E3 2018: Hands-on at Atlus/SEGA

Anyone who listens to the Side Quest Podcast (plug, plug) knows I’m a huge fan of the Valkyria Chronicles series. I’ve played all of the Valkyria games released in English and even one that hasn’t (my eternal thanks to the fans that translated Valkyria Chronicles 3, you made it so much easier to play the copy I imported). To say I’m excited for Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an understatement. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 is positioned as the first real successor to the original game. As the main series finally returns to home consoles after a couple PSP games and a spinoff game, Valkyria Chronicles 4 seeks to take the series back to its roots, while improving on the experience we all loved. If you haven’t played the first game, I recommend checking out my review of the remastered version.

VC4, at a base level, plays almost exactly like the first game. I was instantly able to jump into the combat of the first mission, which also featured all of the same character classes. Each played about as I remembered them, though I was told by the rep that they’ve done a few things to balance them (especially the infamous scout rush). As the first mission was mostly a tutorial, I blew through it quickly. The second mission was where things got interesting.

In the second mission, I encountered the game’s new character class: bombardier. This slow unit carries a large tuber launcher, capable of lobbing explosives quite a ways. It reminded me a lot of the mortar weapons the lancers got in some of the PSP games. However, there’s a huge difference: the bombardier can hit with interception fire! This means they can protec as well as attac. Their draw back is that they move slow and they have to set-up before they can fire, meaning they’re very susceptible to interception fire themselves.

On the graphics side, VC4 looks gorgeous as the PS4 blows away the Canvas engine. The maps are suitably large, again unlike the miniature maps in the PSP games, and the rep said I only tipped the iceberg with the size of the map on the first two missions. For better or worse, VC4 has removed some of the fluff from the PSP games: like some of the crazier character classes and the odd upgrade methods.

Storywise, VC4 is set during the same Europan War as the first game, but this time focusing on another nation in the war. I do find it odd that now, out of four main series games, three have been set during the same time period. I purposely skipped most of the cutscenes to avoid spoiling myself on the story but the new characters all had cool and interesting designs. And the medic has a dog, who sometimes helps her rescue downed allies. How can you not love that!?

Valkyria Chronicles 4 looks like it will live up to the Valkyria name. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and I’d encourage fans of the original Valkyria to keep an eye on the game.

The other game I played at the SEGA/ATLUS booth was Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise. Based on the Fist of the North Star manga/anime franchise that started in the 1980’s, this game lets you play as series protagonist Kenshiro in the post-apocalyptic dustland of Earth. The gameplay should be instantly familiar to anyone who has played a Yakuza game, as not only is this made by the same team but it is build on the same building blocks.

The main gameplay is that of a 3D brawler where the player beats up thugs and gang members with Kenshiro’s signature Hokuto Shinken fighting style. As the style involves lots of instant-kill pressure-point moves, Kenshiro has a lot of unique finishing moves. After beating up on enemies, they’ll become stunned and the player can grapple them for a cinematic finish that often involves an exploding head or dismembered enemy. This game has no shortage of virtual blood to donate.

The bit that I played implied a somewhat open world to Fist of the North Star. I had full reign to move around the city, finding people with quests or just beating up the random thug here and there. This would be in line with the Yakuza games so I wasn’t too surprised. What did surprise me is that First of the North Star had a share of quirky mini games in it, an aspect of the Yakuza games I feared might get dropped.

Fist had a silly “batting” mini game, where instead of hitting a baseball, Kenshiro was smacking enemies on motorbikes with a giant I-beam, trying to score points for the longest hit. Another mini game involved shaking up mix drinks in various different ways for customers. I didn’t play that one myself, but I watched as someone got some pretty amusing dialogue for completely messing up a customer’s drink.

Yakuza by way of Fist of the North Star is definitely the best way to sum up the game. This game looks like it will appeal both to fans of the Yakuza series of games and the Fist of the North star anime/manga fanbase. It really is one of those pairs that make you go, “wow, how did no one think of this before!?”

Sega/Atlus also had the Persona 3 and Persona 5 Dancing games. I didn’t end up playing those because I have an import version, so listen to the June episode of the Side Quest Podcast if you’re curious.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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