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First Impressions: Valkyria Chronicles 3

For those more technically inclined among you and have a Japanese PSN account handy, you may be aware that a short demo of Valkyria Chronicles 3 was released a couple of weeks ago. Armed with my trusty PSP3000 and usually dormant jp PSN account, I gave it a shot and downloaded the demo and played it through a few times to get a feel for the 3rd instalment of the series. How was it? Promising but still limited.

Despite being a pretty decent game in its own right, many people (including myself) felt that Valkyria Chronicles 2 was a massive step back from what the fans were accustomed to from the console game and lacked the charm which made the original so endearing. Many criticisms were also directed at the setting and general lack of scale and impact of the plot as well as gameplay mechanics where were, sadly, due to the limitations of the system which the game was running on.

With the 3rd game in the series being announced as a PSP title, it’s safe to say that the mechanical limitations are still present but that doesn’t mean that the game cannot be improved!

First up, lets look at the characters! Those of you who have been keeping up with news of the game will know that the setting is the gallian war which was depicted in the first game. However, this time you are given control of the “nameless.” A special forces type group comprised of misfits and outcasts who are given difficult and sometimes borderline suicidal missions and objectives. The Nameless are pitted against what appears to be an equivalent group from the Empire, who go by the name of “Calamity Raven” As with previous games, certain characters are given an elevated status among the troops so we have Kurt Irving, who acts as the group commander, Riella Marcell, resident scout and, like a certain other scout in the Gallian army, is a Valkyrur with Imka acting as the lancer. The trailer shows Imka and Riella coming to blows at the end but I bet it’s because Riella was going to try some kind of suicidal stunt against the enemy! Either that or Riella ties into Imkas back story. In fact, I’ll put money on it!!

Nevertheless, even this early into the demo, the main characters are shown to be an improvement over VC2. The lighthearted elements are gone and there is no doubting the gravity of the situation these characters are put into. even in the briefing for the first mission, the characters feel that their task is too much but they do it anyway because “orders are absolute.” This is not school!
The demo also gives you a wide range of other characters who can be called for. My personal favourite is the old granny lancer (no, I am not kidding! watching her carry the massive lance around is hilarious!)

Not really much info is available on Calamity Raven right now, and the demo only really showed Lydia, who appeared to be an “S” and borderline batshit insane! The leader, Dahl, shows up in the cutscenes and just gives off the air of a coolheaded guy who plans ahead and sees the big picture. He also gives praise to the Nameless when they work out certain elements of the enemy plans.

The Map

The interface between matches has been given another overhaul since VC2. Because the game is rather linear, you are now given view of the map of the region as well as where battle lines are formed and large squads are deployed. As you progress, you see the path travelled by your squad and icons appear on the map when a cutscene needs to be viewed or a battle needs to be fought. It’s a combination of the systems seen in VC1 and 2 and it works pretty well.

Cutscenes

The cutscenes are very similar to those seen in VC2 with static character portraits and speech bubbles to denote who’s talking. Character portraits are either cropped or have their size adjusted during the scene to give the conversation more of a comic/manga feel to the proceedings. There’s also a TONNE of voiceacting as opposed to canned sound effects in the western version of VC2 which really helps draw you in (and helps me understand what the heck is going on!!). Plus, Endo Aya has been winning brownie points for me due to her versatility (and not just cos she was Sheryl Nome!) However, the same can’t quite be said for Nakamura Yuichi, who voices Kurt. I just keep hearing Graham Aker (Gundam 00) or Saotome Alto (Macross F) when he speaks. Overall, it’s a vast improvement over VC2 and looks set to take on even the original, if it was able to do full blown animated cutscenes at least!

Battles

OK, Lets get the bad news out of the way first. You are still limited to a total of 9 units in battle and 5 on any 1 map at the same time. Maps are still rather small and restrictive and speed is still the only criteria for rankings. On the plus side, maps feel a little more diverse than before and aren’t always limited to the square shape like they were in VC2. In fact, one of the demo maps had your characters running down narrow corridors to reach the enemy base. At least there was some diversity in there!

The demo gave you 2 stages to to play in. The first was a single area with a massive tank armed with 2 turrets which can be destroyed and various other units. The objective is to kill everything and can be accomplished in 1 turn if you know what you’re doing. The second mission was a “capture the base” variety with the similar feel of interconnected maps like in VC2. There was also a boss character who could be handily ignored. Graphically, there isn’t much of a jump up from VC2 but the maps do feel a little more intricate and enclosed and it feels like the movements of your units have been cut considerably to give a greater feel of size (you can’t travel as far so it takes longer to reach the end of the maps). There were also map specific hazards like artillery fire to worry about this time as well.

