Seven years ago, I wrote an article on the community site Bitmob titled Fire Emblem vs. Valkyria Chronicles. Early in the article, I claimed that Valkyria Chronicles is what “Fire Emblem could have been had Intelligent Systems actually cared about moving that franchise foreword.” To be fair, my knowledge of Fire Emblem was limited to the handful of games released in English, and the purpose of the article devolved into expressing my frustration with Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, a thoroughly ugly game with production levels barely above the GBA installments.
I guzzled the Valkyria cool-aid, and happily asked others to take a sip also.
Valkyria Chronicles was unlike anything I played before. It takes influence from the aforementioned Fire Emblem by supplying a small army of men and woman with names and personalities, and then testing my abilities by threatening these soldiers with permanently death. Attacking involves aiming at the enemy and firing, bringing to mind the modern XCOM games.
(In reality, Valkyria precedes XCOM: Enemy Unknown by three years. XCOM developer Fireaxis Games said that Valkyria was one of their inspirations, though.)
Valkyria Chronicles is a turn-based strategy game with third-person shooter and RPG elements. Players control a wide number of unique characters belonging to a handful of classes, and viewing the battlefield from a top-down perspective. That perspective changes when a character is selected, with the camera descending from on high to behind the chosen soldier to move, heal, repair, and attack. Selecting a character depletes one of a finite number of Command Point medals, and turns end after every medal is gone.
Sequels added new classes and introduced class promotions, as well as removing character death, but the basics remained the same until Valkyria: Azure Revolution, releasing later this year. Azure Revolution removed the turn-based element, and appears to play more like a third-person action game. (That’s going off videos. I haven’t played the demo, unfortunately.)
With Valkyria Chronicles back with the recent PS4 version, what better time to look at the past, and future, of this niche series.
War spreads across Europa as the East Europan Imperial Alliance, or the Empire, and the western Atlantic Federation fought it out for control of Ragnite, a blue mineral used as fuel, grenades, and healing items. The Empire gained an early advantage, so they took aim at securing the Ragnite stored in the neutral Principality of Gallia, expecting a quick and easy takeover of the small country.
The story centers on Welkin Gunther and Alicia Melchiott, along with the rest of Squad 7 from Gallian Militia’s 3rd Regiment, as they work to repel the Empire. With Valkyria Chronicles recently re-released on PS4, I’m hesitant to go deeper into the narrative out of consideration for those jumping into the Second Europan War for the first time.
Developed by Sega WOW, a merger of Wow Entertainment and Overworks, Valkyria Chronicles (called “Valkyria of the Battlefield” in Japan) bears a stronger resemblance to the latter company’s work. Overworks worked on the largely Japan-only Sakura Wars series, a strategy/visual novel series, along with cult-classic Skies of Arcadia (whose three heroes reappear as playable characters in Valkyria Chronicles).
Unfortunately, Valkyria was destined to be a cult-hit. Sony slashed the PlayStation 3’s price only the previous year, down from the ridiculous $400-500 tag that caused the company to infamously suggest working more hours to afford their new console, so the system was only starting to rebound. Add in that neither anime nor strategy games are usually huge sellers, it makes me wonder what expectations Sega had for Valkyria Chronicles outside Japan.
Regardless, the game sold enough to bring the sequel to North America. Sadly, further Sony hardware troubles continued to hurt the franchise.
Sega surprised fans in 2014 by releasing Valkyria Chronicles on Steam, bumping up the resolution from 720p to 1080p, bundling the game with all previous downloadable content, and adding Achievements for the first time. (Valkyria Chronicles on PS3 preceded Trophies, and Sega never patched them in.) Impressively, the port topped Steam’s download charts within a day of release.
VALKYRIA CHRONICLES ANIME – 2009
A 26-episode adaptation of Valkyria Chronicles’ story with some differences, including new characters and plot points, created by A-1 Pictures. The changes add little to the narrative while the art lacks the beauty and character of the game’s watercolor style.
Two years later, A-1 Pictures returned to Valkyria Chronicles to craft a 2-episode OVA starring the cast of the third Valkyria.
Gallia’s involvement in the Second Europan War is over, but not everyone is happy where the country is headed during the post-war rebuild. Frustration over a high-ranking Darcsen in the government led to the creation of the Gallian Revolutionary Army that plunges Gallia into a racially-motivated civil war.
Meanwhile, Avan Hardins joins Gallia’s prestigious Lanseal Military Academy to discover the circumstances around his brother’s death and is assigned to Class G. As military cadets, Avan and his new friends Cosette and Zeri, along with the rest of Class G, are sent into the fray to fight against the Gallian Revolutionary Army while Avan searches for the truth about his brother.
The story holds promise, but it’s squandered with horribly stereotypical anime characters (the three leads are basically copies of Bleach characters Ichigo, Orihime, and Uryū) and a story that doesn’t go anywhere exciting.
