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Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4

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The PS3 and 360 era was a very interesting time for Japanese developers. The home consoles didn’t really see many great games from Japan compared to the PS2 era but there were a few true gems. While many developers at the time were either doing multi platform or Xbox 360 only games, SEGA brought out Valkyria Chronicles for the PS3 which was a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. The tactical RPG had a gorgeous art style and was full of well written and designed characters alongside are very good combat system. The series went on to see a PC port and eventually get a proper release once again with Valkyria Chronicles Remastered on PS4. While the games that followed the original were either not well received or unlocalised, SEGA has brought it back in the best way possible.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a new numbered entry in the franchise that is a proper follow up to the original Valkyria Chronicles by doing everything I wanted from a new entry and surpassing expectations. Don’t let the number in the name push you away. Valkyria Chronicles 4 can be played and enjoyed as your first entry into this fantastic franchise.

This game takes place at the same time as the original Valkyria Chronicles and Valkyria Chronicles 3 but is based on Squad E. The second Europa war is on between the Atlantic Federation and the Eastern Imperial Alliance. Unlike most war story games, the focus on characters and world building here is second to none. The only game based on a war that has managed to surpass that in a Valkyria Chronicles release is Valiant Hearts. You will definitely be attached to Claude, Kai, and more right from the get go. Squad E is a fantastic cast. The localisation is also pretty great overall with appropriately chosen voice actors.

While this release isn’t a huge step forward from the original in gameplay, there are some great changes and additions. The battle system is enhanced and maps are much bigger. There is a new Grenadier class as well. Combat in general is full of risk reward scenarios. While the AI can be a bit daft at times, there are many situations where not thinking things through will result in you needing to replay missions. If you’re new to Valkyria Chronicles, combat is like a mix between a real time third person shooter and a turn based game.

An interesting and unique aesthetic is always important for games and while the one on display here is a more refined version of what we had 10 years ago, it still holds up very well. The good thing about the pencil drawn painting style here is that it is timeless. A lot of games from the PS1 and N64 era look pretty terrible today but SEGA’s CANVAS Engine is still great.

I’ve played Valkyria Chronicles 4 on the Switch in both handheld and docked modes for this review. The Switch version is pretty damn amazing in both modes. When docked, there are a few aspects that could be a bit sharper but performance is solid and the aesthetic can hide some of the fidelity drawbacks. On handheld, this plays and looks even better. I always enjoy playing strategy games on portable devices and it is good to see SEGA putting out such a high quality port when other publishers push out ports that barely run on the Switch. I’d go so far as to say the Switch version is the best version because the performance and visual difference between the other consoles isn’t as drastic as it is for games like DOOM or even the LEGO games.

I haven’t been able to check the Japanese voice acting yet as it is available as free DLC day one but the English voice acting is great. While I did enjoy the soundtrack in Valkyria Revolution quite a bit (Yasunori Mitsuda can do no wrong), it is great to see Hitoshi Sakamoto return for Valkyria Chronicles 4. The entire project feels like a love letter to fans of the first game and it is something no one ever expected from SEGA.

As with the original, my only real complaint is the difficulty spikes. Some mid game battles are quite hard but thankfully things get better near the end of the game. You will get used to coasting through battles initially but suddenly have things take a turn for the worst. The problem with a lot of these missions is you can just replay them after planning better once you know the gimmick per say.

Overall, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an essential purchase for any tactical RPG fans. It plays brilliantly on the Switch in both modes and SEGA released this on everything including Xbox One with full dual audio support day one. If you’ve been waiting for a true follow up to the amazing Valkyria Chronicles, we finally have it 10 years later on all platforms. It is rare to see a franchise have such a great return to form. We’ve definitely come a long way from an unlocalised PSP mainline entry to one that not only releases on all consoles day one but also happens to be fantastic.

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sathyabhat
410 days ago
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Bangalore, India
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Your Own Personal WiFi Storage

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Our kids have reached the age – at ages 4, 4, and 7 respectively – that taking longer trips with them is now possible without everyone losing what's left of their sanity in the process. But we still have the same problem on multiple hour trips, whether it's in a car, or on a plane – how do we bring enough stuff to keep the kids entertained without carting 5 pounds of books and equipment along, per person? And if we agree, like most parents, that the iPad is the general answer to this question, how do I get enough local media downloaded and installed on each of their iPads before the trip starts? And do I need 128GB iPads, because those are kind of expensive?

We clearly have a media sharing problem. I asked on Twitter and quite a number of people recommended the HooToo HT-TM05 TripMate Titan at $40. I took their advice, and they were right – this little device is amazing!

  • 10400mAh External Battery
  • WiFi USB 3.0 media sharing device
  • Wired-to-WiFi converter
  • WiFi-to-WiFi bridge to share a single paid connection

The value of the last two points is debatable depending on your situation, but the utility of the first two is huge! Plus the large built in battery means it can act as a self-powered WiFi hotspot for 10+ hours. All this for only forty bucks!

It's a very simple device. It has exactly one button on the top:

  • Hold the button down for 5+ seconds to power on or off.
  • Tap the button to see the current battery level, represented as 1-4 white LEDs.
  • The blue LED will change to green if connected to another WiFi or wired network.

