Review #018: Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewed By: John B.
Developed By: Agate Published By: Pqube Category: Role-Playing, Strategy, Adventure, Action, Simulation Release Date: 10.2.18
Purchase Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story from the Nintendo eShop here.
It’s not often I’m excited to pretend I’m a principal; in fact I’d say the thought that I could be had never occurred to me. But Indonesian developer Agate showed me how wrong I was to limit my dreams with Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a heavily JRPG-inspired fantasy adventurer school sim, and if those words in that order don’t get your juices flowing, then I don’t think we can be friends. The experience is maybe a little shallow and not completely perfect, but it’s so charming I don’t really think that matters.
The Five Queendoms
The nation of Valthyria is split up Game of Thrones style into different nations united under one monarch. The difference? The High Queen rules the land, and the five queendoms underneath report to her. So get your patriarchy the heck out of Valthiria, man. Anyway, the High Queen’s husband is retiring as the principal of the local hero academy, and you – yes, you! – the player have been chosen to replace him. The game opens with your inauguration and after a few days of orienting yourself to the ins and outs of running the academy (which you get to name and choose an emblem for), you are summoned back to the castle.
The High Queen informs you that she is dying, and while in the process of doing so, a mysterious force attacks the capitol city. After dispatching the mysterious new cultists, you return to the castle to see the queen’s funeral. Her widower informs you that he will be the regent until the queen’s only daughter can be found and placed on her throne. So now, as principal of the academy, you must train heroes to keep the peace in the realm between the five queendoms, defeat the mysterious cultists, and vanquish random monsters roaming the countryside. No pressure.
The story is pretty engrossing, if a little shallow. There’s very little in the way of character development, so it’s a little hard to connect with the characters you encounter along the way. Only a few characters even have big recurring roles in the story, like your assistant Jeanne and the school librarian Eve. Everyone just sort of has one personality trait and that’s it. The characters are nonetheless charming in their own way. The intrigue with the kingdom is fairly interesting, so it makes up for the lack of deep characters, so overall the story makes for a fitting accompaniment to the gameplay.
Less Principal Skinner, more Nezu
Running a school is probably harder than Valthirian Arc makes it look. I’m not really worried about realism in a fantasy sim, so I’m counting that as a feature rather than a bug. The gameplay could be described as shallow, but I prefer to think of it as simple and easy to learn. Running the school consists of two main activities; 1) recruiting, outfitting, and dispatching students on quests, and 2) building the school’s infrastructure and reputation. The two are pretty intertwined, though.
There is a slight mobile element to the game, wherein every task takes a certain number of weeks to complete. Every four weeks is a month, and every twelve months is a year. There are two semesters every year, so you get six months for a semester. New recruits show up at the beginning of every month, and you can decide whether or not to recruit them. You can only recruit a student if you have room in the dormitories, however, so sometimes you’ll have to build more (more on that later).
You can outfit students with weapons and accessories found during quests, purchased from travelling merchants, or crafted in the academy’s forge. Every recruit that shows up starts as an apprentice class, but as the story progresses you will unlock the ability to change classes when the character hits level ten. The job tree is a fairly straightforward three-tier job class system. Apprentices can upgrade to one of three more advanced classes, and each of those three classes has two more specialized classes to choose to evolve into. Changing classes sets the character’s level back to one.
Level ten characters can also “graduate” from the academy. Graduating characters results in lots of money and reputation flowing into the school, so it’s a good idea to level up a bunch of characters to graduate every now and then. The game asks you to graduate a character every semester, but there’s not much penalty if you don’t. Characters who graduate leave the school, but they can be “regenerated” in the form of new recruits that show up with their family name. The in-game explanation is that these are family members of the graduated student. Regenerated students have better base stats than new students.
You can organize up to three parties of four students and send them out on quests. There are two types of quests; errands and active quests. Errands are performed automatically, and generally take longer. You don’t have to do anything to complete them, just wait for the required amount of time to pass. Active quests allow you to take direct control of the party in a 3D field and fight monsters or collect items. The fighting is pretty simple; hit the attack button until you win. Each class has a special attack as well, but I forgot they were there most of the time. Completing any type of quests results in money, experience, and reputation being earned for the school and your students.
Money and reputation are the two resources you need to rebuild the academy. Money, well, it’s pretty self-explanatory; you pay to build new rooms in the main building and new buildings on the school grounds. Buildings and rooms have different effects, from unlocking new character classes to generating money and reputation every week or month. Reputation is used to level up your academy’s grade; as your grade rises, the number and type of facilities you can build grows.
Put It All Together, and What Have You Got?
A fun game, mostly. The strategic elements of the game are all pretty simple; do quests, get stuff, build the academy up, repeat. It’s fairly repetitive, and as I said, there aren’t really any characters to have a deep connection with, but something about the game was just really, really fun. Maybe it’s the bright colors, or the general positivity of the supporting cast, but the game is just pleasant to play. It’s not a game for those who like extreme challenges, but rather for those who want to relax and escape to an inviting world of magic and adventure for a while.
Valthirian Arc isn’t the most graphically intense game on the market, but it’s attractive enough. The character models have a cute, chibi-style design and all the different job classes generally look pretty cool. Enemy models are fairly generic at the beginning, but the bigger and tougher the enemies get the cooler they look, too. In general the game uses a brighter color palette, which just creates a cheerful atmosphere that enhances the game’s inviting nature. The music is bright and poppy and fits right in with the game’s overall cheery aesthetic. There is some limited voice acting in the game, mostly grunts and screams during fights, but it’s not prevalent enough to really add much to the game.
It’s Just For Fun
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this review, it’s that. This game is for people who want to relax and have fun. It doesn’t reward obsessively balancing parties and equipment, it doesn’t have any boss fights that make you want to tear your hair out for hours, and it won’t ask you to spend hours grinding away for diminishing rewards. Sure, there is some grinding involved, but it’s not very hard to do. This is a light, fluffy good time.
Final Score: 8/10
Purchase Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story from the Nintendo eShop here.