From the moment I laid eyes on the first Valkyria Chronicles' trailer, I knew it would be a game I would love -- for the art style, if nothing else. As it turned out, the graphics, while as beautiful as I had expected, were only one part of a great game.
The plot was excellent, the setting was a perfect example of a historical fiction, and the gameplay seamlessly merged tactical roleplaying with third person shooting in a way never seen before. But as good as the original Valkyria Chronicles was, Valkyria Chronicles 3 outshines it in every way (except in the graphics department, of course).
Good -- Complex Unsung Heroes
Thematically, one of the strongest points in the first game was its focus on a rag-tag militia made up of characters spread across all ages and walks of life. The second game stumbled a bit as the focus was a group of high school students -- aka Japan's most cliched setting. The third game comes back strong in the character department by once again including characters from all ages and backgrounds. What's different is that unlike the first game's militia unit, where everyone joined or was drafted, Valkyria 3's "Nameless" is a unit made up of criminals, foreigners, and any other undesirables the military wants to be rid of. There are spies, prostitutes, murderers, arsonists, and more than a few soldiers who have committed treason. Instead of taking their time in jail–or going to their own execution–they have all given up their former identities to fight in the war in the hope that one day their records will be wiped clean. Basically, it's the Valkyria Chronicles version of the Dirty Dozen.
Everyone has an interesting back story and, by its very conception, this is not a group that gets along with each other. Watching them interact, evolve, and overcome their back stories makes this game a joy to play on the story side.
Good -- The Other Half of the Story
The first Valkyria Chronicles took place mostly in the north half of the neutral country of Gallia as it was invaded by the Empire (read: Nazis) in their world's version of World War II. Valkyria 3 takes place during the same time period but follows the Nameless as they are trapped behind enemy lines in southern Gallia. In many way, the Nameless are the unnoticed shadow of the original's Squad 7 -- with the Nameless' efforts often giving Squad 7 the opportunities that they need to win the war.
This doesn't mean that the Nameless are always playing second fiddle, though. They are constantly locked in battle against the Empire's own black ops unit–a unit made up entirely of Darcsens (read: Gypsies/Jews) that have been promised a land of their own should they serve well in the war. The moral implications of fighting this group during the holocaust, in addition to battling a conspiracy within the Gallian military, are the driving conflicts of the game.
Good -- Refined Gameplay
Like most great strategy games, the mission goals in Valkyria Chronicles 3 are very rarely "kill ‘em all and let god sort ‘em out." Rather this game dishes out experience points based on how fast you win, forcing you to make each move count even as the objectives shift mid-battle. With the addition of the main characters' special attacks, such as to become a Valkyria for one turn or move three characters at once, the strategy changes greatly compared with previous games.
Best of all, the cumbersome skills and level up systems of Valkyria 2 have been streamlined greatly, but in a way that still allows for versatile character customisation.
Mixed -- A Long Game
Make no mistake, Valkyria Chronicles 3 is a long beast of a game. In doing the story, free, and character-specific missions–pretty much only what is needed to beat VC3–the game still took me 110 hours to complete. And even then there was still a ton of things left to do. Beating the game allows you to go back and play the different story branches, as well as a myriad of special unlocked missions including some where you take command of VC1's Squad 7 and VC2's Class G. There's even such a wealth of DLC content that a second edition of VC3 was released with all of it included as well. All in all, it is a game that takes hundreds of hours to master.
Bad -- Level Repetition
While not as egregious as it was in the second Valkyria Chronicles, there is more than a little repetition in the maps of VC3. What's worse, some are just re-skins of maps from the first and second games. Of course, the connecting maps, as well as enemy and allied spawn points, change each time you encounter the map; but nonetheless it grows boring to play the same maps over and over again across the hundreds of hours of gameplay.
Valkyria Chronicles 3 is the greatest game in a series of great games. It's got a wonderfully diverse cast and a thematically complex story. It has excellent gameplay, refined over the course of three games into one of the pinnacles of the strategy genre. And to top it all off, Valkyria Chronicles 3 will get you more bang-for-your- buck than the vast majority of games on the market today. Of course, there is one major downside: it was never translated into English.
Valkyria Chronicles 3 was released in Japan on January 27, 2011, for the PlayStation Portable. It is (regrettably) not scheduled for release outside of Japan.