Post Script

Why Valkyria Revo­lu­tion is a dis­ap­point­ing speed­bump on Sega’s road to re­cov­ery

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Sega was dead, or so they said. Back in 2012, with fi­nan­cial pres­sures forc­ing it out of pub­lish­ing in con­ti­nen­tal Europe, the com­pany’s ex­ecs spoke omi­nously of ‘strate­gic re­align­ment’ and ‘a re­fo­cus­ing on dig­i­tal’. To all ex­tents and pur­poses, it seemed beyond a hand­ful of proven suc­cesses – Aliens, To­tal War, Foot­ball Man­ager and Sonic – the Sega we all knew and loved was no more.

Five years on, and things are look­ing a good deal rosier for the pub­lisher, thanks to a num­ber of smart li­cens­ing deals, cre­ative part­ner­ships and re­vivals of the games with which it made its name in the first place. Last year, it ac­quired End­less Space de­vel­oper Am­pli­tude Stu­dios; in May, the se­quel to the pop­u­lar 4X strat­egy se­quel launched to a warm re­cep­tion. Halo Wars 2 may have been a Mi­crosoft pro­duc­tion, but it was cer­tainly a pro­file-booster for Sega sub­sidiary Cre­ative Assem­bly, while the same stu­dio’s link-up with the Warham­mer brand has al­ready borne fruit. To­tal War: Warham­mer was a big suc­cess last year; a quick-fire se­quel is due in Septem­ber.

Mean­while, in Deep Sil­ver it has found a pub­lish­ing part­ner will­ing to bring its more es­o­teric, Ja­pan-de­vel­oped games to Europe. Though Valkyria Revo­lu­tion isn’t the game we all hoped it would be, it bodes well for fu­ture games in the se­ries head­ing west – which had pre­vi­ously looked un­likely when PSP ti­tle Valkyria Chron­i­cles 3 wasn’t deemed wor­thy of lo­cal­i­sa­tion. And it would be hard to com­plain too loudly when 2017 has al­ready yielded the ex­cel­lent Per­sona 5 (de­vel­oped by the Sega-owned Atlus) and Yakuza 0. With Ki­wami, a re­make of the orig­i­nal Yakuza, launch­ing in Au­gust, and the sixth main­line en­try due to reach these shores early next year, that’s three games in 12 months for a se­ries whose west­ern life ap­peared to be over un­til rel­a­tively re­cently.

While look­ing to safe­guard its fu­ture, Sega has also dis­cov­ered the value in delv­ing into its past. The ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess of its 2014 PC port of the orig­i­nal Valkyria Chron­i­cles has since in­spired the pub­lisher to re­work its other 360/PS3-era hits: over the last few months we’ve seen Bay­o­netta and Van­quish ar­rive on Steam, both look­ing bet­ter and run­ning smoother than ever. Au­gust, mean­while, sees the re­lease of Sonic Ma­nia, a hand­some throw­back to the hedge­hog’s side-scrolling hey­day, made by a team of long-term Sonic fans headed by Chris­tian White­head, who ported the first two games to mo­bile plat­forms.

And talk­ing of smart­phones, there’s Sega For­ever, its new ini­tia­tive to bring clas­sic games to a new au­di­ence on iOS and An­droid. Free to down­load, and sup­ported by ads (but with the op­tion to pay a one-off fee to re­move them) they’re not sim­ply a nos­tal­gic re­minder of Sega at its cre­ative peak, but a chance to rein­tro­duce prop­er­ties and po­ten­tially ben­e­fit from cross-pro­mo­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties. Nin­tendo saw a sig­nif­i­cant boost to sales of the 3DS Fire Em­blem games af­ter the launch of mo­bile spin-off He­roes; like­wise with Su­per Mario Run. It’s hard to imag­ine Sega not hav­ing sim­i­lar plans in store.

In a quiet way, then, Sega is start­ing to be­come a ma­jor player once more, and it’s do­ing it with­out tak­ing any se­ri­ous risks – shar­ing the bur­den of re­spon­si­bil­ity with pub­lish­ing part­ners, while get­ting re­sults from rel­a­tively low-cost ports for its re­cent PC re­leases, and em­u­la­tors for mo­bile. There’s still work to be done: com­plaints about poor qual­ity em­u­la­tion on the For­ever se­ries sug­gest it needs to do more to live up to its prom­ise of a re­newed fo­cus on qual­ity. But Sega has made sig­nif­i­cant progress by do­ing ex­actly what it said it would, prov­ing that we needn’t have been quite so wor­ried about those seem­ingly doom-laden prom­ises. In other words, Valkyria Revo­lu­tion is hope­fully noth­ing more than a fleet­ing dip on an up­ward tra­jec­tory for one of gam­ing’s most en­dur­ing names. Now, let’s have Ghost Squad VR, hmm?

De­vel­oper Me­dia Vi­sion was also re­spon­si­ble for the third game in the Chron­i­cles se­ries: though far su­pe­rior to Revo­lu­tion, it was never re­leased out­side Ja­pan

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