It was my intention to update my original review of Valkyria Chronicles that I wrote previously, however as a consequence of not keeping regular backups I lost a large chunk of my original blog, which included at least 95% of the original review. As a result the original review was no longer being accessible and as such I decided to rewrite the review while taking into consideration the following:
The 2009 anime of Valkyria Chronicles (which was still airing when I wrote the originally wrote the review)
The release of Valkyria Chronicles II and Valkyria Chronicles III
The release of Valkyria Chronicles IV on PS4, PC (Steam), Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch (10 years after the original and 7 years after the most recent entry)
The release of digital card games like Valkyria Duel and the spin off Valkyria Revolution1
Original article posted: 09/08/2009
New version posted: 07/09/2023
Fans of Japanese-made roleplay games (JRPGs) have seldom experienced the reversal of fortunes they experienced with the release of the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft XBox 360, and Nintendo Wii. In the previous generation fans grew accustomed to an abundance of JRPGs to choose from, with the launch of these new home consoles that abundance became a scarcity in the initial few years after the launch of these consoles.
As the PlayStation 3 began its second year Sega unveiled a new RPG called Valkyria Chronicles with the development of the game handled by its internal GE2 Research & Development team, which had previously worked on Skies of Arcadia and the Sakura Wars series. Unlike its contemporaries this game offered a revolutionary art style and technology that made the characters and environments appear as though we immersed in an interactive water painting. In addition to this unique art style, Sega also introduced an interesting battle system which, although not revolutionary, combined elements of a turnbased system gameplay with a thirdperson shooter.
Despite the unique art style and interesting gameplay mechanics Valkyria Chronicles was released without much fanfare and as a result had poor initial sales even as it was developing into a cult classic2 amongst gamers. The subsequent release of a manga (comic), an animated adaptation, and price cut revitalized the title in North America which led to a dramatic uptick in sales, resulting in the sales of the game in North American to triple the total sales in Japan3.
As we are nearing the 15th anniversary of the game’s release this year I decided to take a look back on several things that were great about the game and any areas of improvement that would have made the game better.
The story of Valkyria Chronicles is told through the dynamic of a book (“On the Gallian Front”) with each chapter consists of several cut scenes that establish the story of the particular chapter as well as the battle. The set is set in Europa in the midst of a major between 2 superpowers the western Atlantic Federation and the eastern Autocratic East Europan Imperial Alliance. The war is being fought primarily over Ragnite, a mineral that is used to power all sorts of vehicles, utilities, weaponry, and is even used as medicine, which is scarce within Imperial territory. The war eventually spreads to the neutral Principality of Gallia at it has rich deposits of Ragnite within its lands.
In midst of this war we are introduced to Welkin Gunther, a university student returning to his hometown of Bruhl to help his sister evacuate to the Gallian capital Randgriz.
Unfortunately shortly after returning home Welkin gets caught up in a skirmish with Imperial forces invading his hometown which leads Welkin to assist the town watch, eventually using the tank that his father left behind to vanquish the Imperials. After this battle an official declaration of war is made and a general conscription is announced Welkin, his sister Isara, as well as Alicia, a member of the Bruhl town watch, are enlisted into Squad 7, a part of Gallia’s militia. Welkin is made the leader of the squad and tank commander with his sister assisting him as a pilot of their tank the Edelweiss, and Alicia becomes a sergeant and Welkin’s second in command
About the world in Europa
After the introductory chapter we start to begin to learn about Welkin’s squad and their role in the war. One of the first things that is introduced is the Darcsens4, an ethnic group that are heavily discriminated against, largely on the basis of a story that the Darcsens’ ancestors were responsible for a catastrophe. Although we are introduced to Isara from the beginning of the game we begin to learn about heritage as a Darcsen through her initial experiences with fellow Squad 7 soldiers Largo and Rosie, both of whom are initially hostile towards her due to her heritage, although over the course of the game their feelings towards her genuinely change and they become friends
The story proceeds through various missions and obstacles that the squad encounters to defeat the Imperial forces led by Imperial Prince Maximilian and his trio of generals the Drei Stern (Three Star in German): Selvaria5, Jaeger, and Gregor. The interesting thing is that these villains, with the possible exception of Gregor, aren’t one dimensional villains and have their own personal convictions for their involvement in this war.
