If you’re someone that really loves strategy games with some extra flair mixed in, then chances are you’ve heard about the Valkyria Chronicles series from SEGA. The fourth main entry of the series, Valkyria Chronicles 4, has a story that takes place in-between two of the previous games, along with more of the visuals and gameplay fans have come to enjoy about the series. A large cast of typical anime characters might be a little overwhelming for some, but there’s enough charm and silly banter to keep things moving forward. But while a lot of Valkyria Chronicles 4 follows a similar blueprint as its predecessors, a combination of glitches and unforgiving difficulty spikes can really dampen the entire experience.
If you’re following the story of Valkyria Chronicles closely, then you’ll be interested to know that most of what happens in Valkyria Chronicles 4 focuses outside some of the main events in previous games. Things can definitely get confusing very quickly when you’re given a lot of information at once without much context from previous games. There is an extra menu with news articles with some additional info that unlock as you progress the story, but they only give you a mild amount of info about previous events.
If knowing all of that isn’t a big deal to you however, then the main story of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is enough to take in as you play, even if it becomes cliché and a little silly with its many anime tropes and goofiness. The cast of characters you come across all have greatly exaggerated personalities and traits, with many of them never fully developing into anything too complex as you progress in the main plot. There are Squad Stories, which are like optional side missions, and dialogue exchanges that occur throughout and give a little extra info about everyone, but the majority of the time they will feel like unnecessary filler.
The strategy gameplay is the best part of Valkyria Chronicles 4, which is the BLiTZ turn-based battle system with some RPG and third-person action elements. Missions are done on large maps with an objective that usually requires you to reach a certain area or wipe out all enemies nearby. Selecting units from a large roster of characters, each with different classes and roles, can have missions play out in many different ways. You don’t always need the same units to complete an objective, so there’s a lot of freedom with how to go about it. You take turns during missions, moving units around and attacking enemies, in order to complete your objectives.
Early on this isn’t too bad, but eventually the difficulty and toughness of the enemy A.I really skyrockets as you get deeper into the story. Missions can often take a long time to complete because this, with the occasional Missions Failure in some stages when enemies are very clever. Much of this frustration can be adjusted depending on the units you select to bring with you on a mission, but that is heavily dependent on knowing what enemy units will be present on a stage beforehand, which isn’t really clear before starting a mission.
A major problem that impacts gameplay throughout the main story and side missions are the various glitches and annoying bugs that occur during missions. Occasionally there will be moments where you have a clear view to attack an enemy unit and deal damage, only to have an invisible wall from a nearby object, which isn’t visually blocking your shots, get in the way and waste your turn. Another big issue comes from the controls locking up at random points.
When you take a turn to move or aim for an attack, different buttons can become unresponsive and have you locked in a certain action, such as moving around or kneeling down. When this happens enemy units can still hurt you with passive attacks as you move or stand-still, which can lead to units getting knocked out at no fault of your own. This becomes a big problem in later portions of the game when taking certain actions and keeping units alive is the key to victory. Restarting the mission can solve the problem, but you shouldn’t have to do so at all in the first place.
Completing missions and eliminating enemies allows you to level up your characters and purchase new equipment in the game’s Headquarters menu. Leveling up, getting new equipment can feel restrictive at times, to the point that it feels like the game actively prevents you from purchasing too many upgrades until you pass a certain point in the story. You eventually unlock bonus Skirmishes and the Squad Missions that yield more EXP and resources when you complete them, but that becomes useless when you’re prevented from purchasing new upgrades until you progress the story.
If you enjoyed playing any of the previous Valkyria Chronicles games, then you will enjoy playing through Valkyria Chronicles 4 despite its few issues. The controls locking up during a mission is annoying and will hopefully be fixed up with a quick patch. If you’re able to look past that and late-game difficulty spike however, then you’ll still have an interesting strategy game with a large cast of anime characters to dive into. There are lots of missions to complete, an anime-esque story to follow, and lots of tactical action to enjoy.
This review is based on a digital review code for Valkyria Chronicles 4 for the Nintendo Switch, provided by SEGA.