Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 10/25/2018 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
I have been waiting for Valkyria Chronicles 4 for years. The first game was absolutely incredible, but the second game was good but disappointing, the third game never got released in North America, and Valkyria Revolution was….not what I was wanting. Finally, though, Sega has graced me with a true successor to the series, and not only that but in a first for the series, it saw a release on a Nintendo platform.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place during the Second Europan War alongside the events of Valkyria Chronicles and Valkyria Chronicles 3 and two years before Valkyria Chronicles II. What makes Valkyria Chronicles 4 different, however, is where in Europa the game is set; whereas the first three main series games (Revolution was set in a completely different fictional universe) cast the player as a soldier fighting for the small kingdom of Gallia against the autocratic East Europan Imperial Alliance (basically Russia), Valkyria Chronicles 4 has one assume the role of a group of soldiers fighting for the Atlantic Federation, a seemingly confederation-type of alliance of democratic nations in western Europa (basically NATO). I guess that makes Gallia kind of like Yugoslavia if we’re going with a Cold War analogy (although Yugoslavia tended to get along a little bit better with the Warsaw Pact than with NATO…eh, an imperfect analogy, but whatever). It’s worth noting, though, that most of the game’s main characters are Gallian-born and joined the Federation army to protect Gallia from the Empire before Gallia was invaded.
Following Squad E of the Federation army’s elite Ranger Corps, you fight your way east as you try to repel the imperial invaders and, eventually, attempt to push to the imperial capital and bring the war to a close. Of course, being a Valkyria Chronicles game, the focus is always more on the individual characters than the overarching war itself, and that’s part of the reason I love the series so much. That’s not to say that the war itself is just glossed over; the game’s story reveals a lot about the context of EWII and expands a lot of the lore that the first game provided. The way the story is told, however, always has the player caring more about the soldiers’ individual struggles, triumphs, and relationships than the Federation vs Empire war, especially once the Federation’s dirty secrets start to come to light.
While I’ve only played the game on Switch and, therefore, can only speak from first-hand experience about that version, I have seen several side-by-side comparison videos that have me feeling confident when I say that the graphical differences between the Switch version and the PS4/XB1 versions are negligible. There are some shadow and lighting effects that are diminished on Switch, and there’s a tiny bit more detail on the PS4 and XB1 versions, but given the watercolor art style used in the game, I doubt anyone would b e able to tell one version from another without a direct side-by-side comparison. Frame rate is usually where I would expect to see some major differences given the art style chosen, but Sega seems to have locked it to 30 FPS on all versions (not sure about PC; that can probably be unlocked). With a common frame rate across the board and visual differences that are negligible at best, it seemed pretty clear to me that the portability and cartridge load times of the Switch version made it a pretty easy choice which platform to go with, and I have no regrets whatsoever. This is probably the best third party experience I’ve had on the Switch to date.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an exceptional strategy game that continues the series’ brilliant blend of turn-based strategy with real-time combat. It allows carries on the series’ tradition of putting character development above all else, propelling the game to an experience that is virtually impossible to put down once you get started. There’s a lot of exposition between each battle – that takes at least as long as the battles themselves if you don’t skip anything – but very rarely does it ever feel superficial. The story has a few plot twists, and while few of them came as unexpected, the delivery is such that even if it’s expected, it still retains impact because of how it happens more than what’s happening. The game’s sound designed – especially its soundtrack – are stellar, but the real star of the show here is the visual design. The watercolor art style is truly phenomenal and reaches a level of artistic beauty that I’ve only seen from Okami and Muramasa. I cannot recommend this game enough especially on Switch. It showcases spectacularly the system’s ability to deliver beautiful and engaging home consoles experience right alongside the big boys of the industry. It is, in my opinion, the best of the series.
BONUS PRO! The game teaches you valuable life lessons about consent.