Once you get yours, just hold down the button to power it on, let it fully boot, and connect to the new TripMateSith WiFi network. As to why it's called that, I suspect it has to do with the color scheme of the device and this guy.

I am guessing licensing issues forced them to pick the 'real' name of TripMate Titan, but wirelessly, it's known as TripMateSith-XXXX. Connect to that. The default password is 11111111 (that's eight ones).

Once connected, navigate to 10.10.10.254 in your browser. Username is admin, no password.

This interface is totally smartphone compatible, for the record, but I recommend you do this from a desktop or laptop since we need to upgrade the firmware immediately. As received, the device has firmware 2.000.022 and you'll definitely want to upgrade to the latest firmware right away:

  • Make sure a small USB storage device is attached – it needs local scratch disk space to upgrade.
  • You'd think putting the firmware on a USB storage device and inserting said USB storage device into the HooToo would work, and I agree that's logical, but … you'd be wrong.
  • Connect from a laptop or desktop, then visit the Settings, Firmware page and upload the firmware file from there. (I couldn't figure out any way to upgrade firmware from a phone, at least not on iOS.)

Storage

For this particular use, so we can attach the storage, leave it attached forever, and kinda-sorta pretend it is all one device, I recommend a tiny $32 128GB USB 3.0 drive. It's not a barn-burner, but it's fast enough for its diminutive size.

In the past, I've recommended very fast USB 3.0 drives, but I think that time is coming to an end. If you need something larger than 128GB, you could carry a USB 3.0 enclosure with a traditional inexpensive 2.5" HD, but the combination of travel and spinning hard drives makes me nervous. Not to mention the extra power consumption. Instead, I recommend one of the new, budget compact M.2 SSDs in a USB 3.0 enclosure:

I discovered this brand of Phison controller based budget M.2 SSDs when I bought the Scooter Computers and they are surprisingly great performers for the price, particularly if you stick with the newest Phison S10 controller. And they run absolute circles around large USB flash drives in performance! The larger the drive, believe me, the more you need to care about this, like say you need to quickly copy a bunch of reasonably new media for the kids to enjoy before you go catch that plane.

Settings and WiFi

Let's continue setting up our HooToo Tripmate Titan. In the web interface, under Settings, Network Settings, these are the essentials:

  • In Host Name, first set the device name to something short and friendly. You will be typing this later on every device you attach to it. I used mully and sully for mine.

  • In Wi-Fi and LAN

    • pick a strong, long WiFi password, because there's very little security on the device beyond the WiFi gate.

    • set the WiFi channel to either 1, 6, or 11 so you are not crowding around other channels.

    • set security to WPA2-PSK only. No need to support old, insecure connection types.

There's more here, if you want to bridge wired or wirelessly, but this will get you started.

Windows

Connect to the HooToo's WiFi network, then type in the name of the device (mine's called sully) in Explorer or the File Run dialog, prefixed by \\.

The default user accounts are admin and guest with no passwords, unless you set one up. Admin lets you write files; guest does not.

Once you connect you'll see the default file share for the USB device and can begin browsing the files at UsbDisk1_Volume1.

iOS

I use the File Explorer app for iOS, though I am sure there are plenty of other alternatives. It's $5, and I have it installed on all my iOS devices.

Connect to the HooToo's WiFi network, then add a new Windows type share via the menu on the left. (I'm not sure if other share types work, they might, but that one definitely does.) Enter the name of the device here and the account admin with no password. If you forget to enter account info, you'll get prompted on connect.

Once set up, this connection will be automatically saved for future use. And once you connect, you can browse the single available file share at UsbDisk1_Volume1 and play back any files.

Be careful, though, as media files you open here will use the default iOS player – you may need a third party media player if the file has complex audio streams (DTS, for example) or unusual video encoders.

Caveats

For some reason, with a USB 3.0 flash drive attached, the battery slowly drains even when powered off. So you'll want to remove any flash drive when the HooToo is powered off for extended periods. I have no idea why this happens, but I was definitely able to reproduce the behavior. Kind of annoying since my whole goal was to have "one" device, but oh well.

This isn't a fancy, glitzy Plex based system, it's a basic filesystem browser. Devices that have previously connected to this WiFi network will definitely connect to it when no other WiFi networks are available, like say, when you're in a van driving to Legoland, or on a plane flying to visit your grandparents. You will still have to train people to visit the File Explorer app, and the right device name to look for, or create a desktop link to the proper share.

But in my book, simple is good. The HooToo HT-TM05 TripMate plus a small 128GB flash drive is an easy, flexible way to wirelessly share large media files across a ton of devices for less than 75 bucks total, and it comes with a large, convenient rechargeable battery.

I think one of these will live, with its charger cable and a flash drive chock full of awesome media, permanently inside our van for the kids. Remember, no matter where you go, there your … files … are.

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sathyabhat
1277 days ago
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Bangalore, India
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1 public comment
cheerfulscreech
1285 days ago
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Never tried this, but it looks really useful for family road trips if your kids have devices.
ca_peterson
1283 days ago
The battery drain when it's off seems like a deal breaker. If you have kids that's the type of detail that gets overlooked