Well, I finally decided to contribute, and by decided I mean got off my lazy ass. What made me motivated enough to do so? Why, only the demo for one of my most aniticipated PSP games of the year, Valkyria Chronicles II. If you missed out on the original gem for the PS3, I suggest you stop reading and go correct that mistake. The original Valkyria Chronicles took turn based strategy and married it with third person control, then wrapped it up in an engaging story and beautiful art style. The original is still one of my favorite PS3 games of all time, so you can imagine that the sequel has a lot to live up to.
Now, while the first VC was for the PS3, it seems strange that the sequel would be on the PSP. Because of the downgraded graphical abilities of the system, expectation might be lowered. However, not to be outdone by its older sibling, VC2 brings all of the game play and style from the original with a myriad of changes and improvements. Starting the demo gives the player a trailer for the upcoming release that showcases some of the plot, characters, and game play. Not much about the plot is given away, but the game takes place two years after the first title and the small country of Galia is once again embroiled in the fires of war, but this time it’s being torn apart by a civil conflict. The story follows Avan and his fellow classmates at the military academy as they fight to bring peace back to the country.
Right off the bat , you’ll notice that despite the lower resolution. The high quality CG cutscenes have been replaced by stylized anime cutscenes similar to the style used in the anime adaptation of the first game. Battles still take place in turn based rounds where you switch between an overhead map and controlling your troops via 3rd person controls. Sega has found a way to make the controls work on the PSP, though veterans might have to shake some old habits. Camera controls during character movement have been assigned to the L and R buttons for rotation while Triangle and X are for tilting the camera up and down. Circle is now assigned to field actions, and square is now used to enter targeting mode. When in targeting mode, you can use L and R to snap between targets or the freely control the targeting reticule with the analog and precision aim with the d-pad. Square toggles through equipment, and the X button is used to select when you’ve decided on a course of action. After two missions on the demo, I can safely say that Valkyria Chronicles II’s game play is perfectly suited for the PSP. Character movement, camera control, and attacking are all a breeze.
One of the major changes for the sequel is that now maps are divided into areas. While this means that individual areas are smaller than what you would find in the original game, missions can and will take place over multiple areas, and the thought of commanding troops spread out across these areas adds a new tactical edge to the game that wasn’t present in the original. While trailers have shown off new classes for your troops along with branching growth and development trees, the demo only has the five original classes and a tank for you to play with. Thankfully, the original classes (Scout, Shock Trooper, Lancer, Engineer, and Sniper) are unchanged in their basic layout, so veterans will feel right at home. Another new option that might well completely distinguish this sequel from the original is the addition of online multiplayer. The first Valkyria Chronicles was an incredibly strong single player experience but it lacked any kind of multiplayer functionality. The fact that the sequel is adding it, and allowing for online play as well, is a huge addition. Granted, it wasn’t included in the demo, so that’s something that I’ll have to wait to try in the retail release.
When news of a Valkyria Chronicles sequel was announced, many were excited, but that excitement diminished when it was announced the game was for the PSP rather than the PS3. Perhaps the game being on a smaller system meant the game to would be smaller, but that seems to be far from the truth. If the demo is any indication, Valkyria Chronicles II is set to bring everything the first offered and then some. If you own a PSP, go get the demo from the PSN now.