Valkyria Chronicles II Review

Valkyria Chronicles II

With heavy hitters like LittleBigPlanet, Gears of War 2, and Metal Gear Solid 4 being released in 2008, it was easy for a game like Valkyria Chronicles to get lost in the shuffle. Those who did play the PS3 exclusive got to experience a hidden gem that expertly meshed RPG mechanics with an innovative strategy combat system. The news that a sequel would be coming out for the PSP drew mixed reactions, and rightfully so. But if you’re willing to look past the transition from home console to portable then you’ll find that Valkyria Chronicles II is one of the better titles available for the PSP.

Valkyria Chronicles II takes place two years after the events of the first game. It’s a self-contained story, so don’t worry about feeling lost if you didn’t play the first. The main character is Avan, a joyful, brash kid who seems content with life. But when he hears his brother has died in a secret operation under the Lanseal Royal Military Academy, he makes it his goal to learn what happened and joins Lanseal. Meanwhile, the nation of Gallia is on the brink of civil war in protest of the dutchess revealing herself to be a Darcsen (which is considered a lesser race by some).

Whereas Valkyria Chronicles highlighted issues like race relations and the complications of war, its sequel focuses less on the bigger picture and goes for a much lighter tone. In between key story events and missions you can talk to your squad members, something lacking from the original. Unfortunately, very few of the characters are particularly interesting, and Avan himself isn’t much of a likable protagonist. Essentially the game eschews the narrative focus of the first game in favor of strong gameplay, and that is where Valkyria Chronicles II truly shines.

The combat system has not changed much in two years. After placing your squad members you enter the battlefield. From there you have a top-down view of your units and a limited amount of CP, which dictates how many moves you can make. Once a squad member is selected you are taken into a third-person view where you manually control that character. It still holds up as a fun and unique battle system, but improvements come in the way of new units and customization.

There is actually just one new unit in the game: the armored tech. It specializes in close-range combat and has better armor but also limited movement. Scouts, engineers, lancers, and shocktroopers all return, but snipers have now been delegated as a scout upgrade. That’s where a new feature comes in. The more you use a particular unit in battle, the more credits it earns, which in turn allows you to upgrade to specialized units. The materials you earn also allow you to purchase new weapons and armor to outfit your units and tank. Coupled with the combat system all of these features may seem a bit daunting to newcomers, but once the initial learning curve is overcome the game successfully finds that balance of pick-up-and-play accessibility with deep, addictive gameplay synonymous with portable gaming.

That’s not to say the technical limitations of the PSP cause no problems whatsoever. Most of the maps aren’t as spacious as those in the first game. Valkyria Chronicles II tries to work its way around this problem by having various gateway camps that lead to a new areas, but the resulting scope it still quite small. A similar problem is the lack of variety in the battlefields you encounter throughout the game. The amount of missions available is certainly a plus, but this leads to a lot of retreaded ground.

Valkyria Chronicles II

Fortunately the game breaks up some of the environmental monotony by providing you with different goals depending on the mission. You won’t always have to eliminate all enemies; occasionally you may be required to escort a vehicle, kill an enemy commander, or complete any of a handful of other tasks. Although this isn’t a feature new to the series, it stands out as particularly useful given the abundance of missions for you to tackle.

Speaking of missions, there are upwards of 200 featured throughout the game, so expect to sink in quite a few hours if you plan on doing a majority. On top of that, the game features multiplayer, including cooperative missions where you work together with up to three other players. Working in tandem with others to utilize the perfect strategy is a lot of fun, but unfortunately the game only features ad-hoc support. So unless you’ve got some local friends who plan on purchasing the game, you’re out of luck. Nevertheless, you’re looking at a 30+ hour game, multiplayer or not.

Visually this is one of the best-looking games you’ll find on the PSP. The cel-shading-meets-watercolor art style is still there and the game looks great in action. It is on a portable system though, so expect to see a lot of static images. Similarly the voice acting is solid but there isn’t a whole lot featured, and the music, though great, gets repeated quite often. The game works well within the limitations of the PSP, though, and delivers in the audio-visual department.

Whether you’re a fan of the original or not, there’s no denying that Valkyria Chronicles II is a great game. It would have been nice to see a sequel for the PS3, but a portable Valkyria Chronicles is better than none at all. Its narrative is a step backward, but the refined gameplay elements make it a perfect match for the PSP.


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Author: Anthony LaBella View all posts by
My first experience playing a video game blew me away. The fact that Super Metroid was that game certainly helped. So I like to think Samus put me on the path to video games. Well, I guess my parents buying the SNES had a little something to do with it. Ever since then my passion for video games has grown. When I found that I could put words together into a coherent sentence, videogame journalism was a natural interest. Now I spend a large majority of my time either playing video games or writing about them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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