Valkyria Chronicles was, and still is, one of the very best releases of the Playstation 3 and really just that entire generation on any consoles or PC at the time. It was incredibly unique and the fantastic ideas were implemented unbelievably well – and it all came packaged in a fucking beautiful looking game that even people who dislike anime were forced to admit looked really nice. I have literally nothing negative to say about the game, even the drama and character building was top notch and really genuine (it handled war and death with the levity it deserves as well) and well written.
Plus, the World War II aesthetics helped add a sense of familiarity before you notice the inclusion of all sorts of other major powerhouses in human history including of course the Roman Empire adding a nice sense of fantasy in an otherwise fairly realistic war. It was a classic the moment it released and it’s absolutely maintained that quality over time, which you can check as I did by playing the Playstation 4 port or just picking up the original again now. Or you can be a massive faggot and get it on PC and be one of those people and join in with the reddit and GAF types who know nothing about games beyond walking simulators, shit indies, and nintendo. The anime on the other hand was just utter fucking shit, but that’s not relevant.
Valkyria Chronicles 2, while panned by many due to it’s technical limitations from being on PSP, was in many ways a step UP from the original in gameplay design and didn’t let the quality of the franchise drop much at all – maintaining a healthy series with another great entry. It added a shit ton of great elements to the gameplay itself and even while being hampered due to being on PSP was able to be incredibly varied, interesting, and fun as shit for the very long play time that it lasts for – with the only big complaint on my part being that it’s probably TOO long. Yes, it deals with military school students being forced to fight in the war and comes with anime hijinks, but they still manage to handle a lot of heavy shit very well and develop likable characters while using the war to make some serious and messed up backstories. It also deals a lot more heavily with the racism from VC1 and the hatred of Darcsens – in fact the entire war in this one breaks out due to nobles who refuse to live in a world where Darcsens are treated equally and freely and many of your classmates and squadmates don’t exactly like them either even though the person sitting next to them in some cases is one.
VC3 I have no personal playing experience with, but I did do loads of research when it came out as I was super interested and watched lots of gameplay and read lots of the story realizing we’d never get it. It seemed to be a much steeper step down in quality from 1 and 2, but still okay. However, a lot – seriously a LOT – of edgelord bullshit thrown in, a forced group for your cast instead of the large cast where you can pick your squad from (sadly all those cast members in this case being really fucking generic and vapid), and for some reason a lot more melee styled weapons. It sadly also took some huge steps out of the real-enough feeling VC1 and VC2 world, while still being directly in it, to a lot of gigantic weapons and over the top shounen battle tier stuff, a lot more fanservice and, again, characters who were just beyond typical entry-level anime types. It also was very lazy and rehashed a lot of models and such from VC2 directly. Again, I never personally played through it, but everything about it seems from what I know of it to be a pretty big step down – but still a good game overall and a good enough game to continue the franchise with.
Now there’s Valkyria Azure and it continues that downward trend of 3 by taking a massive goddamn leap into the abyss reaching so low only a White Whistle would be able to survive the trip down. It’s almost surreal not only how bad the game is, but how they managed to make a PLAYSTATION 4 GAME RELEASED ALMOST A FULL DECADE SINCE THE ORIGINAL somehow manages to be on a technical level far beneath even VC2 on the PSP. It’s genuinely mindblowing how much they fucked up with this game on every technical level.
Let’s get the most noticeable at a glance thing out of the way, the graphics are shit. VC was gorgeous, VC2 looked really good for a PSP game, VC3 was just reused assets from 2 so it looked just as good – but then there’s this which just looks awful as well as VERY lazy. Just look at the MC, it’s fucking awful. I’ll concede he’s the UGLIEST FUCKING THING IN THE GAME with the most awful fucking face but still, he’s not so much worse that he’s a bad example of how everyone looks. Note the textures of the clothes, the hair quality, and the goddamn retarded eyes. This is from an in-game cutscene.
Let’s be fair and compare this to a game on inferior hardware released in 2008. This is from an in-game cutscene.
And to be completely transparent, lets compare the gameplay rather than faces.
Azure looks worse than a fucking PSP game and it’s a PS4 title. Even the fact it’s “also on Vita” doesn’t explain the fact as Vita can manage really nice graphics and fidelity especially compared to the fucking PSP. It looks like an early PS2 Dynasty Warriors release and to make it worse the level is incredibly bland and has nothing going on. That’s something you’ll notice within an hour of playing Azure – there are very few levels that constantly are repeated even more heavily than those in VC2, and they’re all very linear, limited, and lacking any personality or actual real design. Every single mission takes place in lifeless and bland “hallways” with just fucking nothing in them at all aside random fences blocking your path, sandbags, and copy pasted walls/buildings that are identical all around. Even within the first few hours you’ll have played the same maps multiple times. Okay, that’s a little bit of a lie because the “first few hours” are nothing but cutscenes and ~3 minutes of gameplay. No, seriously.
