My first exposure to the tactical nature of strategy RPGs came from Sega back in the early ‘90s with the amazing Shining Force series. That’s mostly why I fell in love with the Fire Emblem games, because they share some common gameplay mechanics. Since then games like Advance Wars, XCOM, and even Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle have satiated my desire for strategy RPGs. It’s only fitting then that Sega would once again surprise me with a fresh take on an aging genre with the excellent Valkyria Chronicles 4.
This is a series I have wanted to get into for a very long time. The original game came out many years ago on the PlayStation 3, and in fact I even purchased it after it dropped to a cheap price, but never got around to popping the disc in. I even bought the remaster of the game on the PS4 a few years back when, once again, the price was right, but still didn’t find the time to try it out. I was a bit apprehensive about jumping in with the fourth game, but the good news is that the stories aren’t really related and the game does an admirable job of teaching newcomers the ins and outs of combat.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place in an alternate reality of World War II. You play as Claude, the young commander of Squad E of the Federation. He’s only 22 and already has immense responsibilities on his shoulders. He and his group of ragtag soldiers are tasked with pushing back enemy forces and infiltrating past the enemy line in an attempt to take over the enemy capitol. This won’t be easy and the road will be long, but with his friends by his side anything is possible. Speaking of, each member of your team comes with his or her own personalities, special attributes, and weapon specialties. Throughout the game there are numerous plot devices that really flesh out the backstories and made me legitimately care for the members of my team. One of my favorites has to be Raz, a cocky Shocktrooper that always has something sarcastic or lewd to offer during every encounter.
What really sets this game apart from many others like it is its wonderful battle system. Unlike titles like Fire Emblem, where each member of your team gets one turn and then the enemy moves, you have total control over which of your teammates gets a turn and which ones sit out for the round. You begin each phase with a certain number of Command Points (CP), which determines how many moves you can take. So, for example say you have 7 CP at the beginning of your turn. You could use 1 point to move your sniper, but as you move about the terrain your Action Points (AP) drains. Different troop classes will have varying amounts of AP and some (like scouts) can often traverse longer distances. Let’s say you move your sniper into range and zoom in and take a shot and manage to kill an enemy. If you still have AP you can then decide to move some more or take cover. What’s really cool is that after you end that character’s turn, you still have 6 CP left to use and it’s up to you who you want to go next. If you want you can even pick the same sniper again and go again, although with reduced AP, which means you won’t be able to travel as far this time. The other constraint is the amount of ammunition each character can hold. Some guns are unlimited, but in the case of the sniper it’s usually on the low side, which means it might be smart to have an engineer in close proximity to refill ammo.
Part of the appeal of the combat is that the game seamlessly goes from an overhead tactical map to a third person behind-the-should shooter viewpoint. This allows for you to take direct control of each of your soldiers and place them exactly where you want. When you aim at an enemy you even line up your shots and the game will tell you approximately how many shots it will take to kill an enemy. If you move the targeting reticule from an arm up to the chest or the head, you’ll often see the “time to kill” go down dramatically. Now, this isn’t a perfect prediction of what will happen, as sometimes your characters will miss their marks, but it does give a decent indicator of what to expect. As you move about the map you’ll need to be careful to not get too close to enemies because if they notice you they can begin firing at you at will, which can quickly drain your health. The good news is the opposite is true so when it’s their turn and they run too close to your allies they can automatically shoot the enemies. Even better, if you place two allies next to each other they may gain special powers to deliver more devastating attacks.
Getting to know each of the different classes and using their abilities is half the fun of the game. New this time around is the Grenadier, who can carry around a portable mortar and attack from a distance. This comes in handy when you have enemies with an elevation advantage. One early mission (which you can play in the free demo available now on the eShop) has some gun turrets placed atop rooftops, making the Grenadier a must-have for success. Claude gets to drive around in a tank and that has multiple guns and attacks, which comes in very handy in certain missions. Since CP can be used on the same unit over and over again, it’s sometimes fun to experiment with a single character and see how much damage he or she can do before having to switch out to a different ally.
A big part of what makes Valkyria Chronicles 4 so much fun to play is that each mission is never as straightforward as it may seem. Very often you have an objective, but things go sideways mid-mission. This heightens the excitement, as you never know what to expect as you progress through the story. As you play through the chapters there is constant banter between all of the characters and it really adds to the experience. The story is legitimately interesting and you really begin to care for the entire team.
The game has a very Japanese anime look to it and features hand-drawn graphics that look fantastic on the Switch. I’ve seen comparison videos between all of the various versions and the Switch holds its own pretty well. The benefit of portability and the ability to play in small bursts while watching TV is a big plus and one more reason to choose the Switch version over the others. The cartoony graphics look great and the character designs are all pretty awesome.
The game features a ton of voice and every character sounds great. I really love the soundtrack as well. It has a sort of calm and fantastical feel to it while chilling in your base, but then swells up in intensity as the battles rage on.
I have to admit that the more I played of Valkyria Chronicles 4, the more addicting it became. In fact, it managed to draw my attention away from my most anticipated game of the year (Dragon Quest XI on PS4) – and that’s saying something! The characters are likable, the story is enthralling, the combat is fun, and the presentation is glorious. I know there are a ton of great games coming out across all platforms at this time of the year, but please don’t pass this one up. It went from “I guess I’ll check it out” to contender for game of the year.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 Review
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
Valkyria Chronicles 4 continued to surprise me with just how damn fun and addicting the combat is. Fun and memorable characters, a wonderful presentation, and spot-on controls make this a game you won’t want to miss.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.