Worse is the decision to bring Valkyria to PlayStation Portable. To compensate for the drop in technical power from PlayStation 3 to PSP, the previous game’s large environments were replaced by multiple, connected smaller areas. Since Valkyria Chronicles II is rather easy and re-uses the same stages over and over, pushing through these spaces becomes quite the chore. And, as expected, this PSP Valkyria looks nowhere as nice as the PS3 Valkyria.
Valkyria Chronicles II also introduced a new class, the Armored Tech, and allows characters to upgrade to difference classes. For instance, the sniper class is available by promoting a scout. Lastly, each student from Class G has their own mission used to further flesh them out, an idea that I wish Fire Emblem would adopt.
As I write this, the PlayStation Network version of Chronicles II is available for a measely $5 (regularly $10, which is still cheap), playable on PSP and PlayStation Vita. This isn’t a bad game, despite my complaints, but it’s quite the drop in quality from the original Valkyria.
As Squad 7 kicks the Empire out of Gallia, another group of soldiers undertake very different missions. Gallian Army Squad 422 doesn’t officially exist. Composed of criminals and people that the Gallian military doesn’t want, members of Squad 422 are erased from official records and sent on missions that the government would rather not acknowledge. That is why Squad 422 is also known as “The Nameless,” and Kurt Irving, a promising soldier from Lanseal Military Academy, is now the reluctant leader.
Among the rest of The Nameless, Kurt is assisted by Riela, the sole survivor of five missions, earning her the nickname “Grim Reaper.” On the other side of the personality spectrum is Imca, a Darcsen fixated on revenge against the Valkyria Selveria. With his right-hand man Gusurg, Kurt aims to unite the downtrodden Nameless and earn his way back into Gallia’s regular army.
Valkyria Chronicles 3: Unrecorded Chronicles returns to the setting of the original game, but retains most of the changes made in the second game. The difficulty is bumped up, making the connected smaller areas more of a genuine challenge than in VC2. Special Points, distinct from Command Points, are used to activate (what else?) Kurt, Imca, and Reila’s Special Powers, like moving three characters at once or launching mortars on every enemy on the screen. Players are limited to three Special Points, and they cannot be replenished during missions.
By 2011, PlayStation Portable struggled against the competition in the West, and so Sega refused to release Valkyria Chronicles 3 outside Japan. Later that year, Sega dropped an updated version of VC3 called Extra Edition, which bundles previously released downloadable content along with new extra missions. That also didn’t leave Japan.
Fans were finally able to understand Valkyria Chronicles 3 when a group of dedicated fans released an English language patch for physical and digital copies of the Extra Edition.
Duel is a digital card game with the casts of the three Valkyria Chronicles games (and manga) in card form. Although it never officially left Japan, those outside the country could still sign-up. The game was discontinued in 2015.
An odd crossover between Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Sega characters, Project X Zone is a fairly mindless strategy RPG that includes the three leads from Valkyria Chronicles 3, along with Selvaria from the first and third game. They don’t serve any special purpose beyond adding a handful more characters to the already bloated collection of heroes and villains, but this does mark the only official English appearance of Kurt, Riela, and Imca.
Project X Zone 2 does not include any representation from Valkyria Chronicles.
… AND THE FUTURE
Nearby the neighboring Rus Empire (literally called “Empire of Russia” in the demo) is the small country called Jutland, and conflict inevitably began. Amleth leads an Anti-Valkyria unit for Jutland alongside Ophelia, Princess of Jutland, among others (including a girl who looks suspiciously like VC3’s Riela. Descendant?). Standing against our heroes is the Rus Empire’s Valkyria Brunhild.
Instead of being a turn-based strategy game that focuses on a large number of characters, Azure Revolution (by the developers of VC3) puts the player in control of a single person leading a handful of comrade that can be taken control of mid-mission. The focus is around more than just gunplay as the characters also use melee weapons. This is going off videos of the demo, so it’s likely that I’m missing details. Furthermore, the point of the demo was to collect feedback from players, so more will change before release.
(Disappointingly, while the Azure Revolution demo came packaged with the Japanese version of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, Sega removed the demo from North American and European copies of VC Remastered.)
UPDATE — Sega announced in late 2016 that Valkyria: Azure Revolution would be released in North America and Europe under the name Valkyria Revolution, slated for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One. The current release date is Q2 2017.
There’s no word on whether Sega intends to bring this game over. They might be waiting to see how the recent Valkyria Chronicles Remastered performs since both games are on PlayStation 4. Alternatively, it’s possible they’re waiting for the upcoming E3 show to drop the news, but PR manager at Sega John Hardin noted that there’s no plans for new or old Valkyria games.
This is an important decision for both Azure Revolution and the whole franchise. Sega followed up Valkyria Chronicles on PC with nothing (despite hopes of seeing the two PSP games), and repeating that with the PS4 version is dangerous. Hopefully Azure Revolution won’t be a repeat of Valkyria Chronicles 3.