We’ve been loving Valkyria Chronicles 4, as our review would suggest. As fans of the original game, it was painful to hear the two sequels would be PSP exclusives. The new game is coming out on Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Switch, and for many, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the first sequel they could play.
We had the chance to pick the brain of series lead Kohei Yamashita, who started out designing the battles in the first game, all about this prodigal franchise that has finally returned to major platforms.
He has some very interesting thoughts to share about how the balance of power works in each mission, and even revealed the new Grenadier class was actually birthed from a bug in the original game.
FANDOM: Valkyria Chronicles had both of its sequels on the PSP, which meant a lot of fans of the first game might not have played the sequels. How have you accounted for that in the story and gameplay additions in Valkyria Chronicles 4?
Kohei Yamashita: All four entries in the Valkyria Chronicles series have stories that are independent from each other. There is a new protagonist in each entry as well. In terms of tone, the first game differs quite a bit from the 2nd and 3rd. The first game was more in the vein of a war epic, where the underlying sadness of war was the core of the story. It portrays the sad reality of people who, in their normal lives, would be at home baking delicious bread, but now have to hold a gun and fight for their lives.
On the other hand, the 2nd and 3rd titles were on the PSP, which had a younger userbase, so we tried to cater to the younger audience by going with a lighter narrative and implementing more anime-like features.
With Valkyria Chronicles 4 returning to consoles, we reverted to the tone of the first game. We wanted to depict the various reasons why these young men and women, who would otherwise be leading their ordinary lives, made the decision to go off to war. That’s why this game’s protagonist, Claude Wallace, isn’t depicted as a typical straightforward “shonen manga” hero, but a real character with flaws. Someone who is very much human.
He wavers and struggles, all while his will is tested by the harsh realities of war. Claude repeatedly struggles to make the hard decisions, and through these events (we hope) players can empathise with him. In that sense, this is not a simple story about “right” and “wrong,” but something we think the older audience can grapple with: what justice is in the context of war, seen through both their own experiences and Claude’s journey.
Now about the gameplay…
VC4’s gameplay is largely based off VC1, with additional features that were well-received in VC2 and VC3. Of course, the console titles (VC1 & VC4) feature a very different map size and playtime per mission than the portable titles (VC2 & VC3).
VC2 and VC3’s gameplay was developed to match a more approachable, small-scaled battle system in the form of a simplified version of BLiTZ. In VC1 and VC4, the focus is on the large-scale battles and the strategy, so the VC1 gameplay is used as the base.
However, some innovations from VC2 and VC3 were particularly well-received, such as the lowered tank CP cost and techniques for rapid troop transport (APCs and Direct Command). We decided to carry these on into VC4 to expand the player’s available tactics. You could say that VC4 is the culmination of all the good parts of the past games in the series.
What would you say your broad gameplay goal was with the inclusion of the grenadier class?
Kohei Yamashita: During the development of VC1, I was responsible for the battle portion. During the tail end of development, I was checking the enemy’s interception fire configuration. Due to a bug, enemies that weren’t supposed to do interception fire were reacting, and my allied units were getting blown off their feet from the impact.
While it was a malfunction in the game, I remember thinking “THIS is war. This a war movie,” and I tried to implement it in the game, but timing-wise it was a no-go.
Even after time passed, I just couldn’t get over the feeling I had, and was determined to bring that feeling of running through the gunfire and explosions to the game. However, VC2 and VC3 were on PSP and the direction didn’t match, so it didn’t come to fruition.
Ten years after the first entry, I was finally able to implement this in Valkyria Chronicles 4. The grenadier class allows you to attack against obstructed targets and is vital to gaining an advantage in battle.
We see some bigger battles in this new game. The fourth mission increases the scale quite a bit. How does the design challenge change when making levels of this scale?
Kohei Yamashita: It was a challenge to get a massive amount of people and tanks on screen to stage a large-scale battle. For the fourth chapter in particular, the battle of Siegval, the map is very broad and features frequent explosions and gunfire unrelated to gameplay (for atmosphere), so we had to be creative on the technical side.
Since it’s a strategy game with the full map visible at once, we couldn’t even do the old action-game trick of not drawing faraway units, so that made it incredibly difficult to work with.
The Valkyria Chronicles series is known to surprise players halfway through a mission with events. How do you strike a balance between surprising the player and keeping things fair?
Kohei Yamashita: Most of the enemies are out of sight during battles in Valkyria Chronicles, so the real enjoyment of this battle system comes from deciding how to deal with the enemies that suddenly appear in front of you. I believe that those who enjoy that aspect of the game are our core users, and for those who don’t, they may play it as a chess-like game with the various move potentials exposed.
Even when varying situations arise, the game doesn’t get too difficult because you are constantly on the offence, and the objective is to figure out “how to break the enemy formation.” If the enemy were to commence an all-out attack at the same level as the player, the player side would be utterly destroyed.
Instead, we leave the enemy AI on a somewhat easier setting, instead balancing it out by increasing their numbers. This arranges it, so the player is able to advance a small army against an overwhelming number of enemies, instilling a sense of accomplishment.
Is there a lore explanation for why trees often get struck by lightning to create bridges?
Kohei Yamashita: If a tree falls towards a river to the other side, sometimes it becomes a bridge. Yes, the probability is very low, but it’s not impossible. It’s more likely to happen than me winning the lotto. I would say that the protagonists just have luck on their side.
Why was it important to you to research real soldiers from World War II for the game? What did you find?
Kohei Yamashita: In the Valkyria Chronicles series, we never show the big picture of war. We tell the story of a war through the eyes of a squad commander and his interaction with his team. This is why I wanted to research the stories of real soldiers who went to war.
I learned that on off-duty times, they were much freer than I had imagined, and they enjoyed their time developing friendships with one another. At the same time, once on the battlefield, they went through unimaginable hardships.
Our thanks to Kohei Yamashita for taking the time to answer our questions!