A continent divided
Valkyria Chronicles was one of the most creative and memorable games on the PS3 when it debuted in 2008, and the series is still going strong today. Valkyria Revolution is the latest installment in the franchise, and it's shaking up both the gameplay and the setting.
Whether you're just diving into Europa for the first time or need a refresher course on the ins and outs of its lore, there's a lot to know about this rich world and the unconventional characters who inhabit it.
In 2008, Valkyria Chronicles hit PS3s worldwide to near-universal fanfare and critical acclaim. Set in the fictional continent of Europa, the game retold the story of World War II with a few fantastical twists. A motley crew of soldiers in the neutral country of Gallia must do battle with the evil Imperial Alliance and its despotic leader, Maximillian. What set Valkyria Chronicles apart from other strategy/RPGs was its fast-paced, real-time gameplay, which balanced class-based strategy with battlefield tactics.
The one common thread running through the Valkyria games is the presence of the Valkyria themselves: blue-haired superwomen imbued with almost unstoppable mystical power. In the games, taking down a Valkyria is nearly impossible; having one on your side is just about an instant victory. The Valkyria fight with lances and shields, both of which can produce devastating energy blasts. Naturally, their real-world inspiration comes from the Valkyries of Nordic myth: godly handmaidens who escort honorable warriors to the afterlife.
The Valkyria series isn't an invention of pure fantasy; the stories in the games mirror real-world history and events. The Second Europan War is World War II, complete with Gallia as Poland, the Imperial Alliance as Germany, the Darcsens as the Jews and Maximilian as Adolf Hitler. Valkyria Chronicles 2 explores some of the anti-Semitic attitudes present in European governments in the early half of the 20th century. The Valkyria themselves have parallels with Friedrich Nietzsche's Germanic Übermenschen.
Valkyria Chronicles 2
With a bigger campaign, multiplayer capabilities and a more customizable main character, Valkyria Chronicles 2 should have been even better than the original. In reality, coming out on the PSP rather than the PS3 resulted in a graphical step down. Its "high school misfits in a military academy" storyline also lacked the emotional punch of the first installment. Still, the gameplay was as tight as ever, and refocusing the action around a civil war was an interesting new direction.
A streamlined strategy/RPG
While Valkyria Revolution will feature a more action-packed battle system, the first three Valkyria games took the strategy/RPG format from games like Final Fantasy Tactics and stripped out every extraneous feature. You didn't have to micromanage each individual party member's level and equipment; you could move around the battlefield freely and trade fire in real time. And yes, rolling over an enemy with a tank was a perfectly viable option. The gameplay is balanced, too; with enough skill, you can take down a Valkyria.
Valkyria Chronicles 3
Valkyria Chronicles 3 winds back the clock to the Second Europan War, but retells the first game's story from a somewhat different perspective. Rather than the frontline troops, Valkyria Chronicles 3 focuses on a group of criminals and misfits in a squad called "Nameless." The gameplay is more or less what fans expected after the first two games, although character progression is stat-based rather than class-based this time around. Despite a few faults, it's generally a clever spin on the original Valkyria Chronicles.
The Western front
Unfortunately, most Western fans know about Valkyria Chronicles 3 only through hearsay and via stalwarts who imported that Japanese version. The game never got an official English translation or an official release anywhere outside of Japan. A group of enterprising fans delivered its own translation throughan unofficial patch. While downloading this patch requires some potentially shady work-arounds for your PSP (or equally shady emulation), it's the only way for English-speaking fans to enjoy the game at present. Weigh your options accordingly.
Valkyria Revolution is the first game in the series to hit Western shores since 2010, but people hoping for Valkyria Chronicles 4 will have to keep waiting. Rather than a strategic, turn-based strategy simulation, Valkyria Revolution is a faster-paced action/RPG. Instead of World War II, the game will wind the clock back to a story that parallels Europe's Industrial Revolution. Players take control of Amleth, a soldier trained to hunt Valkyria, which should at least lead to a few interesting boss fights.
Is Valkyria Revolution worth the wait? That's harder to say. The game came out in Japan back in January, and the reviews were polite, albeit mixed. Fans generally liked the story and graphics but felt that the gameplay lacked a certain strategic something. The game didn't sell tremendously well, either, debuting well behind the other three entries in the series. Still, if the game is imperfect, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad — and after seven years, fans may be happy to see the series back all the same.