UPDATE: New details have emerged on Sega's all-new Valkyria title, with a report on My Game News Flash being handily translated by Kotaku.
The new game is officially called Valkyria: Azure Revolution, and is considered a different series within the Valkyria universe to the three existing Valkyria Chronicles games.
Valkyria: Azure Revolution will still be an RPG with strategy elements, and it will introduce real-time combat elements as players take on the Valkyria Brynhildr, with the new game's protagonist named as Amleth. Media.Vision, who developed the third title in the Chronicles series, is behind Valkyria: Azure Revolution, which is set for release next autumn in Japan. We still await news whether we'll see it over in the west.
The recent, unexpected and utterly delightful arrival of Valkyria Chronicles on PC has set me wondering about curious fate of Sega's franchise. It's a series that's garnered a passionate and loyal fan base thanks to the 2008 PS3 original, which won as many hearts with its colourful cast and timeless painterly aesthetic as it did minds with its quirky strategic action. Yet the chronicles of Valkyria seem to have played out in reverse and, through no fault of their own, suffered a demoralising downward spiral of devolution.
Despite the original earning its stripes as a worldwide release that shifted over a million copies, Valkyria Chronicles 2 received a sharp demotion. The shift to Sony's PSP may have made sense in its native Japan, where unabashed fans would relish the ad hoc multiplayer, but everywhere else it felt like a backward step that brought with it an inevitable drop in sales and a slew of technical constraints to boot. The third instalment never even made it to these shores. It's an inverse of the path this franchise deserved, and a waste of such big-hearted promise. After such an impressive start for the series, it was left to drift quietly into obscurity.
Valkyria Chronicles 2's arrival in 2010 was bittersweet, then. It was the sequel many had been hoping would materialise, but it on a platform already in decline. So, through strained smiles, we pointedly ignored the obvious fact that it was neither as attractive as its predecessor nor carrying all of its forebear's effortless charm. The PSP simply wasn't up to the task of depicting the delicate brush strokes and fine lines that allow the PS3 game to belie its age to this day. In trying to recreate that iconic look it lost much of its visual identity as once delicate details were mired in a muddy miasma of muted browns and greens. The variety of its environments was gone and, with it, some of the first game's grand scope and sense of scale. Most of this instalment took place in and around the grounds of the Lanseal Military Academy, which brought with it a change of personnel and the heavy funk of raging hormones and teenage angst.
UPDATE 30/10/2014 5.13pm: The PC port of Valkyria Chronicles will be released on 11th November on Steam for ú14.99 / €19.99 / $19.99.
Pre-orders are 10 per cent off.
Additionally, the PC version of Valkyria Chronicles will include all the DLC from the PS3 version, such as Hard EX Mode, Edy's Enter the Edy Detachment mission, Selveria's Behind Her Blue Flame mission, and the six challenge missions Edy Detachment.
Lanseal Academy is a Disneyland boot camp. A 200-foot spire at the centre of the military school's grounds jabs at the clouds, while far below a moonfaced clock tower leans heavy on ancient Doric columns. The building is seasoned with the intricate stone decoration of so many fairytale castles, an unlikely centerpiece for an institute designed for little more than turning tweens into cold-eyed soldiers.
Around the citadel, where your character, Avan, has enrolled in the hope of discovering the mystery behind his brother's recent death in the grounds, tanks roll to and fro, while a timpani of blanks rattles around the buildings. This surrounding layout is more Sandhurst than magical kingdom, containing as it does Drill Grounds, an R&D centre and a Briefing Room, all arranged and spaced with uniform precision. It's in this contrast of exaggerated fantasy with the orderly arrangement of a military barracks that Lanseal Academy, Valkyria Chronicles II's central hub, communicates a great deal about the game it houses.
Because, on the one hand, this is the sequel to the smartest tactical RPG of the past five years: a Chess-like military sim built on layered order and immovable mathematics. You direct your handpicked squadron of infantry around each battlefield, flanking opponents in complex manouevres that can outclass even some of PC gaming's most celebrated playpens for the armchair general.
Sociopolitics, tanks, strategic deployment and, er, homework.
Japan's not short of games that have seen far greater success on portable systems than they ever did on under-telly gameboxes, but Valkyria Chronicles seems a strange choice for downsizing. It's remembered for its beautiful sketchbook-style graphics and hour-long strategic battles - two things that have had to be scaled down to fit the PSP. Thankfully everything else that made it interesting is present and correct. This is still a game where your gay engineer will enjoy a stats boost if you make sure she's deployed near female squad-mates, or your racist scout won't fight with Darcsen soldiers. It's still a complex, politically engaging storyline framed in an innovative semi-real-time battle system, with likeable, developed characters. Superb!
SEGA has decided to put a Valkyria Chronicles sequel on PSP, and not PS3 where the original was born.
Dubbed Valkyria Chronicles 2: The Gallia Royal Military Academy, the sequel takes place in 1937 and follows cadets from said Academy as they try to suppress an insurrection in Gallia, according to Famitsu (and Kotaku),
Valkyria Chronicles presents an alternate reality of World War II, of course - as fans of the PS3 game will know. But in this war, battles areávibrant, turn-based, strategic (if only the real Generals had known) and played out in a pleasant watercolour-cum-comic-book way.