Rejecting the revolution

Before I get into this rant, it’s important for me – critical, even – to outline just how much I loved the Valkyria Chronicles series. I played the first three games to absolute death, and bought the thick-ass art books for all three (something I might show here on DS90 at some point). I don’t think that Sega ever managed to re-capture the magic of the original with the two PSP sequels, but they were still highly-enjoyable RPGs that must have done things right for me to invest so many hours into them.

With that background knowledge in mind, I suppose it was only natural that I didn’t want to believe the hate for Valkyria Revolution. Surely it couldn’t be that bad? Well, put it this way: there’s a reason why you can still easily pick up a brand-new, sealed copy of the (so-called) Limited Edition for less than £10.

This game is horrible. It’s as if a digital vampire came along and sucked out everything that made Valkyria Chronicles great.

First of all, it isn’t even set in the same universe as VC1-3. On one hand, that disappoints me. On the other, it’s a relief knowing that Revolution doesn’t need to be counted as part of the Valkyria Chronicles canon. Fans can stick their fingers in their ears, cry, “LA-LA-LA” and pretend that it doesn’t exist. This is an alternate universe that does a reasonable job of imitating the ‘proper’ VC world. There’s the small country squeezed between superpowers, the same Ragnite fuel that said superpowers thirst for, and eerily familiar attire for the enemy soldiers. Jutland’s flag and colours even resemble that of Gallia’s.

There’s also a formidable Valkyria nemesis who so desperately wants to resemble fan-favourite Selvaria Bles while one-upping her in the cup-size stakes. Seriously, Brunhilde’s juggernaut-class breasts make it seem as though Selvaria must be wearing training bras in comparison. It’s actually quite absurd.

The anime influence doesn’t end with Brunhilde’s brassiere-stressing ballistics however. In the past, I have criticised Valkyria Chronicles II and III for eschewing the original’s conservative approach to character design which worked so well for the WWII-meets-fantasy setting. While I enjoyed the sequels, they had undeniably been infiltrated by crazy hairstyles, anime tropes, and zany character personalities that didn’t fit with the tone established by the original game. All of that was nothing compared to Valkyria Revolution. The main characters are so anime that this could be any generic JRPG. The girls, especially, look like puppets with stick-thin necks, big alien heads and enormous eyes that dominate their faces. And, as with VCIII, your squad just wears whatever the hell they want. Screw military-issue uniforms. What kind of army is this? Special mention must go to Sara who enters the battlefield wearing a flimsy cropped vest top.

These characters are dull too. I have no interest in any of them when they are all essentially walking, talking, cliched archtypes. The opening scene seems determined to thrust their individual anime personalities front-and-center by making sure that each character has their turn to say something. It’s a highly unnatural, artificial exchange of words between the group and it set the tone immediately. The main character is a generic, stony guy with all the personality of the brick and I honestly don’t give a crap about uncovering his tragic past.

Honestly, this could be ANY anime-styled JRPG, couldn’t it?

But worst of all is the gameplay. Gone is the superb tactical experience of the first three games. In its place is a generic action-RPG style of play. From what I have read, this decision was taken due to the popularity of action-RPGs in Japan. This makes sense from a commercial standpoint, but it rips the beating heart from the chest of the series and bins everything that made Valkyria Chronicles unique. There are RPG and tactical elements – such as levelling-up, creating new equipment, devising priorities for your squad when in battle – but it’s easier to simply run at enemies and mash X to wreck them with Amleth’s giant Buster Sword-wannabe weapon. You can always issue commands to squadmates anyway should you require specific elemental attacks or healing.

It’s boring, not helped by bland non-interactive environments. Worse still, earning money to pay for all the upgrades and weapon R&D means grinding – something I didn’t mind in the previous VC games (because the gameplay was a pleasure) but here, I simply cannot face it.

You want more? There are so many damn cut-scenes that drag on forever. Character dialogue is uninteresting and wooden, and you can’t fast-forward the text speed, only skip the scenes entirely. If you do choose to suffer through said scenes, it’s often difficult to see who is actually talking when the zoomed-out perspectives make it impossible to see which character’s mouth is moving. There’s heaps and heaps of loading too. I found myself yawning and getting restless while enduring these story scenes, dishwater-dull characters, and loading icons – never a sign that you are enjoying a videogame.

At least the architecture and associated detail looks nice. [image – Playstation LifeStyle]

Visually, Valkyria Revolution is so average and bland. The back of the game box says “depicted in gorgeous moving paintings” which is almost a straight-up lie. It isn’t 3D and it isn’t cel-shading; it’s somewhere in between and looks like any other JRPG from the last few gens of gaming. Even the original Valkyria Chronicles looks better than this. Certainly, it boasted a truckload more personality and charm.

There’s a twelve-track soundtrack CD included in the LE package but I won’t be listening to it because the music is forgettable and average at best.

In closing, I won’t be finishing this game. Valkyria Revolution is a soulless, bland, run-of-the-mill action-RPG, with characters that I can’t bring myself to give two shits about. This game can stay in its own alternate universe and be forgotten about as far as I’m concerned. Apparently Sega agrees, because there’s a true Valkyria Chronicles 4 that is meant to be a triumphant return to form…

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