You do not get to play this game. Ever. People joke about FF13, Xenosaga, and Metal Gear Solid games as being “movies” because of how much of them are cutscenes and not playing, but this is one of the very few times where it GENUINELY IS PRACTICALLY NOT A VIDEO GAME. It’s fucking baffling, I’ve never in my life played something like this and I’ve played a LOT OF GAMES especially story-focused ones and this blows even the ending of MGS4 out of the water. I just can’t say it enough or get over it, it’s so fucking ridiculous that even I have a hard time believing I’m not exaggerating but I’m not – you NEVER GET TO PLAY THE FUCKING GAME. I opted to start skipping every cutscene and IT STILL TAKES FOREVER BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY BACK TO BACK.
I recorded the game from the very moment after clicking new game to (by pure luck given PS4 cuts its videos at 15 minutes) almost exactly 15 minutes in and skipped every cutscene to just show how many there are and how many in a row, as well as how LITTLE you actually get to play. Is this a good example of THE WHOLE GAME? Having played like 35 hours of it, definitely fucking yes, it’s not me cherrypicking by using the prologue which you’d tell yourself “of course it has more cutscenes”. Plus, again, even games like Xenosaga that are almost ENTIRELY just a movie still make sure the prologue isn’t literally a goddamn film. You don’t have to watch the video I uploaded but if you want to see how ridiculous it is you should.
Back to the graphics and laziness of the overall visual design though. Every enemy model is IDENTICAL to the rest except color changes and a few very small details like “this one is stronger so it’s not just RED but also wears a helmet with some fur around it!”. You just get generic medieval armor guy in silver, red, etc. Then there are the “tanks” which are just really gay mechs that don’t look cool at all as well as “heavy tanks” which are just large stupid looking scorpion mechs. Again, all the tanks of both styles are identical to each other with small details being changed like “this one has a missile launcher equipped on it” or “this one has a sword for an arm” but otherwise you can’t tell it’s not the same as the other 3 you just killed. VC1 and 2 didn’t have SUPER varied enemy looks but they were different enough that you could tell at a glance what their role was, what equipment they had, and so on. The “red” thing has also been a tradition in the series to point out commanders…but here it’s more like random enemies happen to be red and it SAYS they are leaders but they don’t DO anything and killing them does nothing special either.
The cast design is also a problem. This is another game where you’re in the military – something regulated and where 100% of characters EXCEPT YOURS wear a fucking uniform. VC1 everyone wore the uniform with very slight details being different to make each character just unique enough in their design to be interesting without feeling stupid. Here? THROW ON A TRENCH COAT. PUT ON THOSE PAJAMAS WITH CATS (seriously, this girl just wears her pajamas to battle and it’s fine). LET THE PRINCESS WEAR A WHITE DRESS TO EVERY ENCOUNTER. MAKE SURE YOU GOT YOUR PARENTS PERMISSION TO NOT FOLLOW THE DRESS CODE! Hell, one just wears a fucking halter-top that cuts off almost directly under her tits.
Let’s compare again.
Gee, one of those sure looks a lot more like a military yet strangely more diverse.
Every texture is incredibly low res – like it’s literally from the PSP at best yet still manages to look barely on-par with VC2 at it’s best. Every level is designed as empty and un-lived in as possible and super linear. Every character is a vapid entry level anime archetype. It’s bad, it looks like ass – but it doesn’t just LOOK that way.
There’s a lot of technical issues like those level designs and insanely low amount of maps in the game that make no sense, as well as the extreme linearity of all of them when even VC2 had more diversity to the small map sizes and limited number they could fit on the disc. Plus where VC2 dealt with it by splitting most maps into two parts that you went between as you pleased, this forces you into one tiny repeated map or, at best, lets you put another party but splits it to a completely inaccessible area by your other party and even acts as a second mission. Which, by the way, your “party” now is only 4 total characters and that’s that, no changing it mid-mission, no backup, no anything. Just the 4 of you. You can argue that’s not “objective” and is more a personal preference issue, so lets talk about some things that ARE objective technical issues and gameplay fuck ups that have no excuse for being this way and can’t be defended at all. Oh, worth noting also that the entire party is there in every cutscene regardless if you’re using them or not – yeah, it’s one of those.
