I recently started playing Valkyria Chronicles on my PS3, and i have mixed emotions of pure joy followed by slightly less amounts of joy which i call sadness. The game is so close to a masterpiece that it almost hurts to have to admit that there are flaws in this beautifully woven video game. The music will change to fit the tension seamlessly and is a great soundtrack for other games with a military vibe.
The art style truly make this game a next-generation experience, as the color-pencil cel-shading make this game more storybook than any game to preceded it. The remake of Final Fantasy Tactics for the PSP comes to mind, the similarities in those cut scenes and these show that the people created these characters and landscapes truly but some effort behind their talents.
Taking major cues from anime, the story is presented in roughly 5 minute episodes that you can choose to skip if you don't require context to your battlefield excursions. Since everyone you work with fights for the same country, you share similar themed blue uniforms. That leaves all of the characters personality to reside in their face, hairstyle, and job class, and there is enough to go around.
Voice acting is offered in Japanese, which is superb, but having to read subtitles, even for avid readers who fly through them, will have you missing some of the fine detail put into the cut scenes. Thankfully, there is a very admirable job done in the English voice cast, and the few people who sound annoying aren't that useful and can safely be left out of the proceedings.
The combat is a fusion of real time strategy and live action aiming, think of it as a fusion of shining force and resident evil 4, with a splash of worms 3d for good measure. Faux-European countries during the WWII era are used for the backdrop of this military inspired game.
They don't introduce any new game play mechanics we aren't already familiar with, but they mix several tried and true formulas together for a refreshing take on the genre of console strategy games. It would truly be a shame if this art style, as well as game play ideas, don't become more fine tuned over the years.
Which would bring me to my sad realization that this game is far from perfect. Several little design flaws in the combat interfacing make me wish they were noticed during testing, cause they seem to be the only thing that holds the game back. For example, I moved my tank unit right up to a basic infantry unit, aimed the barrel of my cannon at his chest, and somehow, missed three shells in a row. Somehow, each shot landed just behind him, and the ensuing explosion didn't so much as touch him, and the explosion clearly covers the enemy for a few seconds. Why does it ask you if you are ready to quit your turn, once you have used all of your moves? Why would anyone choose to keep saying "No, i don't care if my turn is up, I'm not ending my turn", thus halting the game.
The enemy AI is very strange and peculiar to see in motion most of the time. Enemy soldiers will run right into your camp, only to take no action. They peek out from corners but never take a single shot at you. And decide to skip their turn, without taking any action at all, far too often. Without a difficulty option, it makes the game less re-playable and reduces it's value that much more, lack of trophies doesn't help either.
Don't let those faults prevent you from playing this game however, as it should be considered the PlayStation 3's defining RPG/Strategy. Without question, this is the one to top, so get to work.
It is a sad reminder that appears too often and reminds you that your not reading a historical textbook, but playing a video game.