America - Front
America - Back
By Karl Koebke 25th Apr 2009 | 6,076 views
Since this is a review of a downloadable episode (hereafter referred to as DLC), I am going to quickly define exactly what each score pertains to. Presentation will be mostly dependent on story, voice acting, and use of already established visual presentation. Gameplay is dependent on the amount of strategy used in the missions provided. Value is based on the episode’s average playtime, price of the DLC, and variety of gameplay in the episode.
Behind Her Blue Flame allows you to flip the tables on the normal Valkyria Chronicles formula and take control of the East Europan Imperial Alliance, which is cast as the evil oppressor throughout most of the main game. The only three characters that get to talk during the story sections, and have any kind of personality whatsoever, are: Selvaria, an engineer known as Johann, and his best friend Otto (who is a squad leader, although I only know this because of his red armor). Johann is transferred into Selvaria’s squad as a replacement for her old engineer who was injured in battle. Selvaria’s squad is then assigned to start the invasion of Gallia by attacking the border defenses. The goal of most of the missions is to get Selvaria to the Gallian home base by whatever means necessary. Beyond the normal conditions for losing the mission, you will also lose if either Johann or Selvaria are killed.
The story is fairly interesting, even though it only really contains 3 characters. You quickly notice a partnership and mutual respect building between Johann and Selvaria, and perhaps even more. Otto is mainly around so that Johann has someone to talk to when Selvaria isn’t around, so he gets absolutely no character development. The development of Selvaria is quite interesting though, and helps the player see her as more than just the death dealing General from the evil Empire. Unfortunately, all of the other units you will use during the battles are just random names without any kind of personality, and even Otto and Johann continuously wear the full armor suits that the Empire’s soldiers always wear, so it's hard to care about any of your side characters beyond Selvaria. That said, the story is still interesting and has no really cringe worthy moments. However, like Edy’s Mission, the entire story is told through “talking heads”, which is unfortunate.
The strategy in Behind Her Blue Flame is quite different from that in the main game. The first noticeable difference is that all of your characters other than Selvaria seem to be made out of paper mache and a slight breeze will kill them. Obviously that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it is no joke when I tell you that this is much more difficult than the main game. The Gallians are all better equipped and in general have more health. The only really effective weapon you have that gives you a leg up on the Gallians is Selvaria. Just like in the main game, Selvaria is a walking death machine. Her gun is a machine gun that is amazingly accurate, has almost the same range as a sniper rifle, and can easily destroy tanks if you can hit the radiator. Her only real disadvantage is that she only carries the rifle. This means that she has no grenades or ragnaid, but this is where Johann comes in. Johann and Selvaria become a deadly team, with Johann clearing the way of barricades and mines while Selvaria mows down everyone in their path. Each mission requires you to defend and attack multiple fronts, and although your soldiers die easily, it never feels like the game is cheating you. The only time I lost and didn’t feel like it was due to something I had done wrong was because of the annoying tendency for dodging that Musaad the Mole has. Even this can be overcome with some clever saving and loading in the middle of the battle, so it isn’t a huge issue. All in all, the battles were highly varied given that there are only 4 different missions, with a good balance of obstacles that will provide a challenge to those who are looking for something a bit more difficult than the main game.
Playing through the DLC episode for the first time took me around 3 hours, but this is just where the value starts. By achieving special conditions in the first mission you will be able to play the second map with different conditions and troop placements, which changes the strategy required and makes it even more difficult. If you complete this second mission on the higher difficulty you gain access to Selveria’s crazy anti-tank sniper rifle for one of your Shocktroopers. If you want access to the fourth and final mission you’ll have to get a ranking of “A” on all three missions you have access to. All told, there are probably around 5-6 hours of content for $5 with this DLC, which is very good, even for a JRPG.
If you are choosing one Valkyria Chronicles DLC to buy, Behind Her Blue Flame would be my recommendation. It doesn’t quite live up to the greatness that is the main game, but it’s an interesting mix of difficult gameplay and fleshing out the back story for one of Valkyria Chronicles’ most iconic characters, and it is definitely worth the $5 for admission. My only real complaint is the lack of personality from most of the soldiers you will use, but it’s an acceptable fault in an otherwise great DLC package.