Meet Catherine O’Hara

catherine-oharaThis is Catherine O’Hara. She’s a sniper. She’s a key member of Squad 7—of my Squad 7, I should say—which is a militia unit fighting in a war in a game called Valkyria Chronicles. This game is exclusive to the PlayStation3, a games console with a singular lack of great exclusive games—until now.

The genius of Valkyria Chronicles is in the whole package, not just in the shooting. The turn-based/real-time battling is plenty good enough on its own. But the way the story and characters merge with the battles to create a unified whole is something I’ve rarely come across before.

I try to keep two snipers in my Squad 7 at all times. You can pick and choose your squad selection, mixing it up between various unit classes. (Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Snipers, Engineers.) Valkyria Chronicles shows its quality in the flexibility it permits you, the many routes you can take to achieve your goal. You could play the whole game without ever meeting Catherine O’Hara. You have to choose her from the list of available recruits.

Catherine takes her shot—with you aiming for her, and pulling the trigger—and if she hits her target she usually kills it. Then she hoists her rifle onto her shoulders and says, “I’m not done yet.” If you don’t grin and/or punch the air at least once when this happens, you may not be human. If she misses her shot, well, she misses. She does sometimes miss. It depends on various factors—the distance of the target, its type, the conditions, the terrain, how she’s feeling. This is the RPG side of the game.

I’ve managed to get Catherine killed quite a lot. I lost her at least once during every mission, in the early days, although I’m a lot better now. I know. I’m rubbish. It shouldn’t be happening at all. But it does, because I take foolish risks. I move her out into the open where enemy snipers can pick her off. Or I move her too close to the enemy shocktroopers. Because this is turn-based strategy RPG, you can do nothing during the enemy’s turn except watch it take advantage of your errors and missteps. I hate watching Catherine being machine-gunned to death.

If I don’t get to her within three turns or before an enemy reaches her body, that’s it, she’s gone. Dead for good. Gone from the whole game. I’ve already lost two valued squad members in this way. Aisha, a fine shocktrooper, died in one of the early missions. She begged piteously not to be allowed to die. I stared at the screen, helpless, as she died anyway. Then I lost one of my Engineers, just a few turns later (that mission was a disaster). I was still in actual shock from Aisha’s death and I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve forgotten the Engineer’s name. War doesn’t change.

But if you get to your fallen comrades before the enemy does, you can rescue them. When Catherine falls, all my mission goals are temporarily suspended. It’s all about rescuing Catherine. I have always done it so far. I don’t know what I would do if I failed. If Catherine died for good, I’d probably break one of my cardinal rules of gaming, and reload an old save to get a different outcome. I pray God it never comes to that…


  1. A whole post dedicated to her?

    I don’t have her available yet in my snipers, but on certain levels they are king.

    My normal squad of nine normally has to include at least 3 or 4 shocktroopers, they’re one of my favourite units, sheer power.

    Haven’t had anyone die forever on me yet, had to recover a couple of scouts so far though, just getting a bit too ambitious. I always try and keep my snipers covered as they’re so weak.

  2. Paww – haven’t you got strangely attached to any of your Squad 7 members yet?! A normal squad for me has got to have at least two snipers, but like you say they are weak and vulnerable. I’ve stopped moving them into danger now, which has meant relying on them less (and getting them killed less).

    You’d probably find that the Skirmish maps are the biggest dangers for losing squad members permanently. That’s where I lost my two. Incidentally, those Skirmish maps are one of my slight disappointments with the game. They’re just the main mission maps, all over again, with tougher enemies. I’d have liked some different maps to play on.

    In reply to your comment yesterday, 4 hours is just getting going and things do get a lot deeper, wider, and bigger in every way. Inevitably, the game does slow up in places (there’s one ‘battle’ that I thought was a poor pacing choice and I really disliked—Ch. 8 I think). But I think I’m about 14 hours into it by now, and I’m still loving it. It’s around this stage that I’d usually wander away to try another game just for some variation, but I want to play this one all the way through.

  3. Since I posted the other day I’ve just completed chapter 7 (huge tank mission?) (admittedly took me two attempts) so now over 10 hours of play.

    I really like the game, I just worry that it might end a bit prematurely!

    I’ve only played each of the skirmish missions once each, if I start to struggle then I might have to come back to them again but so far so good.

