Valkyria Revolution is the equivalent of someone taking an expert course in clay sculpting, only to turn in a crudely done ashtray as their final project. To put it bluntly, this game is the epitome of wasted potential. The combat is enjoyable at times but simple, and the basic framework of the plot has glints of inspiration, but despite its best efforts, Valkyria Revolution is just... boring. I found myself struggling to play for longer than an hour during my sessions, as I found myself slipping in and out consciousness, desperately tried to find something of interest to latch onto.
Back in 2008, a game titled Valkyria Chronicles released on the PlayStation 3. It was an odd amalgamation of a strategy RPG mixed with a plotline that saw a fictionalized version of WWII era Europe mixed with all kinds of anime eccentricities. I loved it. The characters had distinct personalities and the combat was brilliantly paced and rewarded tactical use of all your troops. Somehow, even though Valkyria Chronicles consisted solely of combat and story bits, the formula worked. Valkyria Revolution uses many of the same themes. However, it lacks any sort of distinctive flavor to call its own. And in the end, it feels like the discount, bag cereal version of a far superior game.
Valkyria Revolution differentiates itself from the series strategy RPG roots by opting for a more action based, Dynasty Warriors approach to combat. But don't worry, there are still opportunities to flex your strategic muscle. You get to wrestle with the daunting decision of using either a normal grenade or the smoke variation. You can also use magic attacks that are flashy but entirely optional. And ranged weapons can add some variety, but are largely redundant in most circumstances.
The combat is dressed up with SRPG trappings, but the very nature of running into a large wave of enemies, absorbing a hailstorm of bullets, and mindlessly eviscerating your foes with a myriad of weapons the size of a cargo van just seems a bit silly. I mean, sure, there is some fun to be had with that playstyle, but despite some difficulty spikes during boss encounters and late game fights, it's all just a little bit too simplistic.
Despite the fact that the structure of Valkyria Revolution only cycles between combat, story, and some menu management, the balance between them feels heavily skewed towards furthering the games narrative. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that you'll be spending 70% of your time watching cutscenes, 25% actually playing the game, and 5% fiddling with loadouts. The approach of focusing on a game's story isn't necessarily a negative if the story in question is actually engaging. Some of my favorite games are notorious for their lengthy and somewhat onerous bouts of exposition; (i.e. the Metal Gear Solid and Xenosaga series) but Valkyria Revolution takes the framework of a promising plot and somehow makes it excruciatingly dull.
Valkyria Revolution's story covers some fascinating issues and touches on subjects like propaganda, espionage, and questionable motivations for facilitating a war. The core plot centers around Amleth and four of his longtime friends who have been branded with the title "The Five Traitors". Amleth also commands a small group of soldiers labeled the "Anti-Valkryia Squad". Most of the characters surrounding Amleth have unique quirks, personalities, and motivations. Additionally, the English voice acting has some pretty high profile names that are instantly recognizable if you've ever played a JRPG or watched an anime. Unfortunately, even with all the necessary components for an engaging story, Valkyria Revolutions just has some very dry and formulaic writing. It also doesn't help that the animations on the characters during cutscenes are reminiscent of watching sock puppets working through a mouthful of peanut butter. Also, the lack of any sort of dynamic cinematography during cutscenes is painfully apparent. There are moments where the camera will stay firmly cemented behind a character's back for what feels like a solid minute.
Tying into the diluted, lifeless feeling of the plot, there is a noticeable lack of sound effects during story bits. Sometimes it feels like the dialogue is taking place in a whisper room where any sort of ambient noise and room tone has been thoroughly extracted and all we're left with are voices mixed in with some occasional background music. It's one of those things you don't really notice until it's gone. Just adding in some bird chirping or wind sound effects would go a long ways to helping some of these scenes not feel so dead.
This all may come across as overly harsh and a tad vindictive, but I really wanted to love this game. There's so many juicy elements in Valkyria Revolution that could have been molded into a truly wonderful experience, but all those pieces just never seemed to properly assemble. I appreciate that the designers tried something new with the combat, but trying to blend strategy RPG elements with a hack 'n' slash just didn't work in this case. If you're curious about the Valkyria franchise, my advice would be to pick up the HD remaster of the original Valkyria Chronicles. I can't speak for the two follow-up games released on the Vita, but I can say, with certainty, that Valkyria Revolution is not worth your time or money.