Developer – Sega
Publisher – Sega
Platforms – PSP
Those of you who have played Valkyria Chronicles 1 on the PS3 will know that the series is set in the small country of Gallia, which is sandwiched between two other, larger countries that are at war. In the first game it is against one of those larger countries that you must defend Gallia, but this time around it is a threat from within that must be dealt with.
You play as Avan Hardins, a young man seeking to find out what happened to his brother who mysteriously disappeared while training at the prestigious Lanseal Military Academy. To that end Avan himself joins the academy and finds himself placed in a class of slackers (not surprising, since Avan is pretty slack himself). As the story progresses Avan and his class play larger and large roles in the conflict, improving on both their combat skills and unity as a class.
Without giving too much away, that’s the game in a nutshell. There’s certainly more to it, with the world of Europa (in which Gallia is found) having an interesting and reasonably well developed history, but you’re going to have to play the game to find out more about it. The second game can certainly be played without having experienced the first, but I would advise you to play the first installment all the same as it is excellent.
While the developers have the strong setting from the first Valkyria Chronicles to base their work on, the story itself almost takes a back seat to the gameplay in this second iteration, with multiple (see: 3 or 4) non-story missions requiring completion between each story-related one. It’s a little annoying, especially when compared to the original game, but the story still manages to get through in mini character-developing cutscenes available between each battle (more on those later).
The story has some minor twists and turns, but is very stereotypical overall, so I’m not sure I would recommend the game for the story alone unless you were already interested in the world of Europa. While the story may be average, the characters are anything but. This game has a huge cast of characters (I’m not going to count, but there are at least 20 of them) that each have distinct personalities and mini-storylines that you can experience throughout the game. By using each character in battles you unlock specific cutscenes for them which will eventually lead to that character’s special mission. The storylines can vary from completely serious to incredibly comic, which further illustrates the differences in their personalities. It’s also worth mentioning that the development of your characters story-wise will also affect the gameplay, with each person unlocking new ‘traits’ as their mindset changes. While I certainly didn’t use all of the characters, it was a blast sticking with the ones I liked through most of the game.
The gameplay itself is turn-based, with the player being given a set number of “moves” per turn. The goal in each mission ranges from destroying all enemies or capturing their camps, to finding hidden supplies or escorting a friendly APC. During each in-game month you will complete three to four missions with no story component, followed by a story mission. While the story missions were always more interesting than the others, they often had the annoying concept of “boss characters”, which could pretty much one one-shot your squad members while being nigh-invincible themselves. It seemed more cheap than challenging and I found myself just wailing on them with my tank until they died, which is a decent strategy I suppose, but not one that I should have had to resort to. The other minor gripe I have with the combat is also strategy-based: Because of how the game works, the easiest way to kill an enemy (other than a boss) is to run right up next to them and shoot them in the face, which would hardly be a good idea in any reasonably realistic situation. Still, it’s fun to completely decimate the enemy’s forces (even if it feels like taking candy from a baby…seriously, the AI is terrible), which is all that I require.
It’s A/V time and I have to say that I absolutely love the hand-drawn art style used in both Valkyria Chronicles games, it’s novel and refreshing in my opinion. That’s only in the animated cutscenes though – other story sequences feature the same character sprites you would expect to see in visual novels which are usually easy on the eyes, and the sprites in this game are no exception. The game is let down by its gameplay visuals, which are exactly what you would expect of a handheld game. They’re not terrible by any means, but they do detract from the experience. I have no idea why this series was moved to the PSP, as it looked brilliant on the PS3, but unfortunately I can’t let myself take points away just for that. As far as sound goes, the voice acting was superb, with every single character having voiced scenes. The background music and sound effects do a good job of immersing you in the battles, and I still have the main menu music stuck in my head. As usual my commentary on these aspects is fairly limited, but they’re not something you need to worry about with this game.
Summary – I enjoyed playing the second instalment of Valkyria Chronicles. However, I know what Sega are capable of with this series (having played the first game) and they have definitely taken a step down from the original’s level of quality. I’m not just talking about the graphics (I’m not quite that shallow); being forced to participate in non-story missions just to make the game last longer leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The story is on the better side of average, having been redeemed by the characters within it, and the sound and visuals are reasonable for the platform they have been made for. I’m glad I played it, but I don’t think I’d pick it up again.
Plot – 7/10
Characters – 9/10
Gameplay – 7/10
Audio/Visual – 8/10
OVERALL SCORE: 7/10 – Enjoyable
Here’s the trailer for those of you who are interested: