Rosie's my tank killer. I've given her a gun with limited range, but upgraded damage and a bigger clip. When she gets behind the tank it's as good as dead. I could use a heavy weapons unit for it, but she’s more mobile, and her machine gun keeps her useful against infantry. More so, I kind of think she’s a badass. It feels good to watch a helpless tank’s HP bar tick away with each successive shot.
Nina's my all around. I tend to work her in a team with Rosie. She's got a more generic machine gun. It's not as strong against tanks, but it's good at taking down troops at range. I first fell in love with her on mission 7. In a fantastic bit of luck I placed Nina facing the ramp where most of the enemy troops would funnel down. Not a scout or shocktrooper made it past her alive, and the cover of the trench kept her damage to a minimum. That mission took me a couple tries, and every time Nina took up the exact same position.
Ted's my sacrificial lamb. Something about his happy-go-lucky attitude that makes me think he doesn't mind getting shot down. So when I'm not sure if my smokescreen is enough to keep the machinegun bunkers from firing on my advancing ground troops, Ted is always first in line to check things out. I'd say the man deserves a medal, but his closet is probably already clogged with purple hearts.
I use Alicia for capturing camps. Just about any scout with any kit could get the job done just as well, but Alicia and I have a special rapport. One mission I got tired of being slaughtered by snipers and decided just to make a go of it. I bulldozed my tank down the main square, exploding enemy units and dropping a well placed smoke grenade for cover. Alicia followed in the tank's shadow, sniping infantry as she went, and with just the two of them I finished the previously unbeatable mission in only two turns.
Largo's my Hail Mary. It feels good leapfrogging the pendulously slow heavy weapons units from camp to camp, and there's something magical about using up all your turns running one of them up a hill, behind a tank, and sealing the deal in one shot. You’re not sure if you have enough movement left, but if you don't win right now then the enemy's going to overrun you. That's where Largo comes in. I give him my last four turns and see if he can't work something out. When that humming blue radiator is in sight (a tank's weak point, natch) there's a shudder of anticipation. I line up my shot and hit the fire button, holding my breath all the while. He hasn't failed me yet.
Alex saved my bacon once. At the end of a particularly gruesome mission I didn't have many troops left. Failure to understand the objective meant I wasted a lot of time, and the enemy boss tank took advantage of that, killing my men, then killing the reinforcements that went in to save them. Alex stepped up to the task and, by some miracle, wasn’t gunned down by reactionary fire as he ran towards the objective. A couple bullets later and the mission was complete, though just barely. Now he sets up the Hail Mary. If I need Largo in position then it's usually up to Alex to clear the way.
When was the last strategy game where I thought of my characters as names instead of White Mage, Black Mage, or Warrior? Has there ever been one? Half of the characters I mentioned are generics, throwaway non-story characters that don’t even appear in cutscenes. The most dialogue you'll hear from them is the one or two catchphrases on the battlefield (I'm partial to Nina’s "Yeehaw!", which makes me think she's two six-guns away from a ten-gallon hat, and since cowgirls are awesome, so too is Nina), and yet I’ve created my own little roles for each one. In all my games of Final Fantasy Tactics I never named a Chemist my #1 Ninja killer. When has there ever been a game who treated its cannon fodder characters with such respect? Again and again they've endeared themselves to me.
I've only suffered one permanent death. It was in one of the earlier missions. I felt pretty bad, even if the engineer who died had a throw-away personality. After the mission I went to the War Cemetery to visit her grave, only to realize the War Cemetery is just a location where you can learn new abilities. I was a little let down. I pity that poor engineer whose name I can't remember. I'm sorry I tried to run you across a street directly in front of a parked tank. In hindsight, that was a really bad plan. Your sacrifice made me more cautious.
There are a million reasons to praise Valkyria Chronicles. It's got fantastic art design, solid character advancement, and battle system that is beyond brilliant. But above all that, what really makes me love it is my attachment to my squad. There’s permanent death, and though it’s significantly less harsh than other Strategy RPGs (Fire Emblem) it still makes you think. Should you run into your enemy's field of fire, knowing your character might not come back? I've got an engineer lying in a graveyard somewhere who’d probably say it isn’t worth the risk.
I love this game. I love hemming and hawing from behind cover, knowing that sending my scout running into the open field could very well result in their death. Just last night poor Aika barely made it ten feet before being shot in the back by a boss's machinegun. I decided that was a reset-worthy offense. And shoot, man, I don't even like Aika that much! She just has a cute zinger when she’s firing her rifle.
I love the little things. I love how the heavily armored Lancers scuff their feet against the ground at the end of their turn, like a bull waiting to charge. I love the satisfying 'schohk' of a machine gun being reloaded. I love hearing the exasperated "GO DOWN!" as a rifle burst ticks off an enemy's life bar. I love running Alicia, already wounded, through a haze of turret fire and getting her to cover behind my tank with her hitpoints in the single digits. I love that someone made this quirky, weird thing -- a turn based strategy game played in real time -- and, against all odds, it actually works. More so: it's the best game I've played all year.
I'm gushing, but everyone falls in love every once in awhile. This is my appeal to you, and I'll keep it short: buy this game. Or you can play the demo, take note of how much fun you’re having, and then buy the game. Hell, I don't think the demo even has tanks in it. The real game is even more fun! When the DLC comes out you better buy that too, just in case. Let's reward 'em for making an awesome game. I'm not being altruistic, I want to guarantee I get to see a sequel. I want the wait for the next game to be as short as possible... otherwise I'm gonna start to miss my squad.