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Valkyria Chronicles is a tactical role-playing game published by Sega, developed by their Sega WOW division exclusively for the PlayStation 3. It was released in Japan on April 24, 2008. A European version was then released on October 31, 2008, followed by a North American version released on November 4, 2008. The success of the game spawned multiple manga titles, a televised anime series, and two video game sequels, Valkyria Chronicles II and Valkyria Chronicles III.
The game is set in Europa, a fictional version of Europe, in 1935. Because of its abundance of Ragnite ore, which can be refined into a powerful fuel, the neutral nation of Gallia comes under attack from the East Europan Imperial Alliance, which is itself engaged in a war with the Atlantic Federation. Players take control of a militia squad of Gallian nationals, dedicated to repelling the invasion. The game's visuals, which utilize SEGA's CANVAS graphics engine, resemble a watercolor painting in motion.
The overhead map view of Command Mode.Valkyria Chronicles features a unique turn-based battle system called BLiTZ (Battle of Live Tactical Zones). Between turns the player views an overhead map in Command Mode, but zooms in to control each individual unit on the battlefield during Action Mode. Movement and other actions are handled in real time during Action Mode, though limited by an AP gauge that varies for each character. During Target Mode, the player is in direct control of characters' aim while the action freezes, allowing for head shots and other maneuvers. Taking command of individual units during the player's phase costs Command Points, which can be used to either grant movement to many different units or the same unit consecutively with diminishing AP, depending on what the player wants to accomplish.
Each character in the game fulfills a specific role — for instance, Alicia is a mid-range rifle-toting scout, while Welkin is a tank commander. Other roles include assault infantry, lancers (which specialize in anti-tank warfare), snipers, and engineers. These various units form a rock-paper-scissors dynamic of strength and weakness. The foot soldiers (Scout, Shocktrooper, and Sniper) are effective against slower anti-tank units; anti-tank units can quickly destroy tanks with a well-aimed shot, and tanks are generally devastating against infantry, whose anti-personnel weapons are unable to inflict any significant frontal damage. By gaining experience and completing missions, the player's army will receive new recruits and their materiel can be upgraded.
The environment also factors heavily in combat. In an urban level, for example, snipers can be sent onto rooftops to eliminate unsuspecting enemies below. Tanks can knock down walls and other obstacles to open new paths. Buildings and other structures offer hard cover around which to maneuver. Foliage offers soft cover to reduce the chance of being spotted by the enemy and to confound their aim when seen. As the Gallian forces advance across the battlefield, control points can be captured, giving the player a tactical advantage and offering additional locations in which to call reinforcements. As Welkin, the player can issue various Orders for the purpose of things such as artillery strikes, supervising medics, and improving morale.
The creative force behind Valkyria Chronicles consisted mainly of staff that had been involved in the Sakura Wars series, led by Producer Ryutaro Nonaka and Director Shuntaro Tanaka. Together, they desired to create a game that combined facets of their previous works: strategy elements from the Sakura Wars series, third-person action elements from Nonaka's Nightshade, and role-playing influence from Tanaka's Skies of Arcadia. The team concentrated on making the strategic and action portions of the game of equal importance. Planning aspects of game play were emphasized through the Potential skill system that distinguishes individual militiamen and -women under the player's command, giving them affinities for certain environments, conditions, and each other. Contrasting the steady pacing of other turn-based strategy titles, the third-person portion of the BLiTZ system was to have an atmosphere of immediacy and tension, achieved in part by allowing enemy soldiers to actively defend themselves during the player's turn, and vice-versa. Also important was the incorporation of battle scenarios and map designs that mimic situations from World War II era combat, such as storming beachheads, stalking through forests, or breaking through barricades in the streets of an enemy-occupied city.
To complement the gameplay, distinctive, stylistic visuals were decided upon and carried out through the CANVAS graphics engine. Adding a touch of fantasy to the mix, the development team hoped to be able to garner attention from gamers who did not play games with similar settings but more realistic combat. The use of a warm color palette took emphasis away from the "grotesque, realistic nature of war itself," as Nonaka put it, and focused instead on the characters and story. Tanaka added that, "we wanted to show that realism isn't the only thing you can do with 3D graphics." Character designs were created for the game by Raita Honjou, who, along with the rest of the development staff, aimed for a look that was described by 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish as "rustic." In early stages designs drew more directly on examples from World War II, however they proved to be too modern for what the team wanted to achieve. Thus, Raita aimed for a motif closer to that found in World War I, first creating Alicia and Welkin's concept illustrations and using them as a basis for the rest of the Gallian cast. World War II influence can still be seen in the designs of Imperial characters such as Gregor, whose uniform is heavily based on German officers' uniforms from that period. The end result of these efforts was described by Japanese director Mamoru Oshii as giving him "an impression similar to ... the Nausicaä manga," and Nonaka admits to aiming for the style found in World Masterpiece Theater.