Jaeger is a member of this group as he was promised that his homeland will regain its independence as it was conquered in a previous war by the Empire. Selvaria is driven by her devotion and dedication to Maximilian, the man who had rescued her from an research facility and gave meaning to her life. Maximilian is driven to become the Emperor as a form of vengeance against the Imperial royal family who orchestrated his mother’s death6.
Gregor appears to be the only one who can be considered onedimensional as he is portrayed as a radical Imperialist who views people from outside the Empire as barbarians. As expected he is extremely bigoted and racist towards the Darcsens.
It is quite clear that this game is inspired by the events of World War 1 and 2 in its story about a small nation defending itself against a larger, more powerful invader. With its riveting story, compelling cast of characters, beautiful artwork, and great gameplay, Valkyria Chronicles is a nearly perfect game, however both when I wrote the original article and even now, there are certain areas that the game could have improved upon.
Please note that there are spoilers ahead, if you have not completed the Marberry Shore mission in Valkyria Chronicles, please stop reading.
Issues with the Story
Side characters are not developed enough
An unfortunate consequence of having 30+ selectable characters it is difficult to develop all of them besides the main cast. This is alleviated with a downloadable episode (DLC), Edy’s Detachment, which is a bit of a ministory that focuses a little bit on 67 side characters that are informally part of the Edy’s Detachment and participate in a single mission. Besides this minor development, the majority of development of side characters is through updates to their profiles that the player can read if they so choose.
The anime is a little better in developing some of the side characters, but this is due to the smaller subcast of 10 characters, including those from Edy’s Detachment
Backstory of the Orphanage/Research Facility
There is an extra content for Valkyria Chronicles that focuses on Selvaria. During this extra content we learn about her backstory as a test subject in an Imperial research facility for Valkyria. The anime expands on this backstory and establishes that Alicia was a test subject as well which is in contrast to the game where references to Alicia’s childhood mention she was an orphan and that she lived in the orphanage until she left to become a baker. The head researcher of the facility also makes a brief appearance in the anime alluding to their role in Valkyria Chronicles 2.
In addition, if I recall correctly, the anime shows how Maximilian and Selvaria met, how Maximilian recruited her into his forces, and that ultimately Maximilian was a sponsor of the research facility itself and how onesided Selvaria’s feelings towards Maximilian were
The anime expands on Maximilian’s backstory a little to explain that he is the son of the Emperor and a concubine. As a result of this heritage both him and his mother were treated poorly and with suspicion by the rest of the royal family. This eventually led to some members of the royal family orchestrating an accident to kill Maximilian and his mother. Maximilian survived the attempt, but lost his mother, and the accident motivated Maximilian to become Emperor and to establish his mother as the ancestor of the Imperial line moving forward. In addition the anime establishes Maximilian as being a more callous individual compared to his video game counterpart as shown in his interactions with his subordinates and reaction to Selvaria’s sacrifice.
The backstory is mentioned in the game as well, but it is revealed during 2 instances: through a brief dream that Maximilian has and when he is confronted by Squad 7 during the final battle as to his motivations.
The manner in which Isara’s death is handled
The aftermath to Isara’s death differs significantly between the 2 versions of the story: the original video game and anime adaptation.
In the game the aftermath isn’t shown at all, after the conclusion of Isara’s funeral the story moves forward to several weeks later.
In the anime the immediate aftermath of her death is shown and how it has affected the morale of the squad. Welkin is shown to be trying to move on from her death and it is clear that he has bottled up his feelings inside and tries to move on to the detriment of his team and his relationship with Alicia7. As in the game, the squad’s successfully recaptures Bruhl, after the battle Welkin visits his old home where he is flooded with memories of Isara leading to Welkin realize that he failed to protect his family much as his father, Belgen was unable to save Welkin’s mother and Welkin was unable to save his sister.
Welkin reveals to Alicia that he has not been able to move on from Isara’s death, that he is consumed with thoughts of her, and that if he had only been by her side she would still be alive. He admits that he hasn’t been able to shed tears until now and once Alicia comforts him, Welkin finally is able to breakdown and cry deeply over his loss8.
