Winter!: Prepare for holiday gaming!
Though Valkyria Chronicle's setting obviously draws many references from the actual history of World War II, to call Valkyria Chronicles just another war game would be a great injustice.
Players assume the role of Welkin Gunther, a naturalist come war hero, as the commander of Squad 7 in defense of Gallia, a small neutral nation caught amidst a raging war between two fictional superpowers, the East Europan Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation.
Squad 7 is composed of roughly fifty lovable characters that run the entire gamut of anime archetypes from romantic interest, quintessential loli and twin-tail tsundere to lesbian and broken masochist in addition to cameos by both Vyse Inglebard and Aika Thompson of Skies of Arcadia fame ( unfortunately, Fina is relegated to the role of Squad 7's non-player controllable field medic ).
Unfortunately, only important storyline characters are entitled to fully detailed biographies. Other members of Squad 7 are only allowed unlockable blurbs and up to four personality traits, leaving the rest up to the player's imagination. Interestingly, letting players fill in squadmate personalities for themselves might allow some players to build stronger bonds with their squadmates as they "create" their squadmates while discovering more about them. Whatever the case, for many players, the permanent death of a squadmate can be a heart wrenching experience.
Commanding Squad 7, players will complete a series of missions using an innovative mix of sRPG and FPS gameplay mechanics to repel the invading Imperial Alliance.
While Valkyria Chronicle's watercolour and anime inspired retelling of history is generally as charming as it is visually striking, Valkyria Chronicles is also at times a somber reflection of the cruelties of reality where betrayal, prejudice and death abound, the Imperial Alliance's attempted genocide of the Darcsen minority, a reference to the Holocaust, especially prominent.
For those who just can't get enough of Valkyria Chronicles innovative, cell-shaded sRPG action, multiple DLC packs and difficult, alternate campaign challenges give players an opportunity to return to the battlefield.
Interestingly enough, Valkyria Chronicles was originally intended as a XBox 360 exclusive, but at some point in development changed into a PS3 exclusive. Quite frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Verdict: Despite a campy story, the watercolour / anime inspired aesthetic and unique sRPG / FPS hybrid gameplay make Valkyria Chronicles a standout hit in a generation of games defined more by replication rather than innovation. Alternate campaign challenges and multiple DLCs will keep players in the action long after the story is complete ( if they aren't too busy looking up fanfictions of their favourite squadmates ). Valkyria Chronicles is more than the product of its sums, and is as close to perfect as games get.
Purchased: USD30 @ GameStop ( GameDays sale ). Additional USD20 in DLC.
Value: USD70 with four DLCs, otherwise USD55.
Game Traits applied to Valkyria Chronicles (PS3) by Celestine