Musical composition was led by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who explained that the entire process of composing, recording and editing the game's tracks took a total of eight months. The game's "Main Theme" was initially composed in a variety of arrangements by Sakimoto, who then incorporated those arrangements into other pieces with contrasting tones. Like those in charge of the game's visuals, Sakimoto cited the game's story as its center and biggest inspiration for him, adding a "military color" to the score after this consideration. Other important themes written into the score are the contrast between the game's two most prominent female characters, Alicia and Selvaria, and the relationship between Alicia and Welkin.
On September 29, 2008, SEGA of America held an exclusive Valkyria Chronicles Pre-Launch event at the Sony Metreon in San Francisco. Press and public were both invited, and SEGA used a raffle to give away Valkyria Soundtracks, Japanese figurines of the characters, matted art posters signed by the Japanese Producer Ryutaro Nonaka, and an 80 GB PS3. SEGA let the community send in questions before the event, then posed these to the Japanese Producer in an interview during the event. Pictures and a follow-up of the event were posted on the SEGA of America Blog.
Supplemental downloadable content pertaining to the game was made available for purchase via PSN. First is the inclusion of a Hard EX Mode, extra challenging versions of existing skirmish missions where the Edelweiss is unavailable. Two side story chapters, "Edy’s Mission: Enter the Edy Detachment" and "Selvaria's Mission: Behind Her Blue Flame," introduce Squad 7's motliest crew led by Edy Nelson and Homer Pieron, and the early portion of the invasion into Gallia as seen from the Imperial perspective. Hard EX Mode and Edy's Mission were originally released for the Japanese version on August 8, 2008, while Selvaria's Mission was released on October 31 of the same year. All three were made available in North America on April 16, 2009. A fourth DLC, titled "Edy Detachment's Formal Challenge!" was made available in Japan on June 26, 2009. Included are a set of six challenge missions, each focusing on one of the game's unit classes. The addition of Trophy support has yet to occur, however, there has been some indication of possible support in the future.
Valkyria Chronicles was re-released in Japanese retails stores under its The Best label on March 5, 2009 with a retail price of 3,900 Yen.This version of the game includes Edy's Mission without need of download.
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Valkyria Chronicles has been critically acclaimed by numerous sources, including writers for IGN, RPGland, RPGFan, G4TV's X-Play, Gametrailers, and GameSpot. Multiple publications were impressed with the title's gameplay design, noting that it gave players a new sense of tactical freedom absent in other games of the same genre via the removal of certain staples such as a grid-based map. The active nature of combat generated positive feelings towards a more involved strategy and produced, according to Game Revolution's Chris Hudak, "nail-gnawingly tense" situations that kept the player emotionally involved in the game.Both Valkyria Chronicles' story and the way in which it was presented were cited as strong points. Longevity was also attributed to the game, with James Quentin Clark of RPGFan noting that, "the game gets better the more you play it." While pleased overall, multiple reviewers issued complaints about the sometimes questionable activity conducted by the enemy forces' artificial intelligence. Others stated that the third-person camera interfered with the ability to shoot effectively in certain situations.
Despite having garnered positive press, sales of the game have been mixed. While it sold 77,000 copies in its first week of release in Japan, it only sold 33,000 copies in the United States during November 2008. It was the 93rd best-selling game in Japan in 2008, selling 141,589 copies. Despite weak initial North American sales, Valkyria Chronicles recovered somewhat with sales sharply increasing in April 2009 following a price cut and the simultaneous release of an anime based on the game. Approximately a year after the game's initial release, both producer Ryutaro Nonaka and gamers surveyed by Famitsu stated interest in a sequel to the game.
Awards and nominations
- Diehard GameFAN : Won Best PlayStation 3 game as well as Game of the Year.
- GameSpot : Won Best Graphics, Artistic.
- GameSpy : Won Best Original Soundtrack 2008, Strategy Game of the Year 2008.
- GameTrailers : Nominated for Best Role-Playing Game 2008.
- Gaming Target : "40 Games We'll Still Be Playing From 2008" selection.
- IGN : Won PlayStation 3 Strategy Game of 2008.
- VG Chartz : Won Best Japanese Role-Playing Game 2008, Strategy Game of the Year 2008, and Best Game No One Played 2008.
- RPGFan : Won the website's "Playstation 3 RPG of the Year, 2008" and "Best Strategy RPG on a Console, 2008" awards.
- RPGamer : Winner of several 2008, end of year awards, including "RPG of the Year", "Best Graphics", and "Playstation 3 RPG of the Year".