This is more of a preference, but I feel like the motivations of Faldio’s betrayal in the anime are a little more nuanced. In the game it appears as though his intentions are purely to save Gallia due to Selvaria’s path of destruction. In the anime the intentions are similar but the anime adds an extra layer by showing how Faldio is personally affected and is in a daze after the events at Naggiar Plains where his squad is wiped out and his subordinate Ramal sacrifices himself to save Faldio9. The anime does retain Faldio’s sacrifice during the final battle, having recently replayed the entire game I am still confused by the logic in his sacrifice as it was unnecessary
The Graphics: Waterpainting in motion
In Valkyria Chronicles, the artwork and graphics are undoubtedly one of the game’s standout features. Powered by Sega’s unique CANVAS engine, the visual style creates an enchanting blend of traditional watercolour painting with an immersive gaming experience. The graphics truly give the impression of playing a living, breathing watercolour painting. The environments are beautifully rendered, featuring lush landscapes and wartorn cityscapes. Each location feels distinct and contributes to the overall immersive atmosphere of the game. The character designs are equally impressive.
From the main characters to the supporting cast, each individual is brought to life with vibrant colors and expressive features. The art style enhances the personalities and emotions of the characters, making them feel like living, breathing entities within the game world. Thanks to the remastered version of Valkyria Chronicles the visual experience is improved further with increased resolution and enhanced textures, allowing games to appreciate the stunning artwork and intricate details more clearly than ever before.
Overall, the graphics in Valkyria Chronicles are nothing short of breathtaking. Whether you’re exploring the battlefield or engaging in heartfelt character moments, the gorgeous graphics serve as a constant reminder of the game’s artistic brilliance.
The gameplay in Valkyria Chronicles offers a unique and engaging experience that might not appeal to everyone. Personally, I found the gameplay enjoyable and even took on the role of an evangelist for this game, developing a Valkyria Chronicles Facebook group (which to this day has more members than the official group created by Sega) and urging everyone around me to give the game a try. However, I understand that some players may have reservations about the turnbased approach as the game’s mechanics may give the impression that it should play like a first or thirdperson shooter, but in reality, it combines strategy and tactical RPG elements. The player will pause their action to carefully plan their moves and aim their shots, adding a layer of strategic depth. While some players might have preferred a more actionoriented gameplay style, it’s worth noting that if Valkyria Chronicles were designed that way, it would have significantly increased the difficulty level in some areas.
One aspect of the gameplay that I particularly enjoyed was the dynamic used to tell the story through chapters of a book with accompanying cut scenes. It provided a sense of narrative structure and made each chapter feel like a selfcontained story within the larger game. Although the player is provided with the option to explore various areas, such as the headquarters, training area, barracks, and castle, they are very basic and are unlike other games where you are able to interact and explore these areas.
I appreciated the opportunity to allocate experience points to the different classes of soldiers, assign different soldiers to my squad, and upgrade and maintain the artillery. The inclusion of skirmishes, which allowed for revisiting past battles, was reminiscent of the random battles typically found in JRPGs. The skirmishes provided an additional gameplay element and allowed players to engage in battles for rewards and experience outside of the main storyline.
While there wasn’t much about the gameplay that I disliked, there were certain optional characterfocused chapters that were easy to miss. These chapters, which generally focused on individual squad members and provided valuable character development, were a result of funding the ingame newspaper and their journalist. In replaying the game recently I do not recall seeing that the game explicitly mentions that the “articles” you pay for are actually optional chapters to complete during the game, much like my original playthrough I accidentally rediscovered them in the chapters menu by pressing the shoulder buttons on my gamepad. It would have been helpful if the game had provided clearer guidance or notification about how to access these special chapters.
The music in Valkyria Chronicles is nothing short of fantastic from composer Hitoshi Sakimoto. I have no complaints about it whatsoever. The main theme was beautiful and evocative, setting the tone for the game’s epic journey. One particular song that stood out to me was “No Matter the Distance,” sung by Rosie during Isara’s funeral. It was a poignant and emotional moment that nearly brought me to tears.
Additionally, the “We are Squad 7” theme was memorable, with its energetic introduction that pumped me up for battles. While listening to it, I couldn’t help but notice a passing resemblance to the iconic Superman theme from the 1970s and 1980s Superman films.
Extra Content: Downloadable Content
The extra content that was released for Valkyria Chronicles consisted of 3 items: the Selvaria DLC, Edy’s Detachment DLC, and the EX Hard Missions DLC. The later DLC provided an extra difficulty level for skirmishes giving gamers an extra challenge. The other two DLC packages offered valuable insights on Selvaria and her subordinate Johann (Karl10 in the Japanese version) as well as expanding on a select group of Squad 7 members that are part of Edy’s Detachment.
