One of the things that perplexes us around the office is why Valkyria Chronicles II has been released for a different platform than the original release. When Sega released the first game, it was for the PlayStation 3, and despite its lack of best-seller status, it gained enough of a cult following to be considered a modest hit. The sequel, of all places, is on the PlayStation Portable, which might frustrate those who were expecting next-gen goodness. However, if you own the platform and don’t mind changing your strategies mildly to format the portable console’s set-up, you’ll find it’s just as rewarding as the original. And, surprisingly, in some ways, it’s even better.
The game takes place two years after the events that took place in the original Chronicles. A civil war is breaking out in the small European nation of Gallia, all thanks to a young duchess. Her decision to reveal herself as a lesser citizen – known as a Darcsen – has basically divided the country in two. With that, the Gallians of Darcsen are fighting against the Gallian Revolutionary Army, with both sides up in arms trying to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Fortunately, the game doesn’t dwell too much on story to the point that it takes away from the gameplay. In fact, it actually complements it.
A lot of Valkyria’s gameplay elements remain from the original game. You’ll work your way between a pair of systems, the Command Mode and the Action Mode. In Command, you’ll guide your way through points by choosing allied units and setting them along their way. Once you take actual control of a unit, however, you’ll switch into the third-person action mode, where you’ll handle the character directly as they fight against the enemy. It’s a system that worked remarkably well the first time around, and it’s even more refined here. Having a hands-on approach is way better than telling your units what to do, proving that “if you’re gonna do something right, you’ve got to do it yourself” is logic that still stands well today.
So where do the changes to Valkyria Chronicles II lie? Mainly in the new class types and the ability to conform them during battle. The five original classes from the first Chronicles are back, with mild modifications that work for the better. Scouts, Shocktroopers and Engineers handle your basic work, while anti-tank Lancers lead the charge when it comes to being promoted much more quickly. Probably the best class, however, is the new Armored Solider one, as they can disarm mines and use large shields to fend off incoming attacks – vital when it comes to the defense of a particular part of the city. Plus they carry hammers, which, as Mario once proved long ago, are quite effective against otherwise impenetrable opponents. As you proceed, you’ll have plenty of options to upgrade and gain new abilities, which will further help your cause as you battle for your nation.
While it sounds like a lot of work, Valkyria Chronicles II is just as entertaining as the first game. In fact, it’s even better, thanks to a better flowing story (it’s not nearly as dead serious this time around) and better character refinement. You’ll identify better with the people on your team, rather than sending them out to die mindlessly. The combat system is great, and the Command system is equally impressive, although action fans will no doubt prefer taking the action head-on. There’s about 30-40 hours worth of good gameplay here, if you can manage to withstand a little repetitiveness as you try to level up. It’s certainly nothing you haven’t seen before in a good role-playing game.
Valkyria features exquisite visuals that almost mirror the action we’ve seen from the original game, although there are times we wished for more anime-style cut scenes and less “wallpaper”-based cut scenes. Just because the PSP isn’t as complex a machine as the PS3 doesn’t mean it can’t handle the workload, guys. The music and sound effects are excellent, but there could’ve been a few more tunes playing in the background. Some of the battle themes are definitely familiar.
Along with the lengthy single player campaign, Valkyira Chronicles II online co-op through missions, where two of you can work together, along with versus multiplayer action. If you’re die-hard fans of the series, you’ll definitely enjoy this, although the AdHoc only limits what fun you can have with it. We would’ve preferred some kind of Infrastructure set-up. Still, for what it is, it’s enjoyable.
Valkyria Chronicles II probably would’ve been better off as a PS3 follow-up (especially now in the system’s newfound popularity), but the PSP benefits from the release as it is. It’s a great-looking game with top-notch gameplay and options galore, both on your own and with friends. And with all the rumors circulating, this game could be paving the way for a glorious return to glory on the PS3 sometime next year. We can only hope at this point. This series is really just getting its wind, and we’d love to see it continue.