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Absolutely Touching

April 28, 2009

     In the past few years, I can recall five games that took me by surprise.  They were, in no particular order, Final Fantasy XII, Prince of Persia (the new one), Assassin’s Creed, Ōkami, and Valkyria Chronicles.  The first of those took me by surprise in a bad way.  A very bad way.  The other four surprised me by being much better than I expected.  Valkyria Chronicles is yet another turn-based tactical RPG.  But it’s completely different from anything I’ve ever seen before.  The story is set in a Europe-like world where a conflict between two superpowers has left poor little Gallia stuck in the middle.  When the mighty East Europan Imperial Alliance comes into Gallia to gain access to its natural resources, a young student named Welkin Gunther has to lead a militia squad as a part of the armed forces trying to repel the invasion.  Along with a local baker named Alicia Melchiott, his adopted sister Isara Gunther, the former singer and overbearing strong woman Bridgette “Rosie” Stark, and the gruff but kind Largo Potter, Welkin, the son of a great Gallian general, has to survive in these harsh conditions.  Along the way, people die, bonds are formed, and the mystery of the Valkyria and the Darcsens, two ethnic groups, is revealed.

     There are tons of good things about this game.  For one, the plot is a lot of fun, and you grow to love the characters.  The English voice acting is surprisingly good, especially since I’ve never been a fan of Colleen O’Shaughnessey.  The game is absolutely gorgeous, despite not being “life-like,” and it’s presented in an adorable storybook-esque manner.  It almost makes you forget that there’s a war going on.  The gameplay is pretty revolutionary.  Even though it’s turn-based, there’s no tile system for movement.  You select a character, and you get to move in real time a certain amount in the map before your move points run out.  You can move characters a set number of times each turn based on your command points.  You also get to aim your guns, and you can go for head shots for extra damage.  All this, and the blood is so inconsequential that squeamish people like me aren’t offended.  All in all, this is a superb game.  The music is a bit forgetable, but if you like J-RPGs with cute characters and an engaging storyline, you should pick this up.  The fun gameplay is just a great bonus.

Story: 9.4      Gameplay: 9.2      Presentation: 9.2      Soundtrack: 8.0      Acting: 9.0     Overall: 9.2

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