Finally the long awaited RPG 戦場のヴァルキュリア/Valkyria Chronicles has hit the store shelves, at least in Japan. I’m usually not one to get taken by prerelease excitement, but my anticipation was such that I had to get up early (or rather, stay up late) and brave the uncertain Tokyo weather in a jaunt to Bic to pick up a copy. I’ve taken some time out from playing it to provide my first impressions and plenty of detail on the game.
The cutscenes basically possess better visual quality than the vast majority of anime you’re likely to have seen; in motion and as stills it is spectacular. I have mine running at 1080p via HDMI/DVI to the excellent Dell 2707WFP, and the visual quality is stunning, both in terms of technical excellence, and the carefully maintained visual style. The cel-shaded graphics are carried off perfectly; a little more progress and the gap between anime style computer animation and the traditional 2D sort will be closed.
If I were to make any complaints about the graphics it could only be pathetically niggling things like a twitchy camera when crouching behind sandbags, in a corner, during a firefight. Also, the animation of the hands is a bit stiff and lacking in detail. Not very significant criticisms, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Regarding the length of the cutscenes versus the time spent in battle, etc, it seems a good balance has been struck so far. Story and battles seem to fit and complement each other so neither becomes a chore to get to the next.
I have not checked the list of seiyuu providing voicing, but at this early stage the voice acting and casting is excellent. The score is suitably martial and orchestral.
The character designs are as you can see, gorgeous. Tanks, soldiers, scenery and explosions are all stand out as well.
I wouldn’t care to provide an opinion of the story so early on, and I certainly won’t provide any spoilers, but it seems to be shaping up well, and the setting is an original choice of a 1930’s war torn quasi-Europe, replete with panzers. It is a very alternative history by the looks of things. It seems reminiscent of Full Metal Alchemist, and has the same well developed sense of style, and the fantastic and science fiction elements are provided by the inevitably mysterious and powerful mineral the nations are scrabbling for.
The gameflow and story is conducted through the device of a retrospective chronicle, a book as you can see. You select the cutscenes and operations on the page sequentially, and once unlocked you can replay the cutscenes at will. Turning the pages and changing chapter allows you access to the cutscenes at any time; with such high quality cutscenes and dialogue, this is surely an invaluable feature.
The real crux of any SRPG like this is the battle and leveling system; both seem well developed, though I can’t comment much on the leveling and inventory setup yet. It is a proper tactical RPG: anyone who has played the likes of Jagged Alliance or XCOM will be right at home with the hybrid system of real time action points (a gauge consumed in real time as you move and attack with one character) and Command Points, with which you and the enemy activate your units from the operational map until all CP are consumed and you finish the turn and wait for the enemy to move.
Different units consume CP differently; tanks take 2 to activate and behave differently to infantry as you might expect. You can reduce enemy CP by eliminating command units. You can also spend CP on moving the same unit several times a turn at the expense of exhausting them.
The attacks are done semi-manually; since time is paused whilst you aim you can generally aim for a weak point unless the enemy cowers behind sandbags, in which case he, like you, becomes immune to criticals.
You cannot expect to charge enemy positions or anything like that (I tried to flank like this to get round the sandbags once and was unceremoniously gunned down): tactics seem to play a big role, which is precisely what one would hope for in a game of this sort.
Dealing with armour adds a whole new dimension on top of the aforementioned infantry tactics, as naturally it really takes a tank to knock out another tank, but tanks demand twice the CP and can be immobilised.
The Ragnite engine on the rear is apparently an opening for infantry to eliminate tanks.
Navy blue, unless my eyes deceive me.
Alicia has a slightly maidish look going on I think. I cannot say I approve, but I certainly approve of Alicia.
In summary, this is shaping up to be a fantastic game, both in terms of gameplay and story, and really seems to push the PS3 forward, to say nothing of the JRPG genre. More details will follow when I have played further on. I must now return to the game.