I was originally planning on reviewing Oblivion this week which would make sense with Skyrim coming out on Friday. Although with me starting work and university work piling up I’ve not really had much of a chance to give it a decent replay and take notes so instead I’m dragging out the first review I posted on Amazon and revamping it to version 2.0.
About a week ago on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. Charlie Higson was debating with Ekow Eshun (he’s the former director of the UK’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, just in case you didn’t know) whether or not video games could be classed as art or not? They concluded that computer games entertain therefore they are entertainment. I disagree, Video can be entertaining and be classed as art. Why can’t computer games. I’m hoping with this review I can spread my views on the debate. Although it’s probably going to have all the effectiveness of gobbing in a river I’m still going to make my point dam it. Anyway here’s Valkyria Chronicles.
First of all let me say that it is a very pretty game. With the water colour effect and the anime style graphics, you can’t help but be drawn into the beauty of the game. Also to back this up it has a beautiful score and soundtrack. So much so that I actually got a hold of a copy of the soundtrack. The song “A Love Passed on” (or “Succeeded Wish” in the Japanese version) when I first it I was breathless and almost paralysed by it’s emotional depth and melodies (I can speak Radio Four too).
That’s enough about the arty farty stuff, at the end of the day whether or not it is art it’s still a game so lets talk about that. The game-play itself is described as being a chapter based RPG although the combat is more of a mixture of real-time and turn-based strategy along with a small amount of 3rd person shooter, despite how complicated it sounds the game play does flow fairly smoothly at times. Like every game I’ve ever played it’s not without it’s flaws, when controlling a character enemies will shoot you and only you until you start pointing guns, at which point shit gets serious and enemies are too worried about finding new briefs to replace their now soiled ones to fire back. Although this concept doesn’t exactly sound realistic it still seems somewhat natural if a bit awkward to begin with. l applaud SEGA for it. It’s something different occupying a market current overloaded with so many 1st person shooters you’d think they were part of some sort of secret conspiracy to eradicate all the other game genres starting with point-and-click adventure games… but that’s just silly (yes… silly, ha ha ha). It’s a brightly coloured Poison Dart frog swimming in a bond of Bull Frogs. Sure touching it may cause death to you and others around you but at least it looks pretty (not a bad analogy that one).
The story is stereotypical of any war based anime, actually, forget the whole anime bit. Does anyone remember that slight disagreement back in Europe between 1939 and 1945 between the Allied Forces and the Nazi’s and Friends? The story is basically that but in water colour. Ok I give, it’s a bit more zoomed in than that to make it more personal and in-depth. This means you get a real understanding of all the characters, the ones that matter anyway. Their are alot of characters there that are really only there to make up the numbers but they can die at your leisure if you so wish. With a few of the main characters I developed somewhat of an fondness for which is why it feels extra bad when the plot delivers an emotional kick to the balls mid way through the game.
If you kind of person that find the Japanese offensive (and I don’t know why you should. They are delightful little fellows, although they are a bit weird. I mean they like dating sims) you’ll find the story offensively Japanese. In a nutshell the lead character is Welkin Gunther who’s late farther was a general in the first Europan War. When Welkin’s home gets invaded by the empire at the start of the second Europan war he enlists to the militia and captains Squad 7 in order to defend his home country because the head of the militia decides that leadership is one of the better qualities shared via genetics, or by virtue that he was the only member militia to bring his own tank.
One minor annoyance is having to sit through alot of cut scenes between each mission but you really don’t mind because it drives plot and skipping them would mean missing out on alot of the pwitty pictures. This minor annoyance is still dwarfed by it’s biggest problem. Hands up who likes Auto-Save? ok, I’ll assume everyone put their hands up. I do too, although apparently SEGA doesn’t. Many a time I fell victim to the onslaught of the Aryan Race only to find I last saved 3 battles ago and 60 billion cut scenes ago. I think I have the right to rage quit and give it a day or two until I start again. Despite my nit-pickings I think game deserved more attention than it got when it was released. For this I place the blame squarely on SEGA’s head for releasing it sandwiches between an array of big name games. It was released on the same say as Fallout 3 for Christ Sake. As unique as it was, it was never going to compete on the same level as that. There was also Fable 2, Modern Warfare 3, LittleBigPlanet, Saints Row 2 on the list for release within that period. Would like me to stop pointing out your monumental fuck-up SEGA? Well too bad because I still have more, Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead, Mirrors Edge. The only reason I had interest in the game before release was because on the off chance I found and downloaded a demo of the game. Back when the PSN wasn’t infested with sub menu after sub menu and diamonds in the rough such as Valkyria Chronicles were easy enough to find. I think I’ve made my point. Despite what I’ve just said those who have played the game seemed to enjoy it since it has a strong underground fan base, although I’m guessing it was mostly in Japan given that they commissioned and released both a manga and anime series about it as well as 2 sequels, but much to my distaste it was decided by the powers that be that the PSP was the best place for them. Who stills plays on a PSP in this day and age. I stopped playing mine a good 2 years before this was released let alone their sequels.
Now to the final point, If you are Japanese or love anything from Japan, get it because you’ll love every minute of it. Those who don’t might get a see it as being somewhere between alright and an offence to all 5 senses.
Oh shit I forgot I was supposed to be arguing my case for computer games being a form of art…
Did I mention it looks pretty?