By Spencer . September 20, 2010 . 1:39pm
Aside from changing platforms, Valkyria Chronicles II’s most noticeable difference is the cast of characters. Instead of soldiers this game has students… and extremely versatile engineers. More on that later. The first topic in this interview with Valkyria Chronicles series producer Shinji Motoyama is about the story.
What inspired Valkyria Chronicles II‘s story?
Shinji Motoyama, Producer: We had a number of ideas for the story of Valkyria Chronicles series, and one of them was about the drama of a civil conflict that divides the land. The base image of the setting is Eastern Europe after World War II, including the former Germany divided into the East and West. Based on that idea, we framed a story well suited for the Valkyria Chronicles brand to create Valkyria Chronicles II. As result of that, we came to conclusion that Gallia must be in an unfortunate situation in the world of Valkyria Chronicles II, experiencing repetitive land division and unification for political reasons.
Can you tell us more about Gallia and Europa? These places and some events appear to parallel the real world. How did you come up with the locations and timeline?
Valkyria Chronicles consists of elements of reality with some fantasy added on to it. So, the story is more or less based on real historical events. Many of the characters and terms were inspired by the ancient history and the situations of modern Europe. This idea was concrete ever since we decided to create a game featuring guns and combat vehicles of 1930’s, rather than a complete fantasy game. The details of the idea weren’t planned at the beginning, but came along as the team discussed what we wanted to do. Once we decided to create a chronicle of a war, we determined to include historical elements in the proper way. Even though the story of Valkyria Chronicles is fiction, the main theme is history and war. With such a serious theme, we thought we should respect the history flow of the world and not just take advantage of it to get the war mood.
Why did you make Valkyira Chronicles II focus on younger military school students?
We wanted to describe the war of this era (“Second Europan War”) from several aspects. While the prequel focused on the volunteer army, Valkyira Chronicles II features teenage military cadets. They usually spend their lives in school and have stories only their generation can experience. As the next step of Valkyria Chronicles, we needed to describe this era with the individual view points of such young cadets. We also thought it would be easier for the players to reflect themselves onto the characters, because most people have experienced school life up to their late teens.
Can you tell us how you came up with the three main characters and their personalities?
First, we needed three characters with opposite personalities for a friendship story in the battlefield. The main character, Avan, should be a fireball to lead the story. We intentionally set him very straight forward, so that we could make him say exactly what we wanted to express in this game, through the view point of a young teenager living in such a wartime era. For some of the episodes in the game, even I’ve said “Doesn’t this look too overdone?” but my staff came back saying “But that’s how Avan is! Avan shouldn’t be so calculating!!” Now that the game is complete, I agree that Avan turned out just perfect. Nowadays, a character like him rarely appears even in a Japanese game, but we believe he is the right person for Valkyria Chronicles II.
Zeri is the opposite of Avan. Logical Zeri does not accept Avan at first, but eventually recognizes his ability to take action in the times of need and they become best friends… though they are seemingly on bad terms. Zeri is a Darcsen who has been persecuted in this world. He is trying to change such situation by high aim. He believes he needs to live efficiently to stand up to others, and that’s why Zeri can’t get along with Avan who can act intuitively without calculation. Yet, the 2 individuals of such opposite thoughts and backgrounds can trust each other and become friends. This is one of the themes of the game.
Last but not least, Cosette connects Avan and Zeri on a neutral position. She has lost her parents in the war, which motivates her to become a doctor. She goes to Lanseal Royal Military Academy so she could be qualified as an army surgeon and eventually become a great doctor. She is so goosey and always brings sources of trouble. Avan, Zeri, and other classmates often get surprised, but end up helping her. This personality for Cosette works as a good link between Avan and Zeri. There is a secret behind her goofy characteristic…but that’s for you to find out in the game!
When you were planning Valkyria Chronicles II what gameplay elements did you want to change or tweak from the original Valkyria Chronicles?
