Reviews take quite some time to complete. First you’ve got to finish the game and get a good feel for it, make a ton of notes to refer to later, and then you have to sit down and write out all of those thoughts in detail. Even still, it’s hard for a review to capture the little moment-by-moment shifts in a game’s quality that start to snowball into either a positive or negative overall impression. That’s why I’m starting a new section that I’m calling my progress log where I can occasionally jot down some impressions all casual-like. Things like the observation that there’s something seriously messed up about the face they gave the princess in Valkyria Revolution.
Shudder. I’ve heard of being beaten with the ugly stick, but it appears that the uncanny valley stick wanted in on the action, too. Hyper-anime stylings like big eyes and tiny noses don’t quite translate into an art style like this, and it’s especially weird since most of the other characters are normal-looking. Relatively speaking.
So… many… cutscenes…
So I’ve probably played between 2 and 3 hours of the game thus far, and it feels like 90% of that time has been spent clicking through tutorials and watching needlessly long cutscenes where characters call each other by their first names and come up with hilariously contrived dialogue to help the game introduce them to you. For example, say I had a character named Jeff who I wanted to introduce into a story.
Which of these would be a more natural way of accomplishing that?
A.) Craft a Jeff-introduction scene that allows his actions to speak to his personality and motives without ever explicitly spelling either out, or
B.) Engineer a conversation where another character goes, “Hey, Jeff, how is that trauma that you’re dealing with? You do remember what happened back in the old river with the rubber duck and priest, right? Oh, I can’t help but ask. We’re best friends, after all, and have been for the past 20 years!”
A is the obvious right answer, but this game starts with B. B B B B B. B’ing it up left and right with pretty much every one of its many characters. This wouldn’t be so annoying if not for the fact that each scene is done in-engine, so there are lengthy loading screens between each of the many cutscenes that are pulling this.
Valkyria’s rebellious teen phase
Characters now swear and talk crudely. Not a ton, mind you, but it’s kind of jarring when they do. It reminds me of being young and trying to be all tough and rebellious by swearing up a storm. It might grow on me, though—so far it’s mostly come out of one of the bad guys who bites it early, and it was doubly weird in his case because he looked like he stepped out of a 90s boy band.
Here’s some weird stuff: the game starts with a “press any button” prompt. This is before even the Sega splash screen. Weird, right? Another weird thing that set off alarm bells is that the main menu and save menu force you to use the controller pad. You can’t move the cursor on these using the stick for some random reason.
The lip syncing is also totally out of whack. Characters look like they all have peanut butter stuck in their mouths whenever they talk. I suppose I could switch to Japanese voice acting and hope that lines up better, but unless 100% of Japanese words are variations of “awawawawawa,” I sincerely doubt it’d make a difference.
The story is interesting, though
I thought that if anything would drive me crazy early, it’d be the story. For some reason I had the impression that it’d be a story of big-hearted classmates going off to fight a war in the name of friendship and magic and general goodness. Instead, the whole game is framed by a future researcher explaining the hidden story of a war that was won through the machinations of 5 supposed traitors, with the main character being one of those traitors. They’re not exactly good guys, basically being out to kill some people from another country to get revenge for something, and they use their positions of influence to drive their own country to war for those ends while keeping their actual motivations hidden behind a veil of patriotism.
That’s actually surprisingly interesting. You’re basically playing as U.S. Republicans circa 2003—the ones who were selling the Iraq war to the public. That’s not even overreaching; I just went through a cutscene where Princess Weirdface gets all upset because the main character is planning to destabilize an area without having a plan for what to do afterward. If this wasn’t intentionally designed to parallel that campaign in certain ways, then it’s a hell of a coincidence.