Review: Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is an unadorned classic
Let’s get this out of the way: Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is virtually identical to the game’s 2014 Steam release. It raises the resolution and includes all the game’s add-on content, but otherwise preserves everything about the PS3 original. The differences? Here they are: you can buy it on a physical disc, there are PlayStation button prompts again and, perhaps most notably, trophy hunters can now earn their Platinum that they were deprived last generation. That’s really it. This release included the demo for Valkyria: Azure Revolution in Japan, but there’s been no word on that in the West.
Now that we’ve taken care of that, we can move on to just how well Valkyria Chronicles holds up in 2016, which is unreasonably so.
It’s possible that this is your first experience with the game, so let’s talk about it a bit. Valkyria Chronicles‘ gameplay was a bit difficult to explain at its initial release, but in the intervening years it’s become something of a genre: third-person turn-based strategy with action elements. Its influence can be seen in XCOM and XYY, both part of this modern accessible strategy renaissance. That said, there’s still nothing quite like it. You move a unit in real time, getting shot by enemies if you’re exposed, and pause to aim when you’re in position.
Actions are gathered into rounds, rounds into maps and maps into a campaign, and each layer adds its own elements of strategy.
Actions are gathered into rounds, rounds into maps and maps into a campaign, and each layer adds its own elements of strategy. When you choose someone to bring into battle, you’re choosing a class, but you’re also choosing personality traits that have tactical effects. You can spend experience equally on classes, or specialize in a few that you like best. Outfit your tank with whatever you’d like, be it construction equipment or just a big tank cannon, and your capabilities change. Or hey, maybe you just hang out with the soldiers you like and make your tank look cool.
All of this is surrounded by a story that manages to be emotional and compelling, despite being inundated with anime tropes. By a sketch-like aesthetic that looks nothing like any other game you’ve seen. By a nuanced soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto. It’s a collection of elements that all feel full of thought and passion.
Valkyria Chronicles is the sort of game everyone should play, and if all Remastered serves to do is make that possible for more players, that’s more than enough to justify its existence.
It’s not exactly the perfect remaster, though; things were left totally as-is whenever possible, which means pixelated interface elements and lower-resolution pre-rendered scenes. There’s also literally no new content. There are things to do to make the experience fresh, but almost all of that can be done on an original PS3 disc too. Additionally, it falls victim to just how well Valkyria Chronicles‘ aesthetic stands the test of time: it didn’t really need an upscaled edition to be enjoyed today.
Still, there’s something intangible about this port that feels like the definitive release. Maybe it’s something about it running natively within one ecosystem, rather than the Steam release’s strange-feeling combination of a pseudo-PS3 save interface and hastily-made icons for non-PlayStation input options. I’m not sure. The point, though, is that it feels right at home, and that’s to its credit.
Valkyria Chronicles is the sort of game everyone should play, and if all Remastered serves to do is make that possible for more players, that’s more than enough to justify its existence. And until we get a true sequel — VC2 and VC3 were limited by the PSP’s power and Azure Revolution is, well, an entirely different sort of game — it’s the best available version of its distinct gameplay and aesthetic.
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