a sleeper hit, finding a wider audience with every Steam sale. Valkyria Chronicles II & III were both released for the PlayStation Portable and found a much smaller audience. Later installments in the series, Valkyria Chronicles D and Valkyria Revolution were never released outside of Japan. As such, it’s been a decade since a wide release Valkyria game.
Enter Valkyria Chronicles 4, a game so true to the original it can sort of be considered a remake. This time around, the game follows Atlantic Federation Squad E, a new group of soldiers from farther west than the already famous Squad 7. Other than that, this is a reboot in every way. Besides the addition of mortar wielding grenadiers and an expanded roster of vehicles, the game plays like the original 2008 Valkyria Chronicle. It looks the same. The menus are the same. The music sounds the same. Even the characters are eerily similar.
I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, I can’t help but wonder about the game that could have been. It’s 2018, I kind of want my game to have fully animated cutscenes, less clunky menus, maybe a revised progression system. On the other hand, no game has ever even come close to Valkyria Chronicles in terms of play or style, so one more similar entry in the franchise feels like coming home.
The characters and the story feel the same. Squad E is led by a plucky and sensitive academic type. He needs to prove to his friends that he’s not the coward he once was. There’s a hot-headed gunner who won’t shut up about butts and is always getting himself into some JRPG hijinks. There’s the stoic and ultra-competent lady sniper. The femme bomber running from her tragic past. A whole crew of fun anime types with thin backstories. It’s like getting to fall in love all over again, but this time with better localization.
The same goes for the missions. The gameplay still works exactly the same, but the missions in Valkyria Chronicles 4 are just a little bit more refined. One early mission is a desperate charge through a dark forest at night where you play as both the retreating soldiers and the rescue squad. Another takes place on an epic battlefield where you’ll have to fight for every scrap of ground, battling through hills and bunkers. Each mission has a unique structure, then can be played again in the returning Skirmish Mode, which re-purposes the battlefield as a more straightforward tilted battle.
I didn’t deeply analyze the resolutions or anything, but Valkyria Chronicles 4 looks the same as the first one. The graphics are still rendered in a bright, saturated, storybook style. The heavy outlines sort of evoke Telltale graphics, but really are a thing unto themselves. What animations there are look good, but the game heavily relies on voices over static images, told in comic book frames. It worked really well in 2008 and it still works now, but this is the area where you can’t help but feel disappointed that there isn’t more change in ten years.
At the end of the day though, I want two things from a new Valkyria game. I want fun, challenging missions and I want to plunge into an overstuffed cast of JRPG soldiers. The game delivers on both counts in spades: the missions are better than ever before in the franchise and the characters are just what you’d hope for. The story is doled out at a bouncy pace and the localization is full of personality. Maybe one day we’ll get a fully realized next-gen Valkyria Chronicles, but until that day Valkyria Chronicles 4 represents the best the series has ever offered.
**PS4 key provided by the publisher**
- Amazing world full of memorable characters
- Classic and unique turn-based gameplay
- Great story, fabulous localization
- Cute dog named Ragnarok
- Static cutscenes
- Cumbersome menus