It's been a looong time since Valkyria Chronicles III on the PSP - more than 7 years ago. We had a mediocre arcade style spin-off Valkyria Revolution but that didn't quite satiate the fans hope for a real new VC game so needless to say, there was plenty of excitement when VC4 was announced.
Valkyria Chronicles was a special game on the PS3 and its gameplay and viuals looked so good it was what made me buy the console. I even when onto buying the the HD remaster for the PS4. I followed the series playing the second and third games on PSP but it grew stale towards the third game because it was more of the same, nothing new and exciting.
Now Valykria Chronicles 4 finally comes along with a very generous demo that lets you play up to chapter 2 of the game and was impressed. It had just enough new elements to make the series feel fresh again.
So, does the full game live up to the taster the demo gave away?
The story takes place between the first and third VC games. Squad E lead by Claude is the latest platoon to join the war efforts against the Imperial Empire and is about to get their first taste of battle as part of Operation Northern Cross. Their motivation is the same - to prevent the advance of the Empire's invasion before they reach their hometown in Gallia.
As I mentioned earlier, the gameplay got kind of stale as nothing really changed but 4 is just full of new features. The most noteable is the introduction of the new mortar unit that lets you attack units from a distance and automatically bombard them as they approach. Feels a bit overpowered at first but eventually it balances it out after you've had your fun and the enemy also ends up with them.
High morale grants units bonuses such as extra HP or defence buffs. New "Brave Order" grants units a chance to pull off a last stand. They then have their AP replenished and become invincible for that last moment before they're KOed.
There's also the introduction of accessories that individual troops can have for extra bonuses such as more AP or more attack power against tanks. This really helps your favourite units stand out.
Weather effects such as rain add to the challenge too by lowering visibility, snow causing avalaches etc. other than just looking pretty.
Other than that, everything that made VC such a great game is there - potentials that make every trooper unique, levels and cutscenes replayable through storybook mode, researching new gear and tank parts, spending pools of XP the way you want.
Missions are challenging. There's always surprises in store compared to the previous games and some maps really push you so that you need to know the map to win. They also don't give you the full list of objectives right away so no longer can you just depend on running through with a shocktrooper (for the first playthrough anyway). Some much more thorough planning is needed.
In fact, they seemed to have increased the delay to switch to target mode so that you can't abuse it while running near enemies.
Presentation wise it's as good as the remastered version of VC although I'm pretty sure previous games didn't have so much blatant fan service... With the sudden focus on sexual harassment towards women in the West, I wouldn't be surprised if that's part of the reason why the localised English version is taking several months later to get a release, despite the already localised trophy names. Raz the bad boy in the game doesn't hold back hitting on women.
Story direction is great, giving a whole mix of emotions you'd expect from characters who have their lives at stake despite the usual cliche Anime personalities. It actually feels even more engaging since who you bring along missions actually end up as part of the story scenes now, not just the main characters.
So yes, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the long awaited game VC fans have been waiting for.
- Engaging character driven story development just like first game.
- Feels even more challenging that before at times.
- There's a new mortar unit and it's great fun to deploy!
- Whole bunch of new features such as weather elements to make the franchise feel fresh again.
- Maybe the blatant fan service?
- Still needs a zoom out feature during map mode.