Title: Valkyria Chronicles 4
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 25th, 2018 (NA)
Review copy provided by Sega
This is the newest entry in the war-themed strategy RPG series created by much of the team that created Skies of Arcadia. The series debuted exclusively on PS3 way back in 2008 with the original Valkyria Chronicles (in fact, the first game is out now on Switch!). The series moved from the PS3 to the PSP with Valkyria Chronicles II, and then Valkyria Chronicles 3 (which remained exclusive to Japan). Finally after a quiet period, the series is back on consoles. Originally on PS4 earlier this year in Japan, it’s now on Switch worldwide!
How does the game fare on Switch? Does it make you feel like a tactical genius, or will you feel like the game’s enemies put more holes in you than Gallian cheese? Let’s find out!
The leader of Squad E, Claude Wallace.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a strategy RPG that’s sort of both real-time and turn-based. In battles, you and your enemies are on a map, literally. Battles take place in phases. Your phase starts first and that’s when you have your turns. When a turn begins you pick one of your characters to move on the field. Using a turn uses what’s called Command Points, or CP. Also, you have the option of ending a phase early and save up what extra CP you didn’t use for up to 20 in total, which can come in handy. When you choose a character, you can freely move anywhere you want, but your movement distance is determined by your Action Points or AP. When the bar runs out, you can’t move anymore. Any time during said turn, you can press the R button to aim your gun at an opponent and take an action.
Actions of course include shooting with your class’ weapon of choice, but you can also heal with Ragnaid, or throw grenades by tapping Y to swap equipment, and use said action with the A button. You can only take one action per character/turn, so choose wisely. Some classes like the Shocktroopers fire many shots at once, while the Grenadiers fire missiles in an arch to hit opponents very high up where gunfire can’t normally reach them. Snipers are frankly one of the best ones since you can shoot an opponent that’s very far away and usually kill with one bullet. Enemies take a certain amount of hits to kill, and take far less hits if you aim for their head, which is really cool. Scouts also fire a few shots, but have by far the largest amount of AP so they can travel the largest distances. Also, when using the same character during a phase, their AP will decrease when they are reused, so keep this in mind as well.
Raz firing at an opponent.
Claude Wallace, the squad’s leader, can pilot a tank which is a literal class of its own. The tank is immune to regular bullets on most of its body, with the exception being the glowing blue area on the back. But tanks of course are by far the strongest and are really the only ones recommended to use against other tanks. There are also areas on the map where it’s too narrow for tanks to move through (and such areas are marked on the map), so you need to take that into consideration. Also worth noting is that you have limited ammo, and folks of the Engineer class can resupply ammo to anyone they walk past by during their turn, and they can heal tanks as well.
The game is split into chapters in quite literally a book (which is Claude’s journal). Each chapter has multiple events in them. Usually a chapter has one main mission, while the rest of the chapter is numerous custscenes. Cutscenes can be full in-game animation, while most others take place in dialogue boxes, where the characters fully animate in small boxes against a background.
Did someone say Gallian cheese?
Before missions begin, you have the option of choosing which characters you want to take into battle. Some are required like Claude. Other major characters, including Claude, come with bonus CP which as a reminder grants you more turns during the mission, so it’s highly recommended that you bring all of said characters into the battle.
Mission goals can vary. Some include destroying certain enemies, while others task you with capturing an enemy’s base. Bases are spots where you can send allies to when needed, and retreat your current character. It’s worth noting that when character’s lose all of their health, they don’t die right away. If a character is down, you can have another run towards them during a turn and they will be carried away by the medic. Once that’s done, the character is out for the turn and can be brought to a base and back in the action in the following turn (but doing that takes a CP). If a character dies (after a certain amount of turns or if an enemy touches them), then they die and can’t be used during the rest of the battle. Sometimes notable characters will just auto-retreat instead of dying, and any downed character will also-retreat when the mission changes (where your characters auto-move to a captured base as part of the mission). Dead character do stay dead though and can’t be used anymore in the story.
A look at the Book Mode, where you select cutscenes and missions.
During the game, you unlock the ability to visit headquarters. Here you can go to purchase upgrades for your weapons and tanks. You can also level-up your classes all at once with the experience you gain from battles (don’t worry, everyone of a specific class gets leveled up at once). During certain level-ups, classes gain Potentials and new orders for Claude to issue during missions. Potentials are passive abilities characters have that can activate when certain conditions are met during battle. And there are lots of different ones, with many being based on a character’s specific personality, which is pretty neat. Orders are actions Claude can do to raise an ally’s defense, accuracy, and such. But orders also include the ability to heal allies partially, or fully, and also allow you to retreat a downed ally with the Medic. Each order uses a CP (the First Aid order to fully heal an ally uses 3 CP).
Visually the game looks pretty good on Switch. The resolution is more than likely 720p docked. Textures are good most of the time, but there are points where the environment textures look low-res. The framerate seems to be a rock-solid 30fps. The art-style looks well done and has the franchise’s signature CANVAS Engine pencil sketch filter to the visuals which looks pretty cool. Characters are also decently animated, but you notice that some characters share the exact same body animations in cutscenes, which was likely a cost-saving move. Makes sense since there’s like two dozen characters on your side alone.
A look at the headquarters menu.
Audio is well-done. The game is fully voice-acted, bar some small bits like mission explanations. All the English voice actors sound excellent, and there’s also the optional downloadable Japanese voice option which is a very nice bonus. Music however, despite being composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, didn’t leave much an impression on me at all. I find a lot of the music is reused very often, including the battle theme. I adored his work on Opoona so it’s pretty disappointing that his work here doesn’t impress in my opinion.
Overall the game is fun but missions can take quite a while. They can easily take a half hour. However, you can surprisingly save at anytime during your phase, even mid-battle. And you can make multiple save files as well. I really enjoy the cutscenes, though I really wish there were more proper ones and less of the usual dialogue window ones. This is certainly a unique kind of RPG, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have preferred it going all action or turn-based only like Pokemon or something. There’s a lot here and I think it’s well worth the price, however you’re likely better off going with the original Valkyria Chronicles which is out now on the Switch’s eShop for a fraction of the price. Or you could just download the demo!
+ Visually it looks quite good. Textures are a bit low-res at times (but high-res at others, usually on the character models). Framerate is a solid 30fps.
+ Gameplay is fun. There’s a good amount of strategy to where you should move your characters and who’s best to kill which enemies.
+ Lots of classes to choose from. Snipers are my personal fav.
+ Fully voice-acted (bar mission explanations), and includes an optional downloadable Japanese voice track.
+ Really nice level-up system that works on classes rather than individual characters.
+ You can save anytime during battles when it’s your turn, and you can make multiple save files.
+ Has screenshot support.
– Missions can take a long while. Thankfully again you can save during battles.
– Music is honestly unimpressive to me.
– The game has a weird mission-to-cutscene ratio. Am I playing a game or watching a movie? 😛
– Doesn’t have video capture support.