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PSP Review – Valkyria Chronicles 2

There was a knee jerk reaction by fans when Sega announced that Valkyria Chronicles 2, the sequel to the cult hit game on the PS3, would actually be coming out on the PlayStation portable. Horrified fans who were eager for another trip to Gallia on their PS3 were scared that the experience would have to be downgraded for the weaker handheld. However our hands on time with the game at E3 showed us that going to the PSP was not necessarily a bad thing as we were thoroughly impressed. So just how would a sequel on the PSP fair and would it live up to expectations placed on it by the original?

Valkyria Chronicles 2 takes place two years after the events of the first game, with Gallia now in the midst of a Civil War. As with the first game, the Darscen race are smack in the middle of the conflict as a group of rebels calling themselves the Gallian Revolutionary Army are out to exterminate them. Players with take the role of Avan; a carefree 17-year-old who joins the Lanseal Academy in search of his brother. This happy-go-lucky attitude earns him a trip to Class G, a place reserved for the ‘losers’ of Lanseal. Avan must now earn the respect of his peers and squad mates, while also keeping Southern Gallia safe from the rebels.

For those of you out there who never got a chance to play the first game (which you should remedy… immediately!); Valkyria Chronicles 2 is a Strategy RPG that does everything it can to break the label placed on traditional SRPGs. Battles here are broken into two parts; Command Mode and Action Mode. Command will place you in a top down view of the map where you deploy and select units for actions. This mode also allows for orders to be given and showcases your remaining Command Points. These points are used for giving actions to your squad, with each time you select a unit costing one or more points. Once you do select a unit you are taken into Action Mode, which is presented in a beautiful third person view. Here you can move units, attack, duck behind cover and crawl through grass. It’s a great combination between the two modes that makes for an amazing experience and a satisfying strategy game.

As you progress through the game you will unlock more strategic techniques to take on the stronger enemies that challenge you later on in the game. Seize control of enemy camps during battle to give a new place to deploy troops and in maps with 3 sections, you can use these camps as gateways to get from section to section. The same soldier classes are back from the original game though with a few changes and one addition.You’ll be able to take control of shocktroopers, lancers, scouts, engineers and the new class armored techs. Shocktroopers are your machine gunners, lancers your anti-tank defense. Scouts are pretty self-explanatory and engineers heal/repair troops and vehicles. The techs don’t actually use guns but instead carry a huge shield and big hammer, which is perfect for up close melee and high defense.

What better way to compliment an engaging battle system then by having an equally engaging story and characters? Outside of battle you spend almost all of your time at the Lanseal Academy and there is plenty for you to do while there. Whether its walking around the school and mingling with the students from your class or buying newspaper stories from the store, there is always something to be done. The game does a great job of making you feel as if Avan is really at an academy. One thing that VC2 does better than its predecessor is the depth of customization allowed in the game. Earn money and experience from battle and use both to upgrade troop classes and buy new equipment.

Add to this the ability to collect materials in battle which can be used to specialize selected units further. Here is where the skill tree comes into play as you can turn a scout into a sniper or give a shocktrooper a Gatling gun and turn them into a gunner. While on customization you can name your squad and vehicles, giving players even more chances to make the game their own. The changes don’t just come with the infantry as tanks are joined by APCs and now all equipment cost a certain weight amount, so pay attention to how much weight your vehicle can handle. Tanks and APCs will be fully upgradable; from light tanks to medium and better APCs to carry more troops. You can also change turret types and spare equipment such as a construction arm that can re-build bridges.

When you’re in the academy you will find plenty of missions each month to partake in that will help you level up your squad. Many of these battles can be replayed over and over, so players can take a shot at getting a better grade. Grades are given at the end of the battle and determine the amount of experience and money you are awarded. Troops will also be rewarded at the end of battle with a first place and runner-up performers for each battle. To progress the story along you must complete enough key missions in each month to unlock a story mission. Character missions will also become unlocked during the game and give players a chance to take on a task alongside a specific character. If you complete these missions you can unlock some great potentials for that character. Speaking on potentials, each squad member can have multiple potentials assigned to them which are awakened during battle. Both negative and positive potentials are present in the game so you have to make sure and pay attention to which characters you are putting into situations.

While Valkyria Chronicles 2 does a great job of bringing out the best presentation it can on the PSP, fans of the first game might feel a twinge of disappointment as the beautiful watercolor battlefields have gone missing from this version. The game’s story is told mostly through character portraits on-screen talking and interacting with each other. The audio in the game is among the best to be found in a PSP game with great music and solid voice work. Boss battles are again a high point in the game with these fights bringing out the best strategists in all of us. Fans of the original game will also be happy to find such a large number of cameo’s in the second game and these add well to the story without making new fans feel lost.

Valkyria Chronicles 2 has the depth of a console title but squeezed into the tiny confines of a handheld. VC2 will hook you in right away. The combat, customization and audio are top notch yet the story takes a bit of time to get started and early missions are overly easy – but once it gets going, you won’t want to put it down. While the trip from the PS3 to PSP scared many of us at first, Sega actually took what made the first game memorable and added a slew of new features to the game.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Deep and Engaging Combat Keeps the Action Fun

Troop and Vehicle Customization Add A lot of Depth

Story is Slow Going at the Beginning

9 out of 10