|Herbert Nielson, one day at a time.|
Valkyria Chronicles came out a long ass time ago, and I acquired it for the PS3 a couple of months after the original release. I like turn based games and it seemed neat, so it was the ideal choice for my birthday one year.
Unfortunately though, it never really clicked for me. This was during a period where I was trying to tune out anime-like influences, not because I was growing out of it or anything. I just sort of found myself in a position where I wasn't as interested in it as I used to be. Another reason it wasn't clicking for me was the sheer anxiety I felt when in combat. Walking into a situation that I didn't understand made me feel very tense. There's also this round countdown ticking away every turn, making me feel like I have to make decisions and weigh the consequences at every possible outcome. But hey man, I'm just a kid! I can't foresee those consequences!
And that's a big point in the story. The characters are very young. Some of them are actual children, or at least young teens. And you've been tasked with recruiting a full squadron of them to whip out into a live, active, actual battlefield filled with enemies who want to see these same kids die.
So I ended up trading the game in for something else, probably a Call of Duty game or some shit. And for years and years henceforth I would hear about Valkyria Chronicles and how balling the game is, and have to think to myself "Shit, I HAD that game, I OWNED it, I coulda seen how ballin it was myself!". But I missed my chance.
I played the sequel for a bit but that game was even more anime than the original what with being in some kind of military highschool or some shit so I put in like 30 million hours into that game and then just forgot all about it somehow.
But then comes the Valkyria Chronicles Remaster for PS4 and here I find myself with the ability to play it again and fucking commit to it. And so I do!
What I found I remembered about the game was very little, except there being a racist component to the game that actually integrated itself into the gameplay. See, in the world of V.C, there exist a type of person called a "Darcsen", a race of people with dark blue hair who are said to be descendants of a people who is responsible for some heinous shit. So lots of people hate them. Outwardly, and with no consequence out such racial outbursts. But the funny thing is, your character, Gunther Welkin's sister is a Darcsen.
So back when I first played the game I was aware of this racist element, but never really cared much. Now that I'm older I found myself so put off by the idea and absolutely flabbergasted with how it was treated. From pretty much the early point in the game, most of the people in your squad makes it clear they do NOT like your sister, because she's a dirty Darcsen and is evil and terrible and smelly and stuff. Characters say things to be very, very hurtful to your sister and mock her and harass her for what she is, but Gunther always plays it off like "Doh-ho-ho, you guys are such a rambunctious and rowdy troop!". It's played off like a dysfunctional family, for comedic effect at times. But... like... Racism. You know?
It's not that it was putting me off of the game, like I'm some holier-than-though stooge who couldn't lower myself to such drivel. It was just such a weird thing for me to experience. Was something from these scenes lost in translation? Was it supposed to be a lot funnier than it was? I don't know. For how the game turned out, it is what it is.
The story itself is a pretty simple one. It's a typical story of a small town farm boy who just happens to be the son of a legendary war hero from the most recent war, who then gets thrown into a great conflict because war is happened. Now he is soldier man, with his trusty tank sister and soldier girlfriend. Along the way, you form your own foundation of rapscallions who fight alongside you, swearing loyalty to your but not your impure bitch sister because heeeeey that's fuuuuuuny. It's not, but they keep doing it.
But along the way, people find themselves. They see the affects of war, and how it spreads and diseases the lands, how it turns people against people, brother against brother, sister against sister. There's actually a sense of humanity that goes into it after a while. It doesn't extend into the "enemy" faction however, as they are all pretty generically evil. They try to add some depth here or there to certain people, but by that time it just feels too late.
But it does weigh into you. Once your team stops being so dysfunctional and learns to truly trust each other, and treat everybody right, there's a charming sense of camaraderie. The game, while sweet for the most part, gets pretty real later on in the game. Some people die, some people betray you, war is bad, and the like. I thought I could see where it was going, but it threw some surprises at me from time to time.
By the time the game was over, I felt accomplished. It had a bittersweet ending, reminding you still that WAR AIN'T NO GAME(even if it is), but that humanity never falters or some shit you know the drill. My squad had hit max level, I had explored the optional missions of my crew to flesh out their characters and love of vegetables, and I also had like 4 million dollars so I'm fucking rich.
The anime was a little too strong for me from time to time, but I still was able to tone down the cynicism and enjoy the game.
The gameplay I found harder in some ways and easier in others than what I remembered. I finally had learned how the game was supposed to be played, you know, tactically instead of what I did my first time around which was just zerg-rushing everything like an idiot and dying and failing all of the goddamn time. This time I played it right, or what I thought was right, and the game went as smooth as butter. Suddenly the round timers didn't bother me as much because I felt confidant in my actions to the extent on actually pulling these missions off.
I hit some hitches along the way, did some missions in what can only be called "the hard way" because I'm stubborn and still like to brute force shit. But what I did find was... the game is actually sort of exploitable. It was unfortunate for me to find such a method, because when I found myself having great difficulty with certain missions, it would then be impossible for me to go "Okay, let's KEEP TRYING IN THE SUB OPTIMAL WAY".
And for me, once I figured out this strategy, it became a bit of a joke. I mean, so many of the win objectives are literally "Walk up to this flag and press X", and so many of them are surrounded by enemies who aren't within the zone. See, if there are enemies within that space, you have to eliminate them to capture the base, and there's a couple of missions who have a bunch of enemies in them, but as I just said, so many more have enemies around or nearby, allowing you to literally finish the mission in a single turn. Once I obtained this ability, I didn't struggle much at all, even with some of the tougher missions.
One thing I found interesting about the game is how it integrates racism into the actual gameplay mechanics. So, people hate Darcsen, right? We've established this. But some people take it a step further, and if there are any Darcsen near them on the battlefield, their stats will actually drop. They hate Darcsen so much that they are actually worse soldiers for being around them.
I find such a mechanic interesting. It's not enough that the game drills you with the whole shtick of being judged for things you aren't ultimately responsible for, but by allowing the game to introduce mechanics where your squads ranks could actually be intrinsically opposed to each other.
Racism to me is a bit of a tired story trope. I get it, racism exists and it's bad and it makes you feel, but the mechanical introduction is such an exciting concept. It makes me wonder how games would do if this was something seem more commonly. It perfectly translates a narrative into a mechanic and by doing so opens it up to a whole host of other options. If these people can't put aside their beliefs for 5 fucking minutes so they can win this war and go home alive, then what other beliefs might they have? Well actually, some characters actually have conditions where they do better around men, or women. Jann for example, an extremely flamboyant squad member I quite personally enjoyed, gets a buff to his stats if he stands near Largo. So for a couple of tough missions I would bring the two and place them near each other to get some big boosts.
I would like to see more exciting and provocative mechanics like that in the future, though I wonder how people would react to such things. Probably poorly because we can't have nice things. But what can you do.
I was really glad to pick up Valkyria Chronicles. The newest game coming out for the series looks to be a little more actiony than tactical which really cooks my goose, because holy shit we really can't have nice things, but at least the first game got a chance to get my attention and boy did it.
And I'm better off for it. I guess.