First up: slowdown. This game suffers from the FPS tanking near constantly if there are more than ~5 enemies on screen, especially if there are any effects going on such as an explosion, smoke, or too much gunfire. Even if there’s just 10 or so enemies you can start getting falls in the framerate and once you introduce a lot of enemies the game stutters and seems like it’s going to crash the entire console at any second. It’s really strange when you consider the horrible graphical quality, empty levels, and low impact character models. There’s no reason for this aside fucking atrocious coding and a lack of cleaning it up afterwards out of pure laziness.
Pop-in – loads of it. Everything fucking pops in a few feet from where you are in the already very linear claustrophobic maps with a few lucky times when things will pop in a little further away. Worse, they attempted to mitigate this by – again instead of actually properly cleaning the code – by having enemies just LITERALLY NOT EXIST until you trigger them and it pops a short scene of them running to say “see, here they come this is why they weren’t showing up!” and having them pop up out of nowhere suddenly once it returns to the game. This happens constantly too and it’s not skippable, it also happens IN THE EXACT SAME SPOTS EVERY SINGLE MISSION to the point that you can memorize not just the maps within a couple missions but even the trigger locations for enemies and know when and what is going to show up at any given time…which is extra helpful because there’s no fucking map. That’s right, all you get is a really way too zoomed in minimap and nothing else, leading you to being lost in the more shittily designed levels or when the objective is some place you don’t know. The absolute worst is when the objective is to kill all the captains and you end up missing one or thinking you killed him and leaving too soon and then having no way of finding him because there is no fucking map and there are no quest markers on the minimap aside from for very specific missions.
Speaking of missions, they’re all incredibly short. The story missions are equally short as the side missions and both suffer from a billion unskippable “enemies are coming” scenes like I just described, and the story ones are even more hampered down by insane amounts of mid-mission cutscenes cutting in every 3 seconds. The game now also ranks you only on time and KILLS, mostly the latter, as if it’s a Dynasty Warriors game. So make sure every short mission you do you kill everything you can.
You rarely get to save. What I mean is you’re stuck in SO MANY FUCKING CUTSCENES that you will finish some tough mission and be stuck for upwards of an HOUR before you can actually get out of scenes and able to save.
Bases serve no purpose, literally none at all. There is absolutely no gain from taking them over. Enemies don’t spawn from them, you can’t bring allies from them, and all they do now is give your secondary weapon some more ammo in a game where your secondary weapon is worthless shit aside the anti-personnel launchers. Another element of the game that’s carried over from 1-3 but doesn’t make ANY sense here. Oh, right, I almost forgot; secondary weapons in this game means “any weapon that is not a melee weapon”. This game is 100% dedicated to melee combat and magic, guns are a barely-used after thought and they sure made them with that in mind as they all suck dick and are irrelevant compared to your giant goddamn anime swords.
The camera works about as well as the early days of 3D platformers. It constantly gets stuck in walls, absorbed into the enemy mech tanks, and is generally an annoyance. It also is the type of game where if your camera DOES get stuck in an enemy it makes the enemy invisible…except this time they programmed it so the enemy LITERALLY NO LONGER EXISTS until the camera sees them again – so any time they aren’t on screen they aren’t damaged and, worse, even if they’re visible the game has a VERY CONSISTENT TENDENCY to make your controlled character completely clip into the mechs. Actually not just a tendency, it happens 100% of the time. They made no sort of collision for the mechs – even the large ones – so by doing your attack your body ends up absorbed into their model and…oops. You can’t hurt them when that happens. Your attacks don’t register. So no matter what you’re fighting this issue when fighting any mech, big or small, because it almost always makes your third strike in your 3-hit auto combo miss because it swings from inside the goddamn thing and so doesn’t count. Again, an issue from the very very very early days of 3D video games, yet it’s inexplicably here in a PS4 title.
On top of that, dodge-rolling and even attacking often times go in a random direction even if there’s an enemy directly in front of you and a foot away, for some reason the game will think you’re trying to dodge/attack an enemy 10 feet away and behind you instead. Even when locked on this can happen, but it’s most prevalent when you aren’t. It shouldn’t happen in either situation though. Speaking of attacking and dodging, the gameplay is incredibly fucking simple and bland. Hold circle to run all the time because your walk speed is stupidly slow for no reason. Occasionally push X for the game to do an obnoxious auto 3-hit combo that you’re stuck in the animation for even if an enemy dies in the first hit. And that’s it. Oh, right, they designed this game like it’s still a strategy game though so you have to wait for your wannabe ATB bar to fill up before you can attack again or even command an ally again. Luckily you won’t need to command them too much if you “program” them with the “priority” system, or at least that was the hope of the developers. This system, if it was deeper and more well done, could actually be kind of cool.
