Valkyria Chronicles II Review for PlayStation Portable (PSP)

Valkyria Chronicles II Review for PlayStation Portable (PSP)

Nothing Else Like It

Though completely overlooked in its own day, the original Valkyria Chronicles has gained a fiercely loyal fan base in the eighteen months since its release. This unique title from Sega was overshadowed by bigger advertising budgets during its original release in November 2008 (this critical darling was trying to go up against Spore, Fallout 3, and World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King), and it didn’t gain much traction from gamers until 2009 when its twenty dollar price tag started to catch the attention of budget-minded consumers.

Valkyria Chronicles II screenshot

It has slowly won enough fans over the past year to warrant a sequel, though this installment doesn’t have the benefit of the PS3’s vast horsepower, instead making full use of the aging PSP system’s hardware. Maybe this is a better platform for Sega to make a profit on, but it’s really a shame that the sequel isn’t on PS3. The original Valkyria was a beautiful game. It had a unique aesthetic that perfectly fit the half-fantasy, half-World War 2 era experience they were trying to create.

While VC2 is still a beautiful game by PSP standards, it lacks the jaw dropping quality of the original. In place of the three-dimensional cutscenes are scenes of anime drawing. These scenes are still good and complete the task of moving along the story, just don’t expect to be awestruck, as many of us were while playing the original. To suit the new style, they’ve even come up with some ways of enhancing some of the more boring scenes. Some games will have the pictures of characters next to each other as text rolls under them. Valkyria Chronicles II spices this formula up by having each character’s box reflect their mood. For example, if two characters are fighting, their pictures might bump into one another angrily.

The core of the game remains nearly untouched, except for a small host of enhancements. VC1’s form of half turn-based and half real-time strategy has returned, and it is better than ever. For those who don’t know, VC is a bizarre hybrid of strategy elements. It begins on a map of the battlefield, and the player has a certain amount of moves they can make per turn. Once a unit is selected, the camera zooms in for a third-person perspective of that individual unit. The unit can then move around on the map freely, although, enemy soldiers will fire on them if they get too close. Each unit gets one attack per turn, so it must be used wisely.

Valkyria Chronicles II screenshot

It may surprise you, but the fantastic gameplay that VC1 employed to win over fans actually plays better on the PSP than on the PS3. This may be because of the system, but it’s more likely that Sega has simply found ways, over the last eighteen months, to optimize the gameplay and make it flow more smoothly.

Perhaps the biggest change to that form of gameplay is the inclusion of a new type of unit that uses only melee attacks. It has extremely heavy armor that allows it to charge headfirst into enemy territory and a punishing attack that can nearly kill most units in one swing, but these units won’t last long alone and must be used strategically as a part of your fighting force. These troops are specifically strong when paired with a scout that can weaken enemies from afar so the melee class can swoop in to finish them off.

Valkyria Chronicles II screenshot

Outside of the tactical gameplay, there’s not much that is returning to the game. VC1’s storybook mode is out. In its place is a fortress type structure that players view like a map. The different rooms of the fortress light up when they have missions for the player. This is the area where the player will manage the entire campaign. The R&D room returns, so you can build new weapons and equipment, along with other areas like Drill Grounds and Mess Hall.

Another big change in the proceedings is the cast of characters. This game does not follow Welks and his plucky crew. By comparison, the previous game’s cast was far more likable. Unfortunately, VC2 doesn’t continue that legacy. While VC1’s crew was never a beacon of originality and flair, they were at least people we could empathize with and enjoy having around, especially some of the side characters like Largo and Rosie.

Valkyria Chronicles II screenshot

VC2 heads off far into the realm of anime clichés with this most recent gaggle of soldiers. You’ve got the hot-tempered, block head who loves “sleeping and eating, the token woman (who will probably actually insult many female players with her incredible stupidity), and the grouchy third wheel who thinks he’s better than everyone. There’s nary a single original character among them. Their personalities are often grating, and they’ll make you yearn for the battles even more, just so they’ll be quiet for awhile.

The voice acting is decent enough though. It’s just the writing that will get to you. Each character is brought to life sufficiently, and just about everything is voice acted, which is no small feat for a PSP game.

If you liked the original game and you own a PSP, then you have every reason to run out and buy VC2. It’s got everything we loved about the original game and mixes up the gameplay (with the fortress overworld) enough to make this feel like a completely new game. But they didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater either. The fantastic parts are still around, and are even better than ever. Plus, once again you’re getting a great value for your dollar. At twenty dollars, VC1 was the best value per dollar that a gamer could spend, and even though VC2 currently costs double that, you’re still getting a hefty game.

This sequel feels as if Sega knew they had a great game that would be extremely hard to improve. It would have been a waste of time for them to just throw in some refinements, the game was already too good. Instead, they’ve chosen lateral motion. VC2 isn’t markedly better than the original game, but it’s satisfyingly different in enough ways to warrant your purchase. Ultimately, if we’re blessed with a third game in the series, I’d like to see the game lean more towards the original game’s setup, and if we’re making a wish list, please bring it back to the PS3. A game this gorgeous doesn’t deserve to be shrunken down onto the mini screen of a PSP.

The graphics aren’t quite as good as the original, but they do push the PSP. For a handheld system, they still look great. 4.3 Control
At rare moments, the controls can be confusing to veterans of the first game, but it plays just as well on the PSP as the PS3. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice overs are good, but the content they’re voicing is dreadful. 4.7 Play Value
This is a great, unique game that expands on the original. It has everything the first game had and its new take on the formula will keep it from feeling stale. 4.5 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Customize your weapons, tanks, and characters with over three times the options as before. Prep 30 new military units for battle and explore through 200+ missions.
  • Experience all-new ad hoc wireless 2-4 player multiplayer modes.
  • Venture deep into 30 all-new beautifully rendered battlefield maps and 10 unique environments.

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