During this period video game developers were just starting to familiarize themselves with downloadable content for their games and it shows in the high quality content that Sega provided for Valkyria Chronicles. As it pertains to Valkyria Chronicles, this extra content was released within 46 months of the game’s original release which seems reasonable especially considering the animated adaptation was airing a year later, thus keeping Valkyria Chronicles fresh in the minds of the audience before the release of Valkyria Chronicles 2 a few months after the conclusion of the animated series.
Remaining minor nitpicks
There were a few other minor issues that I had with the game:
No trophies: At the time Valkyria Chronicles was released, trophies were a new feature on the PlayStation 3, so it’s understandable that they were not included, but considering that the game had its own “trophies” within the game as medals I am surprised that Sega never released an update or patch to convert those medals into trophies on the PlayStation 3.
No online gameplay: Another downside worth mentioning is that Valkyria Chronicles lacked multiplayer gameplay. Considering the scale of the environments, the presence of skirmishes, and the tactical strategy nature of the game it feels as though the lack of multiplayer gameplay was an overlooked and missed opportunity by Sega.
The inclusion of online gameplay could have expanded Valkyria Chronicles’ gameplay, introduced new streams of income for Sega, and possibly attracted more players to the game. I am unable to confirm whether the more recent Valkyria Chronicles games include online gameplay, but Valkyria Chronicles 2 did offer a form of multiplayer gaming, despite the cumbersome setup it was a fun experience to play against someone else11.
Unlocking Character potentials, are statuses that unlock during a character’s turn, such as increased evasion or refilling ammo. There are two types of potentials, one which is unlocked by upgrading the character’s class and the other are personal potentials that are unlocked as a result of a series of events during battle. The personal potentials can be unlocked when the character defeats an enemy unit, is incapacitated in battle, and when they are recovered by a medic it was easy to exploit unlocking personal potentials since the player could enter a skirmish, have the characters kill each other and then rescue each other.
In addition to the character potentials, another area of contention is the manner in which scores/rankings are calculated for each battle. In Valkyria Chronicles these scores are dictated by the number of turns it took for the player completed the primary mission task. This aspect of the game was a bit disappointing because it disregarded any other strategic choices or actions taken by the player, placing all the emphasis on swiftly conquering the enemy base. While defeating enemies did provide additional experience points and in-game currency, these factors didn’t contribute to the overall ranking. It would have been more rewarding if the rankings considered a broader range of player actions and strategic decisions, allowing for a more comprehensive assessment of performance. Although it remains to be seen whether Valkyria Chronicles 3 and 4 handle things differently, Valkyria Chronicles 2 followed the same mechanism to rank each mission.
Additionally, the balance of the game can become skewed near the midway point of the game if the player unlocks the Awaken Potential order, unlocked most if not all of Alicia’s personal potentials, and completed Alicia’s optional chapter Signs of Awakening. If all these conditions are met there are quite a few missions that can be done entirely by Alicia as long as the order Awaken Potential is cast on her since it will allow for Alicia to regularly have increased evasion and occasionally recover all of her HP and/or have an extra full bar of AP to move around the map.
The subtitles are dubtitles: I am not sure if the term dubtitles is commonly used vernacular or not, I remember first hearing the term to describe the subtitles for the North American DVD release of the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam anime where the script of the English audio version was reused for the subtitles of the original Japanese audio.
There are instances during the game when playing with Japanese audio where the discrepancy is noticeable, for instance the name “Welks” is used for the subtitles when you can hear Isara call Welkin “niisan” or older brother in Japanese or in the case of the Selvaria DLC where her subordinate was renamed Johann as Karl was a name already in use for a character in Squad 7 the Japanese audio still refers to this subordinate by his original name. This doesn’t detract from the game and it is understandable that they reused the script from the English audio version as it would seem to be an unnecessary expense (in time and money) to have the subtitles be 1:1 with the Japanese audio.
In conclusion, Valkyria Chronicles stands out as a remarkable game, boasting an intriguing story and captivating gameplay. Its unique blend of genres, incorporating elements of a thirdperson shooter, a turnbased JRPG, and a tactical strategy games, offers a refreshing and immersive experience. While this hybrid nature may not appeal to everyone’s gaming preferences, it showcases the game’s innovative approach and sets it apart from more conventional titles.
