Hidden Gems: Valkyria Chronicles

By Jordan Douglas on January 28, 2011, 1:55AM EDT
PS3

I tend to bring up Valkyria Chronicles whenever the situation remotely calls for it. Whether it be on the podcasts, in a related article, or in casual conversation with friends. There always seems to be a good time to remind others of this excellent game that went largely overlooked by Western audiences. Critically, Valkyria Chronicles received quite a bit of praise, but relatively few retail copies were ever produced, most likely because Sega never expected the game to catch on. If you can get your hands on a copy, Valkyria Chronicles is a worthwhile experience for gamers of all stripes.

What is Valkyria Chronicles? Well, to put it simply, it's a turn-based tactical RPG with a unique battle system, art direction, and a set of likable characters.

That description may have already turned many of you off the game, but stay with me for a minute. The reason I say it's a game every type of gamer could appreciate is because, on the surface, Valkyria Chronicles is not a game I would typically be interested in. However, it offers something more than what you're expecting on every level. The combat, while turn-based, offers some real-time elements - certain enemies can attack regardless of whose turn it is to move. The visuals, while anime-inspired, have a unique moving watercolour aesthetic to them, with a rough, wartime edge. The characters possess a quirky, Japanese flare, but can still tackle some of the serious, Second World War-inspired issues that arise.

For the above reasons, Valkyria Chronicles was always on my radar prior to its release. Although, I didn't feel compelled to play it right away, because it came out in the busy fall season for game releases. I ended up leaving Valkyria in the shrink wrap for over six months before finally picking it up in the summer of 2009. With a full week off before starting a new job, it felt like an appropriate time to try something new. Little did I know most of that week would be consumed playing nothing but Valkyria Chronicles until it was finished - a proud accomplishment of mine, as I don't know anyone else, in person, who has completed the game.

The Valkyria binge left me very invested in each of the main characters as well as being excited to see the story's conclusion. The varied battle scenarios the game sets up also didn't hurt. You'll experience situations that range from intense, urban tank skirmishes to stealth sequences through dense forestry, fighting uncovered amidst a wild sandstorm, chase scenes, and everything in between.

Valkyria Chronicles is a fantastic game that successfully takes many tried-and-true elements of the tactical RPG genre and infuses them with new ideas that ultimately creates an experience unlike anything you've played before. It's appeal can reach a wide variety of people, with clever combat mechanics, an innovative art style and engaging characters. Be sure to give Valkyria Chronicles a chance should the opportunity present itself.

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