Ah yes, Valkyria Chronicles, the game that is much beloved by its niche audience but grossly neglected by SEGA. It is going to be hard for me to write this article, considering a lot of what is wrong with or rather about this franchise has already been said a million times. But seeing as I just got around to playing the bastard child sequel, I am filled with the fanboy rage to rant against one of my favorite game companies that has done me so much wrong since I was first introduced to the Weeb War 2, animus-video game blend perfection that was the original ‘Chronicles game.
To start, some of this article will be written BEFORE I finished the game. Let’s just get that out of the way being an adult is hard and time for video games is about as dry as the Gerudo desert. Nevertheless, I have so many strong feelings about it that I must verbally throw them at you right now. Facial protection is advised.
Way back when, JRPGs were still sort of rare for Western PS3 owners. We had them for sure, but often times these games weren’t localized, which was still okay because you could play them, since the PS3 isn’t region locked, just at an exuberant cost. Even today we have to sympathize with Japanese publishers thinking it is a risk to make an English version and hope that American and European gamers can put down the heavily worn copies of Call of Duty and FIFA and try a good game for once in their lives. So back when digital wasn’t as common, the industry overall was smaller and xenophobia was at an all time high, it isn’t really a wonder many JRPGs just didn’t come our way sad as that is to say.
Still, in April ’08 a bombshell landed on the PS3 worldwide. A new SEGA published game, that combines a Strategy RPG with Anime, two very Japanese things but it kicked ass! I remember how heavily my friend was selling me on this time, he practically begged me to play it for myself and he wasn’t even a fan of either of those things (SRPGs or Anime). Somehow, SEGA took what should’ve never been popular and knocked it out of the park as a classic must play title for the PS3 (and now PS4 and PC). If you ask me, it’s probably because of the lovingly crafted writing, characters and world but also how it was something different. Seriously, sometimes just different can be enough to stimulate us gamers. We can only slaughter hoards of zombies and yell at 12 year olds online for so long before we need to cleanse out the senses with something unique.
And Valkyria Chronicles was just that. To me it was perfect for what it was. But then when it came time to make a sequel, SEGA’s long line of terrible decision making for this game franchise had begun, like a five star restaurant appetizer followed by a bag of cat diarrhea for an entrée, a stale frozen tv dinner for a main course and an exhaust pipe from a car for dessert.. Ok that’s not fair, remastering the original was sort of a step in the right direction—though if they don’t follow suit with 2 and 3 and later a true successor, I’d say it was just another spontaneous cash grab rather than anything that will help revive this series.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 is bad, but not because the game itself is unplayable, laughably poorly put together or broken. It is bad because SEGA ported it over to the PSP bringing in both the hardware limitations and the challenge of selling a sequel on a different platform, with a smaller market. This decision single handedly sabotaged what could’ve been a strong trilogy of games for the PS3/PS4.
Funnily enough, as I started typing into google “Why Did Sega Release..” it was autocompleted to “Sonic 06”. An equally humorous, although irrelevant, question indeed. The reason they decided to make a sequel for a popular game on the PS3 on the PSP is apparently because it would be a quicker process. Apparently it would’ve taken three times as long as they’d like to make it and I honestly don’t see how that’s the case or how they would then justify the jump to the handheld platform.
Their reasons aside, it’s the way it all turned out. The sequel came out, it was quite clearly limited in what it could accomplish, making it an inferior game to its predecessor, and then this more than likely discouraged investors with low sales numbers… even though, you know, that’s like shooting your horse in the leg and wondering why it isn’t running as fast as it used to. But I digress, that is the history of this weird in between step for the franchise. I will go on in the VC timeline and talk about my feelings regarding more of this franchise—in case it isn’t already obvious—but first I’d love the opportunity to dissect the aspects of this game that bother me a little.
