While some will call remastered games a cash-in, sometimes it’s the right decision and a way to introduce an under-appreciated game to a brand new audience. That’s the case with SEGA’s Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, an enhanced version of the beloved 2008 strategy game. The Takeshi Ozawa designed title blends turn-based planning with realtime action, and creates a unique twist on the genre. Has SEGA done enough to modernize the 8 year old game, though?
That’s a question I asked myself a lot while playing through Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, which is essentially the 2014 PC release. There’s no doubting that the Remastered part is true, as the game runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second and at a 1080p resolution. Frankly, it’s superior to the PlayStation 3 original in every way, as it even includes the game’s DLC.
So, if you’re looking for a better version of the PS3 game, then you can stop reading and purchase Valkyria Chronicles Remastered immediately. From the gameplay (which feels smoother thanks to the enhanced framerate) to the graphics, everything is improved here.
The core hook to Valkyria Chronicles remains the same: unlike other strategy games like Fire Emblem, there’s a real sense of urgency to the player’s actions. This is due to the character’s movements taking place in real time. For instance, if you’re trying to move to cover and enemy scouts are nearby, you can expect gunfire headed your way. This also carries into your attacks, as you’ll have to manually aim your guns and line up your shots as if you were playing a first-person shooter.
Unlike modern shooters, players actually are forced to use the left analog stick to aim their shots. To say this is awkward at first is an understatement, and the inability to customize the game’s controls is frustrating. The aiming also feels stiff, and it can be very difficult to line-up a headshot due to how touchy the aiming can be.
Furthering the frustration, and this is something the game can’t really avoid since it flirts with the line between the action and role-playing genres, is that I would often take the time (which is a huge risk in of itself) to line-up the perfect shot only to miss by a mile. There’s no avoiding Valkyria Chronicles‘ dice rolls, but once my incompetent sniper missed a clear headshot by 8 feet there were plenty of vulgarities thrown around.
Considering these random elements can essentially decide the outcome of a battle, as the difficulty is intense and the tide of battle can turn instantly, I ended up dying a lot due to random elements. That just plain sucks, especially when the whole hook of the game is that your actions during the battle actually matter, and it’s not just pure strategy like Advance Wars.
Due to this high level of difficulty, it’s very disappointing that the Remastered release didn’t come with an easier difficulty setting. Valkyria Chronicles has 18 chapters (most of which contain 1 or 2 battles), so a lot of the game’s length comes from failing the same missions repeatedly. The ability is there to save scum though, which is something I started doing after losing a 30-minute battle twice due to not completing it within a 10-turn limit, so players can save after each turn. That takes a bit of the frustration out of the experience, but some levels definitely become more about trial-and-error and finding out what events occur within rather than adapting on the fly.
While a new difficulty could’ve definitely softened the blow, and made Valkyria Chronicles a more enjoyable experience, it’s not the only thing holding it back from true greatness. There’s small contrivances, such as the ability to only crouch when behind sandbags, that just makes no sense. The inability to use other objects, like walls or debris, as cover is also frustrating and the game seems to limit its own mechanics.
Despite the small annoyances that did impact my enjoyment of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, there really isn’t anything else like it. It’s glorious when you successfully sneak past an enemy guard, line up a shot perfectly and luckily get the right dice roll to register a headshot. It’s a combination of strategy, action and luck coming together to create true satisfaction. It’s awesome, and it’s what made Valkyria Chronicles so exciting in 2008. So much more could be done with this gameplay and it’s truly disappointing to see that it didn’t happen here.
While the gameplay might not fulfill its true potential, that’s not the case with the game’s story, which juggles mature topics such as racism and how every person during a war has a family. It may seem obvious, but by presenting the other side’s goals as more than just pure evil, it creates a layered story with depth. There’s also a pretty run-of-the-mill love story going on between the two main characters that is kind-of out of place, but it’s so cute that you can’t help but be happy with it. Oh, and there’s also a pig with wings (!!!) named Hans that ends up serving as your military’s mascot. He’s undeniably adorable, and if you’re like me, you’ll immediately search online for merchandise of him.
If there’s one small issue with the narrative, it’s the shift of tone that occurs during gameplay. Often after a successful kill, a character will celebrate with a quick one-liner. At first this does a good job of showing off each character’s personality (which is supposed to make you care about the seemingly random recruits on your team), but after the realities of war are shown in the story, it’s just inappropriate and out of character to be gleefully celebrating the brutality that just occurred. It really only serves to belittle the great narrative that is told elsewhere.
While it’s disappointing that a few tweaks weren’t made to fully earn its title, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is a great way to play SEGA’s innovative SRPG. The difficulty can be overwhelming and there are enough small frustrations that surround the core gameplay, but there really isn’t anything else like it on PlayStation 4. Here’s to hoping that the sequels receive the same treatment sooner rather than later.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 exclusive, which we were provided with.