I didn't think that after coming out of Rondo of Swords I'd find myself playing another SRPG laden in strategy and the need to carefully conduct your every move. Not that using your brain to its maximum potential is a bad thing, but you'd think that after investing so much thought into one game the next game you play would be a bit easier! Though I really should be finishing my write up of Star Ocean: Second Evolution (apologies Spencer!) and having some good fun with the Metal Gear Online Beta (at least what's left of it), Valkyria Chronicles managed to steal my curiosity the moment it arrived in my mailbox Thursday afternoon. Since then, I've spent a fair amount of time becoming familiar with the game's plot and characters, admiring its impressive visuals, and having some good hands on time with exactly how the game plays. Some of you might have already read the multitude of positive impressions of Valkyria Chronicles from various message board users, so I will echo their sentiments by saying the gameplay really is something special. I suppose the battle system is called Blitz for some reason, right?
Calling it a real time SRPG with some shooting game elements seems to be a fitting description of Valkyria Chronicles even if the game is turn-based when it comes to selecting which unit you want to move around the field. Each of the units have their own amount of AP at their disposal, and that specific amount limits their complete and total movement on the field. The real time portion comes from the fact that when your unit is moving and enemy troops are close or near, those enemy troops will attack your moving unit until you've either initiated an attack or you're successful at hiding behind a barricade of some sort to limit enemy damage. The good thing about this is your units are able to do the same thing when an enemy unit is moving around your units. Most of the time, both your units and enemy units with initiate counterattacks when attacked; and the best thing about attacking enemies is just how powerful headshots work. Whether it be your Sniper, Assault, or Scout unit initiating the attack (those are the three melee units I've been exposed to for now…Anti-Tank units seem to be more effective when attacking…you know, tanks), aiming at the enemy's head almost always guarantees a great deal of damage to be done. Enemy units also have the same potential to headshot you, but headshots from enemy units aren't as lethal as headshots from your units.
Another great thing about the battle system is how some, if not most, of the finer points of shooting games are incorporated into the game's vasts environments. Your units can easily hide themselves in blades of grass, slowly crawling to avoid being seen by enemy units and initiate an attack from behind; or they can simply hide behind a barricade, initiate an attack, and avoid a counterattack by ducking behind the barricade. Snipers can climb atop higher buildings and initiate attacks without being seen by enemy units, and any of your units that have grenades (I'm sure there's a special grenade that specializes with grenades) can throw them at enemies who hide themselves behind a barricade, dealing a good amount of damage.
I'd like to talk a whole lot more about the game itself and just how intense battles can get, but I'd rather that be done in a later post where everything is discussed. So far, though, the game has really impressed me. To see how much of a shooting game it can be while immediately reminding yourself its more of an SRPG is something really perplexing because half the time you're thinking you're playing a shooting game. Good stuff indeed.
Also, Spencer mentioned in a previous post that both Vyse and Aika share a cameo in Valkyria Chronicles. I've recruited Vyse, an Assault unit, thus far and haven't seen Aika as a recruitable unit yet, but they aren't the only ones from Skies of Arcadia to make a cameo in the game. There's one more cameo from Skies in Arcadia in the game; and even if she doesn't look completely like her original self, Fina is the field medic who comes to rescue your units when they've been injured in battle.
Update: Found an image of Fina thanks to SoA World Forums.
Images courtesy of Sega.