Although Valkyria Chronicles isn’t without its flaws, they are overshadowed by the game’s many strengths. The exquisite graphics, reminiscent of a living water painting thanks to Sega’s CANVAS engine, contribute to its stunning visual appeal. The music is a standout feature, with memorable themes, including the beautiful main theme and the emotionally charged “No Matter the Distance”. The gameplay mechanics, while possibly divisive among players, provide a compelling challenge. The turnbased strategy, combined with realtime action and the ability to carefully plan and execute moves, adds depth and strategic complexity.
There are 2 areas of improvement that could have made Valkyria Chronicles flawless multiplayer gameplay capabilities and utilizing a different mechanism to assess the battles. A more comprehensive ranking system that considered a broader range of player choices and strategies, along with the ability to play this game into a multiplayer setting would have added depth and replayability to the game.
Neither game is technically canonical, especially Valkyria Revolution which is an entirely different game that borrows elements from the Valkyria Chronicles’ lore ↩︎
Valkyria Chronicles achieved this primarily from wordofmouth recommendations and its highly positive reviews at the time of the initial writing of this article it had an 86 rating on Metacritic and currently maintains this score for the original version of the game on PlayStation 3. The subsequent releases of the game for Steam (2014) and as a remastered version for PlayStation 4 (2016) and Switch (2018) maintain a similar score between 84 and 86. ↩︎
This doesn’t factor in sales of the PC version which was released on Steam in 2014 or the subsequent remastered versions which were released on the PlayStation 4 in 2016 and Nintendo Switch in 2018. ↩︎
According to the Valkyria Chronicles: Design Archive art book, Isara was also the first Darcsen designed and the entire race was based on her appearance; although there was also an alternative design that included feline elements such as cat ears. ↩︎
Selvaria has become the poster child for the Valkyria Chronicles franchise and has appeared in every game in the franchise as well as making appearances in Chain Chronicle, Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, and Project X Zone ↩︎
Although he is shown to have this motivation in the game (through a brief cut scene/dream sequence), more of Maximilian’s backstory is revealed in the anime. Although his backstory is expanded upon the anime also portrays him as being a vile individual with regards to how he treats some of his subordinates. When he learns of Selvaria’s sacrifice he views her actions from the aspect of her being his tool, he also shoots and kills Selvaria’s subordinate who came to complain to the Prince about his reaction to Selvaria’s sacrifice, and finally he is shown to shoot his remaining general, Jaeger, after he questions the Prince’s actions. ↩︎
As an aside, I’ve seen it mentioned that Alicia is the protagonist of the anime, I didn’t get that impression when I watched the anime and feel that at best the protagonist remains Welkin. On a side note, there was another thing that the anime introduced that I liked which was the love triangle that Alicia was involved in as besides Welkin, Faldio was also romantically interested in her, which adds to the drama of Faldio’s eventual betrayal. ↩︎
Kudos to Susumu Chiba for the amazing portrayal of Welkin in the anime. ↩︎
The only other area that I enjoyed about the anime was with the epilogue with slight differences
Rosie ends up traveling with Zaka, although it does appear that she ends up becoming traveling around Gallia to share her songs according to final OAV (Original Animated Video) episode
Karl returns home and reunites with his lover Lynn
Marina appears to be heading home by train with Hans vs she becomes a famous hunter that lives with a fox
Emile and Oscar return home, the game has Oscar studying to become a doctor and Emile becoming a painter
Aisha reunites with parents vs remaining in the military as she admired and was motivated by Eleanor Varrot
Susie returns home to her parents vs opening a shelter for individuals injured during the war
Jann appears to be running a nursery or day care which is similar to the game where he opened a kindergarden in his hometown
Edy is seen traveling with Homer in contrast to Homer remaining in the military and Edy training to become an actress after realizing she was tone deaf. ↩︎
This is actually a perfect example of the dubtitle issue where the subtitles won’t match up with the Japanese audio since you can hear Selvaria (or others) refer to the character by his name of Karl, but the subtitles refer to him as Johann. ↩︎
I tried out the multiplayer feature a handful of times, unlike online gameplay with the PS3, the PSP relied on setting an adhoc wireless connection between PSPs to play Valkyria Chronicles 2 in a multiplayer environment. Once the connection was established ability to play a multiplayer battle was fun. ↩︎