We thought the freedom of the gameplay needed improvement. In the prequel, many players seemed to beat the missions with a fixed combination of strategy, equipments, soldier class, and characters. With all the characters we have, we thought it would be better to allow the player to form his own squad. So we created more soldier classes, equipments, and tank parts to diversify the ways to clear the missions. The player can now play the game with the play style suited for himself.
Also, we thought the game should have more freedom because we were planning to add the multiplayer feature.
Adding episodes of each character is another major change. Valkyria Chronicles II has 30 mini scenarios in addition to the main story. We heard from many of the prequel fans that they wanted to see more stories of the secondary characters, so it was important to make that wish come true.
The hardware is PSP this time so the player can play the game anytime and anywhere. The player may want to do different things based on the time he has available, so we increased the freedom of the gameplay.
Valkyria Chronicles II’s style is just like the PlayStation 3 game before it. What were some of the challenges you faced when adapting the Canvas engine for PSP?
Let me tell you, we have faced so many challenges…it’ll probably take me forever to list them all up!
Everything was an obstacle, including the memory, CPU, and GPU. We even considered revising the design line. However, the adaptation of the system was one of our goals from the beginning, so we secured the resources and designed the performances and game designs all for that goal. Thanks to all such efforts, the team didn’t seem to go through major confusion…or at least that’s how it seemed for me!
Did you design maps differently since they’re broken up into smaller, but connected maps?
We designed the map three dimensionally. With these smaller maps, both the ally and enemy units tend to get dispersed between multiple maps in many situations. With such a condition, we thought we could bring fresh tense feeling to BLiTZ system by designing the maps with gimmicks like high positions, building covers, etc. When you play the game, you will see you are paying more attention to the surroundings than you needed with the prequel.
How did the class change system come about and why did you break the engineer’s abilities into two different support jobs?
As I mentioned above, we introduced the class change system to increase the freedom of the gameplay. The prequel only had one advanced class for the basic classes. This time, we added the top classes above the advanced to allow the player to enjoy developing the characters through the game. This is also related to the reason we gave special episodes to each character. We wanted the player to get closer to each character and think to himself how he should develop that character.
We beat our brains for the engineer. Generally thinking, engineers would recover others with ragnite or treat abnormal conditions, but we didn’t think those were enough to highlight its characteristics. So we gave a thought to the original Japanese term “Shien-hei”, which literally means “Supporter”. What is “support” for soldiers? That’s when we came up with a class with musical instruments like the military band, which can play the marching bugle in the battlefield to raise the morale of others. The military band existed in real life until the modern ages, so we thought it’s natural if they appeared in the Valkyria Chronicles series.
We believe the tactics will greatly change with the addition of these classes. While shocktroopers are great attackers to begin with, the player could find surprising ways of beating a mission with the melodist and anthem corps units.
Valkyria Chronicles II introduces a lot of new ideas into the tactical role playing game genre, but are there any ideas from other tactical RPGs that you would like to work with for another gamer?
The Valkyria Chronicles series focuses on the drama, so we would like to introduce dramas connected to gameplay to llow the player’s actions to affect the story and mission. We also would like to try to create a game in which the player’s goal could be completely changed depending on his or her actions.
Aside from that, it’s not exactly “tactical RPG”, but I think it would be fun if we could find some good way to adapt the concept of RTS’s “reproduction” system.
Now that Valkyria Chronicles II is completed, what would you like to do with the Valkyria series?
Besides the games, we would also like to extend the franchise to other media such as comics and anime. Personally, I wish to novelize the story. When the story is described only in writing, it could provide us different aspects of the story compared to the game or anime. …Besides, I love reading!
Then again, the centerpiece is absolutely the game. Look forward to the further expansion of the Valkyria Chronicles franchise!
The Valkyria Chronicles series will continue with Valkyria Chronicles 3. While you’re waiting for the next game, there is plenty more Valkyria Chronicles II content to unlock. The Sega of America blog has been posting codes to unlock Faldio, stickers for Sega games like Crazy Taxi, and Selvaria Bles in Valkyria Chronicles II.