The biggest change though, is the new SP counter. Each of the 3 main characters have a new special ability which require 1 SP unit to start up. The demo gives you 3 per stage to play around with. Kurt gains the ability to get other units to follow him in his action phase. This allows you to move units without using up additional CP so you can cover a lot more ground. Imka has a special lance which allows her to lock on to multiple enemies at once.

The screenshot is from the first stage BTW. As for Riella, she’s a freaking Valkyrur! what did you think her ability would be? It only lasts for 1 action turn tho.

The new abilities certainly works to spice up the battles somewhat but there are major limits to what the demo can show afterall.For one, I am unable to test whether or not characters can die on the battlefield as opposed to the lame “we’re just going to the hospital and will be back next battle” option seen in VC2.

Screenshots released by sega hint at some old faces returning and playing at least a small part in the story,

From Squad 7 (Isara!! ;_;)

To a certain Ms Everhart from VC2.

So far, My views from the demo are a little mixed. On one hand, it’s clear that Sega have tried to fix as many of the major issues of VC2 as they could within the confines of the PSP. But the other issues are BECAUSE of those confines.The characters are instantly more likeable and memorable, the plot works well with its serious tone and the new abilities keep things fresh but the other things which annoyed me in VC2 are still ever presents.

As it is, the demo shows VC3 to be a much improved sequel to VC2 but whether or not it will be able to hold its own against the original remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t bet on it. If only sega weren’t such pricks and would give what every fan wants which is a damn home console sequel!!

See Sega? Even Imka can’t understand why she had to be on PSP!! Stupid Sega, You’re going to make her cry!!

  • http://radiantdreamer.net radiant

    THANK GOD! The school setting just didn’t work for VC. It was fine as an entertaining story, but overall, too hard to believe.

    Interesting seeing some of the VC1 characters returning. Damn I really really hoped that VC3 would go back on PS3. :(

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    You and the vast majority of the fandom it seems. In fact, Only Dale North over at destructoid seems to be genuinely pleased that the game is on PSP. God knows why tho. It’s kinda like eating a decent meal in a restaurant but being able to see the food of a Michelin star restaurant just a little distance away. Yours is OK but after seeing what it could be, you just don’t enjoy it anywhere near as much.

  • http://quentinlau.blogspot.com Q

    It’s definitely nice to see the more serious tone of Gallian War coming back to the 3rd instalment of Valkyria Chronicles. An academy school does feel rather out of place. Nameless vs Calamity Ravens as in special forces vs special forces? Now thinking about it quite a few Gundam games do that too, including the Gundam Senki 0080 whose story mode I’ve finished not too long ago.

    Given that the classes are the same as VC2 (as seen from demo gameplay on YouTube), does that mean the class upgrade system is very likely to be still here? I don’t really look forward to grind for specific ‘credits’ to upgrade my individual characters again. Seriously what’s with armoured tech’s return and engineers wielding elongated pistols now?

    The SP counter does seem quite interesting, and it does look like it is one of the crucial things needed to turn the tide of a difficult battle. Riella’s Valkyrur ability is cool, but it feels odd to me how short it lasts as she returns back to normal after you use up that 1 command point, rather than lasting the entire turn (ok that may be too powerful then, but more believable lore-wise?). I gotta say how much I love the way Valkyrurs swing their humongous lance around so effortlessly like a light fencing sword~

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    The Special forces unit scenario is a commonly used one in wartime games because it allows the makers to tell a story in the same timeframe without worrying about continuity. Afterall, such squads are not supposed to exist!
    The demo didn’t give much info about the levelling up system for the characters. They did seem to gain some experience with the characters used more often getting more than the ones which were not. But at the very least, the extra items like certificates seem to have been removed. so levelling up won’t work the same way and I doubt that grinding will be an option as the plot doesn’t really allow for it, though you could replay levels after you had finished the demo.

    As for Riella and her ability, if it wasn’t turned off at the end of your action turn, then she would be a broken character. Afterall, she would be invincible for 1 turn and her counterattacks would be able to take out everything except boss characters and tanks with ease. Combine that with Kurts ability to get her to follow him and she would have ridiculous range as well as the ability to kill units with her support fire! If it turns off after the action phase, at least that means that the player has to think about where she will end up and not just park her in the open to do maximum damage with no fear of reprisal.