First off, the game is so absurdly limited that it almost feels like you’re playing a version of Valkyria Chronicles 1 on the Gameboy Advanced Mini—except there it would probably have more features! You only get to have 6 people at a time and if you want a tank it takes up 1 of those slots. MEANWHILE your damn opponent can have the entirety of the Rebellion army at its disposal to overrun you by at least 4:1 on each screen—which is a lot of fun to deal with in the final mission, more on that later. SPEAKING OF SCREENS, this problem gets even worse with missions where you have to hustle your ass across four or five different areas because there you’ll be: cruising along taking out the bad guys, when all of a sudden ONE RANDOM FUCKTARD YOU DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WAS THERE WILL POP UP AND STEAL YOUR BASE BACK IN THE STARTING AREA, RESULTING IN YOUR MISERABLE UNTIMELY DEFEAT. Seriously it’s so random it almost makes you laugh in a manic self-deprecating way. And because you only have 6 people to choose from and will need every last one to advance to the later areas, there’s no way you can leave a dude behind in case the base is contested at any point. It’s silly and so easy to fix mind you, they could’ve just made it that when you move on that area is already under total control and can’t be accessed by the enemy period. Actually, it usually is like that, however another game mechanic totally screws this element up and that’s that the enemies out of sight are still hidden completely. So you may have killed off all of the enemies you initially knew about but still one straggler is shrouded in secrecy. The fact that they didn’t even bother to address this by simply making bases in totally finished areas off limits to the enemy OR simply letting you know how many enemies are left in each area, shows just how lazy of a job making this game was.
This also means you’ll have the wonderful time of having finished the objective and be ready to see the mission complete screen but no such screen comes up. The enemy still has more and under certain mission objectives you’re supposed to eliminate every last blasted one across each area, so you’ll be spending the next three turns either ordering the 3 move command—that you can only do once per turn and a limited number of times overall*—to see all the enemies in ONE area, or running around aimlessly looking for that one dude squatting in a bush. Again, this could have been implemented better but clearly they did not have the time since they rushed this game.
*Note: having beaten the game I now know there is a 6 move command that shows you all the enemies across each area, so you would only need to do it once. Just wanted to throw that in there, I like to be fair in my destruction of this game/the dev.
Then there is the ranking system, which I do recall being a problem in the original Valkyria, meaning purely that they didn’t bother to fix it. For this I have provided a picture as an example below.
One mission I got a C where the objective was to defend the line, ie. to hold a defensive position and not allow the enemy to cross a certain point. Now I realized at some point playing this game (and mind you I only just returned to finish Valkyria Chronicles 2 off; previously I had found it too difficult and annoying so this time around it is on the easiest difficulties, go ahead laugh at my weakness I don’t care) that you can actually just kill off all the enemies in pretty much any mission and it’ll be considered a victory too. This helps save time since you will often be tasked with waiting out 7 or 8 grueling snail’s pace turns throughout the game.
I proceeded to take two turns to wipe out every enemy from the first area with the defensive line and proceeded to flush out the stragglers in the other non-crucial areas of the mission over the next two or so turns. I won by default because all of the enemy units were dead and I did so in under the turn requirement by a few turns, again I got the victory screen. THIS WAS WHAT GAVE ME A C! A fucking C for doing better than the objective requirements using STRATEGY. A bloody C!
Well maybe it’s just my strategy was faulty somehow, I’m biased because I came up with it and felt like the mission went really well. Okay, so now explain this: on another mission, I did so poorly that I had 7 downed allies by the end of it. I GOT AN A. WHAT THE HELL SEGA?? The ranking system in these games needs work or maybe they accidently put their mission objectives through google translate beforehand. Maybe I was supposed to get half of my squad killed!
Okay and one more limitation that NEEDS to be addressed, although it certainly isn’t the last one for this game, is the damn dialogue. In the process of gutting the pristine glory of the first Valkyria Chronicles game to make the sequel, they created an abomination when it comes to cutscene presentation. Here’s what I’m talking about: You get one actual cutscene fully animated and spoken per month (so about a dozen total cutscenes) that actually is fair to be honest I don’t except a lot of full animation cut scenes in a PSP game. You also get static image cut scenes with voiced dialogue every once in a while, usually also one or two per month which means only about a dozen of these. This sucks because that means the rest of the game is that but voiceless. So you’re looking at a cheaper version of the already watered down version of a cut scene, you have to read text while two or more boxes with characters in them move and shake and rub up on each other. It’s weird and very bootleg feeling which is pretty much the feel overall for this game.
