I’ve tried to play Final Fantasy Tactics on three separate occasions. But no matter how many times I try, I eventually give up. This behavior wasn’t exclusive to Square Enix’s strategy role playing games either; Sega’s classic, Shining Force II, was also abandoned after numerous attempts as well. I’ve always wondered why. I’m not against turn-based games and I do enjoy strategy in my games, but something about these SRPGs simply didn’t click with me.
Valkyria Chronicles was different though – I’d call it a revolutionary game (for the genre). Sega tossed out the restrictive grids and isometric interface of old and brought SRPGs into the world of 3D. Characters can use cover, crawl through tall grass, climb onto rooftops, aim for the head of enemy units and do just about anything else a third person shooter could. The catch – and what ultimately kept Valkyria Chronicles an SRPG – was the finite amount of moves and actions a unit can execute within a single turn.
Careful placement of units remained crucial, but not just because of what could happen to them if I didn’t exercise care. Interception fire can decimate enemies as they move about on the battlefield, but only if units were within range and weren’t wielding specialty weapons such as bazookas or sniper rifles.
Tanks, engineers, snipers, scouts, anti-tank and the assault class add to the strategic planning as I have to decide who I should deploy to the battlefield. A rock paper scissor balancing act dictated what each class’ strength and weaknesses were. The key story characters are of utmost importance and are usually mandatory by force or by necessity; the extra Command Points they give in battle were hard to resist.
Ah, the story. What can I say? It was an anime styled World War II mock documentary. The framework was loosely based on the European theatre with ancient magical Valkyries serving as the desirable super weapons. There was a self serving dictator, an infamous tank commander and even in some racial persecution. I can’t say I enjoyed the anime influenced tale very much, but it had its moments; at the very least it coincided with the the art style. That “CANVAS” engine’s watercolor aesthetic was a feast for the eyes and will undoubtedly stand the test of time.
The narrow tech trees offered very few dilemmas in the ways of character and troop development. On the plus side, there was an abundance of funds and experience after every battle which yielded a steady pace. There was never a moment of grinding to be had! That’s the greatest compliment I could give to an RPG.
Every battle was different. One moment I was trading rifle fire in a village and the next I was delivering pot shots against a seemingly impenetrable fortress on treads. There was always something different. I guess that’s why I like Valkyria Chronicles so much. It’s a game which strove to differentiate from the rest and, for the most part, it succeeded. It’s the first strategy role playing game which I not only completed, but contemplated replaying immediately after the credits rolled. And that’s high praise I don’t give to just any game.
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