Remasters are marketed as definitive editions that harness the power of newer hardware. But all too often, they’re disappointingly slapdash ports intended to do little more than pad a publisher’s coffers. From the Jak and Daxter Collection’s abysmal framerate and inability to run at native resolution, the removal of online multiplayer and co-op components from Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Trilogy, to the myriad of issues that accompanied the original release of the Zone of the Enders HD Collection, the industry seems to take a ‘promptly port and possibly patch later’ approach when reinvigorating well-regarded properties.
Mercifully, that’s not the case with Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, the PlayStation 4 version of the acclaimed 2008 PlayStation 3 release. As a port of the subsequently released PC iteration, the title flaunts the same flawless 1080p, sixty frame-per-second output and a bundling of all the supplemental downloadable content. Given the reduced price of the Steam version, players with a GPU-bolstered rig are urged to seek out that version. Although they’ll forgo the accumulation of trophies, the possibility of on-the-go laptop play easily outweighs the prospect for bragging rights. But for gamers who prefer console-based experiences, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is a requisite experience destined to engross strategy buffs.
In synopsis, the plotline might seem unexceptional, offering a recognizable reworking of modern geopolitics. An introduction details the continent of Europa fragmented by two factions: the East Europan Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation- with the economy of both groups hinging on control of a precious resource named Ragnite. When the empire enters the once-serene town of Bruhl to commandeer their supply of the material, the incursion forces Welkin Gunther and Alicia Melchiott into the forefront. The duo take charge of a combat unit called Squad 7, who’s tasked with repelling the imperial invaders.
But despite the slightly hackneyed set-up of humble citizens prodded into conflict by a force of encroaching imperials, Valkyria Chronicles provides poignancy throughout its plotline. As a refreshing alternative to the jingoism of Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Tom Clancy titles, the storyline confirms the virtue of pacifism. Unlike the obligatory sense of victory which typically complements the closing credits in Western games, Chronicles demonstrates the persistent lament of loss amidst warfare. From touching on ethnic cleansing to racially disharmony, Chronicles doesn’t shy away from tackling more taboo topics, revealing the repercussions of bitter conflict. Smartly, the writers prohibit the proceedings from becoming too melancholic; beyond an emotive love story, the inclusion of a painterly visual style, muted palette, and Hitoshi Sakimoto’s emotive score endows Valkyria Chronicles with a hint of sanguine distinction. Oh, and there’s also a winged pig named Hans.
Accompanying the potent narrative are layers of adept mechanics that make play so gratifying. Confrontations shirk traditional turn-based approach, extended a system that deftly combines positional strategy, unit reach and ability- all while using real time movement. After observing an overhead view of the battlefield, players take command of individual units in third-person perspective, expending Action Points for each activity. Venture into an enemy’s field of vision and you’ll draw suppressive fire that whittles down each character’s health, prompting players to slink down below sandbags or cling to walls to stay out of danger. Going on the offensive brings up another perspective, allowing for the use of the left stick for aiming. Initially, there’s the temptation to play Chronicles like an action title, but when the unseen dice roll isn’t in your favor and you blow the anticipated headshot, you’ll learn to favor probabilities over motor-skill precision.
A few battles into the eighteen-chapter campaign, Valkyria Chronicles reveals its virtues by offering open-ended missions for your five troop types. Although success is easier with particular types of approaches, especially when you have a tank at your disposal, the title never forces you into a particular play style. Instead, you’re gently goaded toward promoting troop synergy by positioning snipers in elevated positions watch over your rocket-carrying lancers or having foot soldiers make sure enemies don’t try to converge behind you. But beyond this rock-scissors-paper approach, gamers can develop their own techniques with Valkyria’s ever-expanding toolset. Since players can save after each turn, there’s room for experimentation during the forty-minute forays. And you’ll probably want to take advantage of checkpointing, between hidden enemies, robust bosses, and foes than can one-shot your prized party member.
As this is just a remaster rather than a full-blown remake, players can expect the same irksome difficulty spikes that dogged the original release. It’s disappointing that SEGA didn’t soften these encounters, as there are two moments fated to produce frustration. But for those who excel at escalated levels of challenge, the inclusion of four DLC add-ons extends a contenting test of their commandeering skills.
Although it’s a bit disheartening to see that Valkyria Chronicles Remastered doesn’t offer any new content, nor tweaks that could attract new audiences, as an aesthetic advancement of a cherished title, the game excels. Console gamers that missed the original release or Valkyria vets who are looking to replay the campaign in 1080p, 60 fps grandeur should be quite happy with this equitably-priced package.
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered was played on the
PlayStation 4 with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Previously on PC
Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Price: $29.99 via retail or PlayStation Network