When gameplay is so botched and lackluster, at the very least you would hope you have the story and awesome cut scenes to look forward to. But no. And having actually played this game from the beginning now for about twenty hours, it’s actually EXACTLY what I expect from this game, mediocrity and disappointment. I was genuinely surprised at one point when one of the knock off cutscenes in the game gave me a case of the feels because I didn’t think it had the potential to do that. This also gave me the horrible realization that this game actually could have been good and something I cared for rather than a wet fart on an otherwise awesome game concept. I’ve heard people complain a lot about how the characters and plot feels hollow and generic. It very well could be that, again don’t expect much from this game, but I think most of all it is the poor choices they went with for presenting the story that makes it feel so rather than just outright bad characters/plot. The characters are okay, the protagonist definitely feels like a typical anime goofball hero, but he’s still okay in my book as are plenty of the other characters. But the visuals really hold the game back and hold me back from getting too invested, not to mention the low quality of gameplay and how the pacing in the story feels off and like it has no subtlety—I’m referring to a point in the game where a character who has taken a very long time to develop little by little, is just sent through a development spike out of nowhere and offed the very same scene. It makes me think of how given more time and care, they could’ve really got me with a lot of these characters but instead the story feels like it both goes nowhere at times and at other times is entirely lacking in subtlety and that sweet organic growth feeling I come to expect with a story driven anime game.
And now having finally completed the story, I can say the last mission feels like such a chore and strips down the fun parts of a strategy game this game has to offer—that being the “strategy” part where you can delightfully pick how you want to kick your opponent’s ass—and leaving with it the rigor of bullshit deaths, losing and being overrun by dudes, which can all be circumvented in two or three turns if you just abuse the staple of this game: doubling up on your opponent from both sides. Yup, in lieu of just making it more of a fair fight for you the player, their golden strategy that you need to use time and again—and is even explained to you early on in the game—is this braindead excuse for strategy combat. But I want to expand a little more on the final mission..
It’s bad because you have to fight off waves and I mean WAVES of enemies. This is the point where I also complain about an OD frustrating part of the game and that’s that your enemy after a certain point in the game can spawn reinforcements ANYWHERE THEY WAY, ANY STAGE AND ANY POSITION REGARDLESS OF BASES. So now tell me, what in the actual FUCK is the point of having bases in this game if the enemy can spawn wherever they like? What—besides raising morale—is the point of capturing bases if it won’t stop your enemy from being able to spawn on that part of the map? It would be nice if we could just leave a dude at each base for defense but this issue gangbangs you with the only-six-units-for-you/unlimited-units-for-the-enemy problem I mentioned earlier. It would help if they thought to remove one of these things but I believe they were trying to artificially make the game harder by doing this, so you would have to replay levels and thus get more bang for your buck theoretically leaving you feeling like you played a good length game. But that’s nonsense anyway.
Not to mention, all this artificial padding of this game for difficulty then made them have to give you a way to kill them easily (the spit roasting your opponent method I was talking about two paragraphs ago) because how could you be expected to win against these odds:
- Can spawn units anywhere (after a few missions)
- Unlimited number of units on the field
- Unlimited reinforcements
- By virtue of being computer controlled can likely factor your unit locations into its move decision
- Deploy beefed up “V2” units
- Have boss characters that can use supernatural powers
- Regularly use map wide artillery fire
- Doesn’t have to worry about “morale”
- Usually doesn’t have to worry about having their base camp capped or only needs to worry about having one captured as opposed to multiple
- On that note, can leave units at each base for defense if they feel like it and generally all their bases will have at least one unit guarding it
- Can have multiple tank units at a time
And it goes on.. whereas YOU:
- Max 6 units
- Can only spawn from your bases
- No beefed up super powerful units/can’t attack using supernatural powers
- Limited reinforcements
- Morale can’t reach zero or you lose
- Usually have less turns right off the bat
- Only one tank at a time (eats one of your six precious unit slots)
- Leaving unit behind to protect the base cuts down how many you can send on the offense.
