PAX 2008 hands-on: Valkyria Chronicles

Jem Alexander
J. Alexander|09.04.08

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PAX 2008 hands-on: Valkyria Chronicles

Final Fantasy Tactics meets X-Com in a Miyazaki-esque, Advance Wars universe. With watercolors. That's what you get when you play Sega's upcoming strategy RPG, Valkyria Chronicles. The PS3 exclusive is already out in Japan but will be heading West before the end of the year and, from what we saw of the game at PAX, it will be Sega's console gem of the year.

We were guided through the game's tutorial by the producer, Christopher Kaminski, who showed off the basic gameplay mechanics. It's a strategy RPG, but there's no grid. Instead, you have a "fuel" meter, which depletes as you move farther, giving the game more of an action RPG feel.
%Gallery-30124%A line-of-sight system means that battles will feel more realistic than the normal strategy turn-based fare. A literal line of sight extends from each enemy, showing the limits of their vision -- they'll attack should you enter it. Likewise, your character will receive an attack of opportunity when an enemy enters his line of sight.

When a character's fuel meter runs down, you can switch to another one by zooming out onto a board game-esque map screen. The swooping transition in and out of the battlefield works really nicely at connecting the map screen to the gameplay. Unfortunately, there's no quick way of switching between enemies, so there's a chance that constantly moving from map to gameplay could get tiring.

If you've seen any screenshots from the game (and if you haven't, head gallerywards) then you'll have noticed the gorgeous watercolor-style anime art style. This is even more impressive in motion -- both cutscenes and in-game graphics look great and the overall style sets the game apart from other hyper-realistic titles. Comic-style visual sound effects can be found throughout, with explosions KABOOMing and tanks rolling along with a visible rumble.

The colorful, sometimes over-exaggerated world makes an interesting setting for what promises to be a pretty long campaign mode. The producer told us that there are between 40 to 50 hours of gameplay in there, so those of you looking for a JRPG that you can really sink your teeth into have something to look forward to this November. Gameplay looks to be sufficiently mixed up with the inclusion of a class system and various vehicles to take control of.

The tutorial showed off a number of Valkyria Chronicles' intricacies and gave hints to further depths in the later stages of the game. We would've liked to have seen these too, but what we played was definitely fun and different enough to get us to play the full version when it's finally released. If you're a fan of SRPGs, or just fancy trying something unique, then hopefully you'll do the same.
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