Here? It’s just another problem. If you put prioritize using weapons they just waste all their ammo immediately on the first thing they see, if you put prioritize alchemy (magic) they do the same. You’re forced to constantly manually command them anyway because those priorities are too much of a waste to actually put on them and some are just useless anyway with the party ignoring them anyway. It’s light busywork and not useful or needed for the “value” you get out of it.
Then there’s the boss battles which end up accidentally hilarious because every single time you hit the enemy it spams a line and cuts itself o-THAT ALL YOU GOT THAT ALL THAT THAT ALL YOU GOT THAT ALL YOU THAT ALL THAT THAT THAT ALL THAT ALL THAT ALL YOU THAT THAT THAT ALL YOU GOT THAT ALL YOU GOT THAT ALL THAT ALL THAT THAT THAT ALL YOU GOT THAT ALL YOU THAT ALL YOU GOT. The bosses are also just damage sponges rather than a legitimate challenging foe – they aren’t EASY but they are very much “spam X for ages because they have a billion HP” rather than some sort of strategy or tactic helping take them down faster. The same goes for non-story bosses like heavy mechs which can’t fucking kill you with how little damage they put out (most things in this game can’t kill you) but WILL NOT FUCKING DIE FOR AGES especailly with the clipping issue I explained already. It’s also worse when you realize there’s no real feedback for hitting enemies, there’s no weight to the enormous weapons or good sound or animation for hard hits.
Which, yeah, combat now is just generic and very poorly made third person character-action style gameplay with the bare minimum effort put in. Gone is the ENTIRETY of the tactical and strategical aspect, gone is actually commanding shit, gone are the turns – and all replaced with spam a button at enemies while you run into them and wait for your ATB to fill back up. Every single thing that made this series unique and special are gone and replaced with “this seems more popular these days lets make a game where you push X to swing a giant gundam sword in your tiny man-hands”.
There ARE some good things in the gameplay but they are extremely few – something feels good about throwing a grenade into a pack of enemies and one shotting all of them, lighting someone on fire and seeing everyone around him (from the status effect fear) freak the fuck out, and I can’t get over how funny it was when during the first meeting with the Valkyrian boss enemy I ran up point blank and fired an anti-personnel rocket launcher in her face 3 times and she died immediately. The latter isn’t a positive for the game without irony involved, but it still was a really hilarious moment. The good points kind of stop there. Even going around in the town is made a pain in the ass with an awful camera angle and having to run down the same lame street to do anything.
The localization is also kind of off putting, especially with certain characters repeating things like “Nay” multiple times within a sentence or two to sound intelligent, classy, and “ye olde times” even though it’s misusing the term in the first place by, nay, by using, nay, by pervaying, nay, saying, nay, placing the word nay at, nay, random times and almost going full xseed and starting every sentence by the princess with it for absolutely no reason. She and a few other nobles in the cast all talk like cocksuckers constantly. The voices providing that talking are also not that great in the dub, with a few typical voices doing as good as usual but a majority of the cast being really pretty bad.
The cast also does nothing to help the game, I’ve said it a bunch already but they are the absolute least effort involved “generic anime trope” types with no exceptions. Sometimes you can still manage something acceptable from that, but here they really don’t even try. Everyone is lifeless and even fails to properly be the trope they’re meant to be, and the MC is such a goddamn edgy fuckboy that you can’t even enjoy playing as him – yet he’s so lacking in personality that even that side of him is dull and not even fun in a so bad it’s good way.
Nay, nary a piece of this comes close to the biggest problem though which twas nay the elements I’ve spoken of, nay not them twould be a misleading statement to say it so, but something much worse, m’lady.
The entire game is framed as an old lady telling the story of this war to a curious younger historian, you even see them talking and to continue the story after a chapter you return to them and have to ask her to continue. That’s fine, in fact it could be kind of interesting, but the issue is that the game REALLY FEELS LIKE IT’S JUST AN OLD LADY TELLING YOU A FUCKING STORY. The plot never moves, there’s LITERALLY 15+ cutscenes IN A FUCKING ROW all of which last 5-15 minutes a piece and serve no actual valuable purpose because they’re all fluffed out bullshit that could be explained and shown in about a tenth of the time they take to do it here, and even mid-mission it’ll stop you every 1-3 minutes to throw more cutscenes at you. It is absolutely fucking ridiculous and while I pointed it out already it’s not just that they exist it’s that they are MEANINGLESS BULLSHIT. I’m fine with loads of cutscenes but these serve no fucking purpose and are just written so poorly they ended up accidentally being purely filler and the pacing seriously does feel like it’s just some old fucking woman rambling on about shit you don’t care about. It even ends up interjecting into the gameplay, slamming it to a stop to jump to a story taking place somewhere else, like this old woman has fucking alzheimers and can’t stay on topic. In that way I guess they nailed it, never fucking talk to old people.