BUT DON’T WORRY, you can totally still win, just get two units to attack your enemy from both ends like a rotisserie chicken. Don’t you feel like you’re playing a strategy game!? They could’ve just balanced it a little better and wouldn’t have to give us this asinine mechanic to save our asses any time we get to a tough unit in a mission.
Oh but I bet you thought at least the climax of our story wrapped everything up finally, was satisfying and made me forget about the mess that came before it right? Right? WRONG! Yeah it sucked too. It’s basically a static though voiced cutsene slide show, a real cutscene and a second real cutscene. (Fun fact: adding a second cutscene to the ending was about 20% of the development time on this game!) Oh and they do that thing they did in was it Animal House or Police Academy where they give you a “Where are they now?” sorta thing for each of the (main) characters. Side note: no, just no. You don’t get to put that quirky end cutscene when you barely fleshed out any of the characters or story. This game was seriously 5% story and 95% bullshit. But I digress, the finale was a letdown, not that I was surprised. The choreography on the cutscene felt off and I didn’t really know what I was looking at—again probably because we started the ending cutscene with a fucking image slide show instead of a real cutscene.
And just like that it’s over. I’d say I felt bad I wasn’t playing it anymore because I love story heavy games and this franchise but I’m really not. It just means I can go back to playing better games instead.
So with a thorough failure of a sequel, how could this franchise get any more tossed around like an unloved, sick puppy in the back of a pick-up truck? They release a good sequel, still on the PSP sadly, but it doesn’t leave Japan. I seriously am baffled at how out of touch they had to be to make mistake after mistake with this series. Thus far, the flow chart looks something like this:
Valkyria Chronicles 1 is Released to good reception although maybe not the best sales numbers
Lock the next game exclusively on the PSP to save time!
..Okay that doesn’t go over well at all, you could tell that corners were cut and there was only so much of that original game they could carry over onto the new hardware.
Well, the team is better at making the game now because of all the pitfalls of the sequel and can make a better game now!
Oh okay that actually makes me hopeful for the next one. When can I get it?
You? No, only Japanese PSP owners can play it. We’re not localizing this one!
Oh FFS SEGA..
And then the one redeeming moment in this game franchise’s recent history (Valkyria Chronicles Remaster) is sullied by nothing much after, no remasters of 2 nor 3—seriously how could they even start on a new one when there’s unfinished business lying around? #bringourgameshome!—and then the next game we do get is a totally revamped version of the game that plays much differently. So SEGA, you’ve had 2 chances to make good sequels, fucked both up royally and now just say forget this whole ordeal I’m going to turn it into, what, a hack and slash? A Dynasty Warriors clone? Thank heavens, because no one’s releasing any games like that anymore! If it wasn’t for Konami you would be the stained underpants mediocrity clown of Japanese game companies for what you’ve done with this game series, I hope you know that.
The worst part is, them yet again making a horrible decision, getting met with terrible reception from the community and being unjustifiably surprised by it (seriously we’ve been over this THREE TIMES at this point) will give them reason to land the final nail in the coffin on the Valkyria Chronicles series. I can see it now: “See! You wanted us to make a new one, we tried to make a new one and it flopped. I guess nobody wants to play these games anymore so we’ll stop making them for good this time.” There could’ve been so many great games to come out of this one, again, at least one kick ass trilogy could have materialized. Instead, we have the dumbest thing to ever happen to a promising, unique video game I’ve ever witnessed and felt greatly ashamed about even though it’s SEGA’s stupid fault and not mine—that’s right I feel so bad about it I feel shame for them.. because they clearly don’t.