Valkyria Chronicles II

After the triumphant arrival of Valkyria Chronicles onto PlayStation 3, fans of the IP were a little surprised to see the second main-line entry into the series released onto the company’s handheld, the PSP. Even more so to see the war-torn series now focus its attention on a military academy setting.

Whilst the second and third titles in the Valkyria Chronicles series being on handheld is often cited as the reason it has taken so long for Valkria Chronicles 4 to see release for PlaySation 4, it’s worth noting that these are not inherently bad games. They didn’t even sell badly (though 3 never saw an English language release) and managed to carry the series banner relatively strongly given the downgrade in power they had to contend with. Valkyria 2 and 3 are both great games, and would benefit from a HD remaster onto modern consoles to catch players who missed these entries up on the stories they’ve missed.

Visually, Valkyria Chronicles 2 is on-brand for the series in terms of its aesthetics, but removes the 3D models cleverly hatched to give the game the feel of a dynamic sketchbook. In part this is because the bulk of the story segments are either 2D animated or still illustrations anyway, removing the need to lay on the effect to appear as illustrations, and in part because the screen of the PSP is too small to really see these details in the 3D combat areas anyway. The colourful world and interesting character designs remain untouched however, and are as visually distinctive as ever. Iconography for maps, mission information and menus is largely untouched, giving the game a cohesive feeling that falls in with the series.

Sound effects are directly lifted from the console entry, and though uninspired are well suited for portraying the events of a battlefield. Occasional voice acting makes an appearance for specific scenes and any animated sequences, as well as for character reactions in battle, and this is well acted throughout with casting just right for the cast. The music is fairly distinctive in how much of it is far more laid back in tone and soothing to match the school setting, with some of the tenser tracks used only in battle scenarios. The theme for the school grounds is particularly nice, with the use of bells and piano.

Currently Valkyria Chronicles II is the last canon entry into the series, with 3 and 4 both taking place simultaneously with the original game. The narrative opens with an overview of Gallia since the end of the Europan war. It seems that the racism the first game leaned gently into against the Darksens (those with dark hair) has increased in the absence of war and a rebel movement within their own nation has started a civil war. We join the story just as Avan, our POV character, receives news that his brother has died and after fending off a rebel attack on the town he forces his way into the Lanseal Academy entrance exams, landing him a position in Class G, with the hope of finding out what happened. This leads into a slice of school life anime with military training thrown in for good measure, and allows the game to legitimately tutorial the player for a while as the class is taught to work together. It’s a fun tale with many of the characters falling into typical Anime stereotypes (his first encounter is with a generic glasses-wearing ‘cool and intelligent’ rival within the team) but the charm of the setting and the series ability to bond you to its characters makes for a fun play.

Gameplay is a mixture of Visual Novel styled story segments and battles that take place in 3D environments. Whilst the storytelling has changed little since the original game, it has ditched the war diary concept in favour of playing from a hub of the school grounds, with locations leading to different menus. Outside of battle you can train your troops and develop new weapons for them based on skill-tree like paths, and outfit the team. Unlike prior entries, in addition to levelling a class you also gain experience for individual characters who can then move into sub-classes to broaden their individual skillsets. This time there’s a new close-combat class added to the mix in addition to the usual Lancer, Sniper, Scout, Engineer and Shocktroopers called the Armoured Tech who can disarm landmines, rebuild barricades and carries a large shield to minimise damage. The series standard tank is also given a lot of customisation, being able to be built up to a fortress or stripped down to a car. Combat still has the same rounds and action points system through a 3D environment, but due to the limited power of the hardware on hand there are less large battlefields and more small environments linked together in stages to build bigger encounters. Now taking enemy bases does more than just blocking their resupply chains, it also permits you access to these other maps by allowing you to withdraw troops and assign them to the new one. At first this feels like a step down, but it begins to be used in interesting ways as the game moves on, forcing you to think tactically and split your thinking between battle on multiple fronts, which can be very rewarding.

Overall, Valkyria Chronicles 2 is a lot of fun. It’s probably also getting harder to find these days and the UMD format of the PSP is no longer in production and the game has never been ported to other systems. Hopefully Sega will remedy this in the future by updating the games for Steam or console as they did with the original title, but for now we highly advise you to track down a copy before prices begin to rise.

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