The story she weaves is not only lost on tangents and dumb shit being focused on far too long and scenes simply going on forever without reason, but also just fucking stupid overall. They ripped off their own game and just rehashed a bunch of VC3’s story elements and characters especially in EDGE and the whole traitor thing, threw in Selvaria because she’s popular but renamed her and without explanation made a girl who looked nothing like her just be her anyway when she grew up and became a Valkyria somehow…And just overall never really made sense or did anything to be remotely interesting at any point. Even at it’s best it’s incredibly boring and doesn’t hook you at all. Also your unit is the “anti valkyria unit” but valkyria don’t exist as far as anyone knows until one shows up in the story and all you were made for was killing random normal dudes so I’m not sure why.
There’s really no gravity to any of it either and it’s just so generic and lifeless. They even randomly kill off a character to try and force some drama and it just feels fucking lame. Then to make it worse they just replace him with his identical sister who plays the same, uses his level up grid, and makes his already boring and unemotional death even less powerful because they just replace him with what may as well be just him but cute. Hell, they’re even the only fucking characters who wear their uniforms so they are even more similar.
The worst part is the amount of potential this story had. Here’s the official statement and it really sounds fucking cool and heavy, nothing at all like what we actually got: “All it takes is a single spark to start the inferno of war, and in the story of Valkyria Revolution, players will experience that firsthand. Five lifelong friends consumed by personal revenge plunge an entire continent into a terrible war, sacrificing the lives of countless innocents for a cause based on twisted half-truths and outright lies. This “Circle of Five” use their combined influence in their political and military positions to motivate their small, economically blockaded homeland to rise up and become a powerful resistance against its imperialist oppressors. Will the Circle of Five be remembered as heroic liberators, or will their selfish motives expose them as traitorous conspirators who sacrificed untold lives just to carry out a personal vendetta? Players will watch this history unfold in Valkyria Revolution and find out the truth behind the events…“. That sounds really dark, really powerful, and really GOOD. Instead we get a meandering history lesson from an old lady with mental disabilities and shit gameplay.
Actually, the story and A LOT OF THE GAME reminds me a huge amount of Trails of Cold Steel. It’s just as fucking stupid, just as much a massive disappointment, hangs way too long onto pointless meandering fucking tangential “plotlines” that serve no purpose, almost just as bad a localization (Hehe hah cold steels is heh unbearable), just as lacking in terms of graphics, identical generic anime characters, just as terrible on a technical level, both as full of EDGE as one another, and both being pure shit. Oh, and of course the RETARDED FUCKING GIGANTIC WEAPONS EVERYONE HAS THAT ARE THE SIZE OF MOTORCYCLES.
It’s really just baffling to consider how this game stumbles so heavily in OBJECTIVE VERIFIABLE QUANTIFIABLE WAYS compared to it’s predecessor on PS3 released in 2008 and, even more, to a PLAYSTATION PORTABLE EXCLUSIVE from 2010. There are elements like the characters, writing, and even the combat system and such you could debate out because some of that comes to opinion – but quality of textures, pop-in issues, lack of basic features like a fucking map, rehashing levels, very small and empty levels that repeat constantly, and so on are not subjective things where personal views come into play. I genuinely have no clue how they fucked this up so bad even in just those aspects when they’re working with dramatically better hardware, a MUCH easier system to develop for than the very infamous PS3 which was hell for developers, and they’ve had so much time to create this. It’s insane how fucking terrible this game is when you consider all the factors involved. I didn’t finish it, I got too tired of the damage sponge “bosses” that were just the same as every other mission but with more HP and the story I could stand so little that I ended up skipping almost all of anyway. Valkyria is over now, the franchise is dead and it ended on a goddamn abysmal note.
This is a terrible game, and I want to make it clear that I’m not just saying that with a bias from being a fan of the franchise and this being such a failed attempt at changing it’s direction. No, the game itself is a pile of shit in every single way all on its own from technical aspects to being absolutely lacking any sense of fun or interesting aspects in the story or cast and being fucking stupid. With the comparisons this is fucking offensively bad of a game that makes any fans of the original feel personally wronged and if it were a bunch of SJWs it’d probably already have lead to a court case. However, if I avoided comparisons my review would have been one very short and simple statement.