    I did lose half of my squad in the tank mission but since I ended up failing the mission (almost to a relief!) I managed to do it second time round without losing a single person (no deaths at all which I was proud of)

    The only member I’m fond of is Freesia who I lost first time round in the tank mission so was pretty happy to fail the mission so I got to keep her. On the previous desert mission (with the storms) she dominated against everyone with her desert bred bonus. Plus for a fictional character is pretty. 🙂

    I’m almost tempted to find out how many chapters there are to relieve my worry of it being too short but this most likely ruin the end of the game for me.

  4. Paww—we’ll keep the comments sections of the general gaming posts spoiler-free, but let me just say that you’ve got little to worry about regarding the game’s length. I’m only a few chapters ahead of you and it’s taken me ages.

    Chapter 7 took me 2 attempts as well, mainly because I was slow to catch onto what the game wanted me to do and I let the tank get too far before you-know-who turned up, and that decimated my squad, and it was all too late.

    It’s amazing how much eventual replay value I’ll find in this game thanks to all the different characters available from the recruit pool. I still say Catherine is ‘da best’…

  5. Found this post when I google’d about Catherine, and I gotta agree with you, easily my favourite character! I’ve developed somewhat of a large bond with her, more-so than any of the other characters, even the other ones I’m fond of (Coby and Karl being the main ones), so I really know what you mean when it comes to dropping everything to save her. Hell, technically she isn’t even the best sniper, but she’s easily the most likable and really pretty too.

    I’ve finished the game twice over now, and I always used Catherine in every mission, and she never fails me, always getting that perfect headshot from halfway across the map, and every time she does, I get to hear her quiet, soothing voice (though I’m playing it in Japanese, not English, so I dunno if you guys have similar feelings about her voice).

    Glad I’m not the only one who’s grown so attatched to her and my other members of Squad 7 🙂

  6. Sefran – thanks for your comment, and yes, in English they gave Catherine a soft Irish accent that is very pleasing to the ear.

    You mention Coby and Karl but I have no idea who they are. I selected my Squad 7 at the start of the game and have mainly stuck with them, swapping out just a few here and there, and I don’t remember even seeing a Coby or Karl in the reserve list. I think this means that any of a large bunch of characters can randomly appear in each new game. Suffice to say I’m looking forward to playing the whole game again and discovering a lot more Catherines.

  7. This is one game that I think may really appeal to me. I had never given it a thought before reading you praises of it and I have since sourced the internet for information and I’m really impressed. With Fallout 3 to hopefully soon be completed I think I may well invest and see what all the fuss is really about

  8. stinger – The Valkyria Chronicles buzz is quite the internet phenomenon, isn’t it? All the games/PS3 forums I frequent—notably Penny Arcade—are what first tipped me off about the game. I’m about 60% through the game and I’d go along with the prevailing view that VC is the best PS3 exclusive game yet—yes, better than MGS4. So far.

  9. I am really enjoying the fact now that games I wouldn’t have previously even given a thought to are turning out to be absolutely fantastic. Since getting a PS3 I have really opened up my gaming options and bought, played and enjoyed games I usually wouldn’t have done.

    This could unfortunately be down to a reduction in number/quality of the games/series I have played in the past (PES the shining example). The PS3 still doesn’t have the range of games that I think it’s predecessor had even at the same point in it’s lifetime but it is having a higher number of real quality games.

    Fallout 3 was another game that I picked up on a large amount of internet hype on and went on to buy. I now consider that to be among my top 5 games of all time and that is without even finishing it yet. Although it still doesn’t displace my number 1 game of all time which I was glad to read you also rate very highly, Final Fantasy VIII.

  10. stinger – one thing about FF8 that still appeals to me (in common with other RPGs of its era): no voice actors! They ruined RPGs when they brought in voice acting. Well, maybe not ruined, but they haven’t been the same.

    Fallout3’s still on my list, and it’ll stay on my list until I get around to playing it, whenever that may be. It could be months away yet, realistically. (I’ve got a post coming up about this gaming logjam, with diagrams).

    I have found that playing lots of games at the same time, flitting from game to game, is no way to enjoy a game. For all its greatness there are portions of Valkyria Chronicles that, a few months ago, would have seen me looking for another game to play—“just for a break” (I’m sure you know how that internal monologue goes)—but that’s no way to game, IMO. I want to play and complete games again from start to finish, just as I used to do when I had time to game all day and night, hence my new policy of ‘one game at a time, thank you very much’. If it takes me a month or more to play through a whole game before moving on to the next one, so be it.

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