The first Valkyria Chronicles was seen as a fantastic game on the PS3. HD visuals mixing together anime styled artwork with a watercoloured, pencilled effect gave the game a unique visual style. The gameplay was a mix of strategy RPG and real-time combat which really set it apart. Oddly the sequel to the series has appeared on Sony’s portable system, so can the series retain what made the original so good?
Set two years after the victory of Gallia during the Second Europan War, a rebel group of aristocrats and like-minded soldiers have started a civil war in a bid to wipe out all Gallians of Darcsen descent. Calling themselves the Gallian Revolutionary Army, they plan to take over the country that is still reeling from the last war. With the regular army exhausted, it is up to the students of the military academy to repel the GRA forces.
First thing off of the bat, this is Valkyria Chronicles. No doubt about it. If you played the first game on the PS3, you will be able to slip straight into the gameplay here. Barring a few changes, the gameplay remains pretty much unchanged despite being stuffed into the PSP. Four classes return, with Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers and Engineers and the sniper being merged into the Scout class. Replacing the Sniper class is the new Armored class, which are used to disarm mines, provide cover with large shields and be used for melee combat.
Other improvements include more in-depth customisation options for both classes and of course the good old tank. The biggest change has to be in the form of the storyline. Instead of a war for survival, this time around we get given a high school drama where the horrors of war are provided with a civil conflict and the seemingly unconvincing need to send nothing but kids into a battlefield. In the first game it felt like the player was fighting a small part of a much larger country-wide battle, but for the most part in VC2 the high school feel is more akin to something like Persona 3 rather than being based upon a potentially dangerous and life-threatening war. In a bid to try and replicate the successes of games like Persona, it seems that VC2 has lost some of its charm regarding its story.
The graphics have also taken quite a hit on the way down from PS3. Where the original had a lovely sketched effect over everything, here you would be hard pressed to see any difference from most other RPGs on the system. While there had to be downgrades in order for the game to run on the handheld, it is a shame that the unique features it had about itself have been lost in the transition.
Positives on the changes front though are the inclusion of co-op and competitive local multiplayer. Players can team up with friends to take missions, which can give an interesting dynamic as players play a very elaborate game of chess to help or hinder the other player.
Missions are also broken up into more bite-sized chunks as part of the portability of the new game. While missions can last for twenty turns, maps are smaller and spread across multiple locations and are often a lot quicker. However, being a portable game, should you be mid-mission you still can save which will invoke some choice words once you realise your bus stop is approaching and you need to stop playing.
Missions are also laid out differently this time, bringing a monthly roster of missions to tackle in keeping with the school year theme. There are plenty of side-missions, to the point that the player needs to do a handful of side-missions before heading off to do any more story missions. This will no doubt annoy players who just want to get on with the story, though it does make sure you do some side-missions to collect more XP and improve your squad whether you like it or not.
At the end of the day, how much you like Valkyria Chronicles 2 is based upon two factors - how much you enjoy strategy RPG type games, and if you liked the first game. If you liked the first, then the second’s design choices will take some getting used to, but you’ll get right back into the thick of things quite soon. The strategy RPG fans will find it a more difficult task as the gameplay is a hybrid of real-time strategy, RPG and a mixture of other things inbetween. If you are looking for something different to tax your brain, then you may have found your game.
That is Valkyria Chronicles 2 at the end of the day. A game that will get you to use your gray matter. Rarely will you feel cheated, more that your tactics were wrong and you need to rethink them. The high school drama is an unsightly turn of events for the story, but for the most part it can be ignored while you concentrate on the game itself. Just be ready for a numb arse when sitting trying to complete later missions.