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War, Love, and Jazz: A Review of Valiant Hearts: Coming Home

Rating: 8/10⭐️

“Valiant Hearts: Coming Home” is not just another war game. It is a very beautiful and touching story focused on a few individuals who fought or served during World War I.

Main Characters

George: This British pilot, while not central to the narrative, offers comedic relief. He comes into the story with a crashed plane and the gameplay with his character mainly involves flying the plane escaping missiles, rockets and other planes.

Ernst: As a German sailor turned soldier, Ernst’s journey from merchant to war participant is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. He doesn’t want to fight in the war but is thrown into it. He is friends with James, and they both share the love for Jazz.

Anna: This Belgian medic’s story is one of love and loss. She is an earnest person trying to help people & do some good in the middle of the war. Anna and Freddie are good friends, and it later evolves into a relationship. Their relationship is quite sweet and sadly tragic. I really felt this one.

James: Freddie’s younger brother, James, is a jazz musician whose clarinet becomes a symbol of hope and resilience. I was surprised to find that he was inspired by a real-life Jazz musician, James Reese Europe, who fought in the First World War.

Freddie: Freddie’s role as a soldier and protector is central to the game’s narrative. He is James’s older brother and falls in love with Anna and survives the war to go back home and live with his wife but their story ends in tragedy in the worst of ways, giving us a glimpse into how it was during that time.

In the game, we go through the events involving the US entering the First World War in 1917, some of the pivotal moments in the war and delve into the challenges faced by people caught in it. From the horrors of the battlefield to racism, “Coming Home” doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of the time. The game also beautifully includes some actual history with the Harlem Hellfighters’ contributing, both on the battlefield and in popularizing Jazz music in France.

“Valiant Hearts: Coming Home” is more than just a visual story. The graphics beautifully complement the narrative. The narration of the story in this game is awesome. The realities of war, moments of joy, camaraderie, and love are narrated. You switch between characters as you progress along the story in the game, engaging in tasks, navigating stealth areas, flying a plane, healing soldiers, playing jazz etc. These are all mini-games which drive the story forward. The rhythm mini-games, especially with James’ clarinet sequences, are amazing, especially the story behind them and the emotion & heart it adds to the overall game. Looking into it, I got to know that this was inspired by the real-life Jazz musician James Reese Europe, who fought in the First World War as a lieutenant with the 369th Infantry Regiment the “Harlem Hellfighters”.

“Valiant Hearts: Coming Home,” tells the story of a brutal period in history with a bittersweet sense of hope. Playing the game, reading the real facts of war and the thoughts of the characters on the war in their diaries as the game progressed was eye-opening and sometimes heartbreaking.

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