Valkyria Chronicles 4 - Recensione

Author: Marco "Uomoespo" Esposto
Date: 2020-07-30 17:40:54
Sega in recent years seems to want to give light to everything that was somehow lost, especially for us Westerners. The Yakuza series is back in the limelight, Shenmue I and II have resurfaced from the grave in anticipation of the never-awaited third episode and we even have a Streets of Rage 4 coming soon. In 2016 it was the turn of Valkyria Chronicles, a small cult game released on PlayStation 3 back in 2008 which was followed by two chapters on PlayStation Portable. The first came out for the West while the second remained anchored on the Japanese shores. A saga that seemed now buried has been reborn in a remastered version on PlayStation 4 and someone expected the arrival of the other two.

Perhaps due to some difficulties related to the portable nature, perhaps because the success of the two sequels was less, the fact is that Sega stopped with the remasters and decided to continue directly with a fourth chapter, which debuted on the current Sony consoles last March and is finally arriving in American and European stores on September 25th, in PS4, Xbox One and Switch formats, interrupting the historical exclusivity with Sony.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes us back to an imaginary Europe of the 1930s, shaken by the turmoil of the Second World War, an imaginary conflict that smells of World War II from all textures. The continent is divided: on the one hand the ruthless Empire, the result of the alliance of the peoples of the east, on the other the Confederation, made up of a series of states and small nations that are not exactly allies but that have found themselves having to face together against the enemy. In this scenario with surreal but epic tones typical of Japanese souls, the characters of the game move, including Claude Wallace, the protagonist. An idealistic dreamer with a passion for nature, who becomes sad if at the end of a battle the tanks have crushed some flowers.

The plot unfolds over 18 chapters, telling the typical vicissitudes of war and Valkyria, the fearsome weapon of the Empire. Without going into details to avoid ruining the story, expect situations that smell like shonen, with characters decidedly over the top and some typically Japanese comic moments and that inevitably may not be suitable for every type of audience. Those looking for a more realistic narrative that is closer to the spirit of strategists with a historical setting obviously must turn their attention elsewhere.

The game phases are the classic turn-based strategic battles that the series has accustomed us to, which carry on the so-called BliTZ System (Battle of Live Tactical Zones), a mixture of action, RPG and pure strategy. You select the soldiers and any vehicles you want to deploy, they are placed on the map (there are limited and specific places where you can start) and selecting the Terraced option starts the clash. The options on the battlefield are several, the more you advance in the plot and the more you unlock them. You can decide to give orders directly from the game map, spending special points and money, which allow you to perform unique actions, or select a character.

Soldiers move freely controlled by the analog stick with an empty screen bar. Once it reaches zero all that remains is immobility. Obviously, in addition to moving, they can attack with their weapon or heal themselves, using Ragnitina, a mineral around which the whole universe of Valkyria Chronicles revolves. The tanks themselves use this stone to power their generators which, if hit with a cannon shot, cause significant damage to the vehicle. The turn is sanctioned by a series of medals that wear out and that increase as the battle continues, increasing from time to time the actions that can be performed during their phase.

Obviously, as a strategy game, certain freedoms of action collide with the very nature of the genre. If an opponent is protected by a cover of sandbags, even if the head protrudes, the game will calculate its being perfectly defended when you try a head-shot with your trusted sniper. It is an obvious thing, but it can happen to forget it during the heat of a battle. The management of the statistics is very good, given that it specifies the damage that we will do to an opponent and how many shots are needed to eliminate it, as long as we are not too far away, since fog or other environmental phenomena can limit visibility.

The accuracy of each character also counts and there are random bonuses or malus that are activated, sometimes due to actions that have taken place, others due to the weather. Relations between teammates also count, so it is often important to evaluate who to send to the pitch, especially for "couple" actions. All these factors generate fun and always different battles, in some occasions slightly frustrating but it is the price to pay for this variety, moreover we are at war.

Played after the original remaster, we soon realize that Valkyria Chronicles 4 seems to be thought of as a direct sequel to the first chapter. With all the pros and cons that come with it. The narration still proceeds very slowly, with tons of not always interesting dialogues, which willingly or unwillingly make many of the characters, both main and secondary, become attached. The story and the battles are told in Book mode, a collection of photographs that trigger narrative episodes - simple videos - or the battles to continue in the story. Before leaving for the war it is always necessary (or at least recommended) to get busy in the Headquarters.

The heart of Valkryia Chronicles 4 allows you to evolve the various classes by using the experience points earned during the battles, leaving total freedom of choice. Potentially it is possible to keep all classes at level 1 and send a group of super snipers to the very highest level (needless to say that it would be crazy). At base camp you can also work on camaraderie, learning new commands and skills by chatting occasionally with friends in the canteen. It is almost a shame that it is not literally an explorable area, but only a series of menus in which to move, even if it would go against the use of the rest of the game as a book, most likely.

The equipment can also be upgraded, in a somewhat limited tree diagram: let's say that the level ups that are unlocked by continuing in the game are quite mandatory and you soon end up by simply unlocking everything and therefore one wonders what it is for, given the almost absence of choices. Might as well have equipped the equipment with a sort of self-leveling, but it was probably still chosen to give the player the freedom to do it or not, considering that there are many who love to test themselves by playing games where they do not level.

More fun is the management of the vehicles, which can be improved by buying extra pieces, also unlockable by proceeding in the adventure. Obviously money and experience can be recovered not only from the battles of the main plot, but also from the Skirmishes, optional conflicts selectable from the Book menu. Going to secondary missions or repeating old battles to aspire to better grades (perhaps totaling a classic and Japanese "S" as a vote for each battle) also increases the number of hours exponentially, greatly enriching the game experience.

The classes are all fairly balanced, although some remain easy to use to "break" certain sections of the game. The Scouts, albeit armed with light artillery, if well empowered can travel distances simply out of scale compared to other roles. It has often happened to me to conquer the opponent's base camp in a few turns simply by dribbling the clashes thanks to a movement bar that never ran out. Some mechanical slips are still present, in short, nothing that damages the overall experience, however, which remains classically solid.

Appreciable the new classes, above all the Gunner, which allows precise shots and great power, as long as you find a safe area where you can baste your paraphernalia before the grenades are thrown. At the same time you have to learn to avoid enemy grenadiers, running around the battlefield while explosives are raining from the sky gives a very tangible guerrilla sensation. In general, the whole game is permeated by a beautiful atmosphere, also thanks to the Canvas Engine, which despite showing a polygonal quality closer to the last generation than to the current one, manages to not fail to disfigure with a visual rendering that really gives the impression to see a manga that comes alive page after page, cartoon after cartoon.

MODUS OPERANDI
I played Valkyria Chronicles 4 on a PlayStation 4 Pro connected to a Philips 6000 32PFS6402 / 12, thanks to a code provided by Sega. I completed the main story in about 40 hours. Completing all extra battles and trying to maximize your classes and equipment doubles them easily.