The Return of Valkyria Chronicles

When Sega went as far as uploading a teaser website for the next Valkyria series title, we should have known they had something special to announce. But there was still room for skepticism. When some saw it, they couldn’t help but think it had to be for a console game, given how it was being teased for a worldwide audience and with an ESRB logo on the page. However, it’s tough to blame anyone for not wanting to get too excited, as so, so many of these have resulted in announcements of mobile ports or spinoffs. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case this time, as this the best-case scenario: Valkyria Chronicles 4.

Sega confirmed the game through a lengthy trailer, which started off with showing glimpses of the planning and development periods, and explanations for how they want to meet players’ expectations. In other words: They wanted to set the mood for the main reveal by showing how this wouldn’t be similar to recent disappointments like Valkyria Chronicles II and Valkyria Revolution.

To elaborate on those: The first Valkyria Chronicles title was one of the best strategy/RPGs on PS3, and presented an anime-driven serious story in a war-torn environment. With VC2, Sega moved the franchise to PSP, and aimed it directly towards Japan’s teen audience by shifting the setting to a school/academy one. They also changed several other features for the worse. Revolution, on the other hand, was a mediocre action game that people feared would kill the franchise, despite its superlative soundtrack. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

Before this game, Valkyria Chronicles III on PSP was somewhat of a return to form that moved the setting back to soldiers on the battlefield, though some fans wanted to see it as a console installment. It’s a pity this title was never localized thanks to poor sales of the second game, and Sega’s lack of confidence in western PSP software sales in 2011 and beyond.

VC4 will be a larger return to form, as not only will it take place on the battlefield and present a serious (though, again, anime) story, it will mark the series’ return to consoles — fitting for the first game announced simultaneously worldwide. It will take place in 1935 EC, an alternate history setting engulfed in the Second European War between the Atlantic Federation and the Autocratic Eastern Imperial Alliance. Here, the Federation is on the verge of losing the battle to an Empire despite giving it a valiant effort. But the Federation has one last-ditch ace up their sleeve with a plan called “Operation Northern Cross.”

If some elements of that story sound familiar, it’s because this game will take place at the same time as the first one, but in a different part of the world. Given how the third game was the same way, the planning team must really like the period.

The game will tell the story of Squad E, who will fight for Operation Northern Cross’ success. It will be led by Claude Wallace, a squad leader and tanker who’s serious, passionate, and caring regarding his teammates, some of which are his childhood friends. The heroine will be Riley Miller, the second lieutenant technician who’s cheerful and positive enough to push forward without fear of failure. Raz is among one of the persecuted “Darcsen” race who doesn’t have a last name, and is a member of the infantry. The last currently-known character is Kai Schulen, a prodigy sharpshooter known as the “One Shot Killer.”

The gameplay will be similar to previous non-Revolution games in using the BLITZ system, which takes elements from strategy games, RPGs, and third-person shooters and fuses them into a unique system that surprisingly hasn’t been mimicked by anyone else. Unlike the last two numbered games, the team has the freedom to make large maps again, as they’re no longer constrained by the PSP’s limitations or need to reduce their size for portability’s sake. New features will also be added, including the explosive-focused Grenadier class, an increased amount of offensive and defensive battleship options, and the ability for units to perform a “Last Stand” before falling in battle.

In terms of the presentation: It’s welcome news that Hitoshi Sakimoto will return as composer, since he’s considerably lightened his workload in recent years. As seen in the trailer, VC4 is using a modified iteration of the CANVAS graphics engine that’s been used only for the VC franchise since the first game. This, however, will be the most graphically impressive installment since the original over a decade ago.

Sega plans to release VC4 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. PS4 was a given, while XB1 isn’t as much of a surprise considering Sega ported Revolution to it for the western release. This will be the first Valkyria game to release on a Nintendo platform, which is the version people who’d rather play strategy games on a handheld will want. Surprisingly, a PC release wasn’t announced despite the first game selling superlatively on Steam. Perhaps they’ll announce it down the line, but I don’t understand why they’re even thinking of not releasing it simultaneously with the console versions.

VC4 will release in Japan on March 21st on PS4, while the Switch version will arrive in summer 2018. Considering the game began development around two years ago, Sega wasn’t kidding when they said Revolution wouldn’t mean the end of the franchise. The game will release in western territories at an unspecified time next year. Given how soon it’s coming, expect to see more very soon.

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