Reviews June 27, 2017

Valkyria Revolution

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Reviewed By: Andre Thomas
System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PSVita)
Genre: Action RPG
Rated: T
Players: 1
Cost: $39.99
Release Date: 06/27/2017
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Media.Vision

There’s a reason that certain games are popular in different parts of the world. Certain aesthetics, gameplay mechanics, naming conventions – really it comes down to our cultural differences/preferences. It should come to no surprise that franchises like Call of Duty sell well in the Americas. That said, there are genres that are genuinely well received no matter where you go…

SEGA’s Valkyria series has a cult following here and abroad. It made sense for them to port the latest title, Valkyria Revolution, to North America; though it won’t sell as many copies as it did in Japan, it still should do well. The question is, can it stand in the same light as its predecessors when it eschews some of its staples (like turn-based combat)? I believe it could, as long as those new elements are properly polished.

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Valkyria Revolution’s background is reminiscent of Victorian England (during the European industrial revolution). Set in a period centered on an impending war between two factions, we get a sense of déjà vu – there is an economic disparity between the small kingdom of Jutland and the tyrannical Ruzi Empire. Because of this, Jutland is forced to liberate itself from Ruzi’s grip via combat. The only problem, other than the fact Jutland is outgunned, is that the Ruzi are allied with a Valkyria. Thankfully, Jutland has an elite team of warriors who utilize Ragnite – a mineral/energy source that can infuse itself with weapons, technology, and magic – to combat strong foes.

The premise isn’t anything new, though the hidden motives amongst our heroes is interesting. For some, it’s all about heroism and looking out for those who can’t defend themselves. Others are out for revenge. I mean, from the beginning to the end it’s all about this band of heroes and how their secrets could ruin their chances of defeating the Ruzi. A small gripe I had was in how everything is told via a flashback. While the plot twists are somewhat predictable, due to how the story rolls out, it’s the character development that really shines. This is also true when it comes to the gameplay.

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I loved the “circles” feature in how it helps you focus on every character within your party. When people within your squadron have things in common, they tend to meet up outside of missions and discuss the many facets of their life. Whether it is something small like the women discussing what they find attractive in a man or characters consoling one another as they deal with the death and destruction that results from war, it’s always worth your time. Not everybody here wants to fight and it becomes evident as the game goes along. So much so, that’ll you begin to empathize with them as you pick who you take into battle; I would actually choose people who seemed built for battle over the characters who feared for their lives on a regular basis. They clearly are not real, but the time I spent with them in-game made me feel as if I was rebelling with them. I wanted their success as if I would benefit from it…beyond completing just completing the game.

Though I enjoyed the character interactions, I have mixed feelings about Valkyria Revolution’s combat system. It allows you to move in real-time, but pauses when issuing attacks to give you time to strategize. The problem is that in this game, these two game styles don’t flow together well. In FFXV, for instance, you had to change a setting in order to pause the gameplay. Not only that but it paused even when you weren’t attacking. Valkyria Revolution only pauses to issue commands, causing this stop and go gameplay. The combat isn’t bad per se, it just isn’t always fun, given the frequent stops.

Quick tip: choose your parties attacks and style of play before you jump into battle. Because it’s easy to just focus on your character, I often forgot about checking on my teammates. This made some fights difficult as they’d last longer than they needed to, especially when facing certain bosses.

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That aside, what really set me over was the art style and voice acting. I tend to give English dubs of Japanese voice over work some slack. As an avid anime fan, I understand how difficult it is to find great voice actors and/or a proper reworking of the script for Western audiences. So I wasn’t too upset with what I heard while playing. Plus, the music is so incredible that it actually helped the voice work; a dramatic scene was more so, given the score. But where the game lost me was in the art design. The new GOUACHE rendering engine gives everything a unique, paint on canvas vibe. It also looks dated and sometimes, out of focus. There’s no weight to the lines, emphasis isn’t put on things that may need finer details (like people’s faces) and it lacks the appeal garnered from the cel shaded look of old – which is funny considering I just said the visuals seem dated. It fares better during cut scenes, aside from some bad animations.  

There are genres that are genuinely well received no matter where you go. Because of this, publishers aren’t afraid of porting over select titles. There is an inherent risk though. At lot of the time with JRPGs, the issue comes from being stagnate. They are stuck on what worked in the past while ignoring new staples in the genre. What’s interesting here is that Valkyria Revolution isn’t as entertaining as it could have been due to newer features, not old ones. The combat isn’t great, the new engine only seems to provide bad animations and dated visuals, and the new plot/setting isn’t very strong. The character development is great and I liked the music. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to warrant the 50 or so hours of gameplay. I admire and respect SEGA for trying to change the landscape of their franchise (even if it’s only a spinoff), but maybe they should have had Media.Vision stick with the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Or at the very least, don’t make it worse!

Gameplay: 6
Valkyria Revolution isn’t a bad game. It just fails to live up to it’s potential.

Graphics: 6
The painterly look doesn’t work for me; at times it’s ok, sans some bad animations.

Sound: 7
The music was great!

Replay Value: 6
If one can get over the stop and go combat and ok story, I can see someone coming back for more.

Final Score:

6.3