What better way to kick off the new year than with World War II, anime-style. Or at least, with a game that starts off 110% anime. Valkyria Chronicles 4’s story gets pretty dark by the end but not without shrapnel chunks of teen banter, mishaps and romancing along the way. As the main character, Claude states at one point: “It was a battlefield… but it was also where we grew up.” That makes it sound quite sweet actually! Indeed, there are plenty of growing pains and hormones to be found in this war game, certainly moreso than the original Valkyria Chronicles.
What follows here is my scrapbook of wartime atrocities from my time with Squad E:
As tonally absurd as much of VC4 is, I enjoyed my time with it. Yes, it’s too wordy for its own good, and the game could’ve benefited from a larger cast of main characters. The plot kept my interest most of the time with some genuinely affecting moments but it could’ve been better overall. There are some confusing parts when the heroes act like villains that do make sense eventually but feel jarring at the time.
The gameplay is very similar to the excellent original Valkryia Chronicles – that is to say lots of strategy RPG goodness crossed with third person action. Resembling the original is no bad thing although there are some minor gripes I could make. (For example: was it really necessary for the foppish mechanic to say one of three identical voiced lines of dialogue every single time you upgrade a weapon?! His recurring “whoa” is enough to traumatise any would-be war recruit.) VC4 is also longer and tougher than the original, so I ended up playing on Easy difficulty most of the time. The lower difficulty was balanced by the fact that I didn’t do any grinding.
Overall this is a perfectly fine sequel that adds a few new wrinkles without doing much different. If really pressed I’d probably recommend playing the original game over this fourth entry (unfortunately I can’t speak to the PSP-exclusive VC2 and 3), just because I like story/characters more in the first game. But to be honest there’s hardly a single bullet between them, quality-wise. Then again making good judgments in the middle of a great battle with explosive hormones flying every which way is a rare skill.
Time is short so only one more thing before I evacuate. VC4 has some weird “pro-bullying” messaging: I’ve never met such a mealy-mouthed protagonist before. At one point “Scaredy-Claude”, as he is nicknamed, thanks a member of his squad for beating him up. This is no ordinary tussle either, as Scaredy-Claude is hospitalised for several weeks… yeah. That’s messed up.
So, this is the end of the line. Squad E – retreat!